Nick Leddy


Wild signs Cuma; 17 Elite League players taken in Draft; Best of the Rest

Friday, July 10th, 2009

(UPDATED)

As I mentioned yesterday, the Wild has signed Tyler Cuma to a three-year, $2.625 million contract plus standard entry-level contract bonuses. If he doesn’t make the team in the fall, the contract slides a year, as does his seven-year free-agent clock.

“We are delighted to have Tyler Cuma as a member of the Minnesota Wild organization,” said Assistant General Manager/Player Personnel Tom Thompson. “He possesses all of the attributes necessary to be a quality defenseman in the modern day NHL. Tyler is an exceptional skater, both forward and backward. He is intelligent, aggressive and poised. From watching him at our summer development camp, it is clear that he has made a complete recovery from last season’s knee surgery.”
 
Cuma, 19 (1/19/90), was the Wild’s first-round pick (No.23 overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. He recorded nine points (1-8=9) and 27 penalty minutes in 21 games for the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) in 2008-09. Cuma, who participated in the Team Canada World Junior Selection Camp last season, underwent season-ending knee surgery in February. The 6-foot-2, 192-pound Cuma has posted 60 points (8-52=60) and 141 PIM in 143 career games over three seasons in Ottawa. Cuma earned a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2008 IIHF Under-18 World Championships collecting four points (1-3=4) in seven games. He was named Ottawa’s Rookie of the Year in 2006-07 after posting 19 points (3-16=19) in 63 matches.

In the meantime, here’s a look at the Best of the Rest. You’ll see guys like Alex Tanguay, Jason Williams and Mike Comrie still available. Wait a little more and somebody might be able to get Tanguay at a bargain price. On the blue line, Martin Skoula (most games of any NHL defensemen his age or younger) and Marc-Andre Bergeron (62 career goals, 14 last year). Think Skoula becomes a Devil if Jacques Lemaire goes there? Did the Devils hire a coach while I’ve been gone???????

Also, I meant to throw this on the blog after the Draft, but I forgot.

A record 17 former players from the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League were chosen in the National Hockey League’s Entry Draft, held June 26-27 in Montreal.

Nick Leddy of Eden Prairie (#16, Minnesota Wild) and Jordan Schroeder of the University of Minnesota (#22, Vancouver) were first-round selections, with the remaining players chosen in subsequent rounds. The NHL draft consists of seven rounds and was conducted over two days.

Edina’s Zack Budish (#41, Nashville) was chosen in the second round, while Ben Hanowski of Little Falls (#63, Pittsburgh), Josh Birkholz of Maple Grove (#67, Florida), Troy Hesketh of Minnetonka (#71, Edmonton), Dan DeLisle of Arden Hills (#89, Chicago) and Mike Lee of Roseau (#91, Phoenix)  were chosen in the third round.

This is the second consecutive NHL draft in which the Elite League reached double-digits in the number of players selected. Last year 10 Elite League alumni were selected, including four in the first two rounds

In addition to their first-round selection of Leddy, the Minnesota Wild reached into the Elite League for two other players, Swedish forward Alexander Fallstrom (#116) and Finnish winger Erik Haula. Both Fallstrom and Haula competed for the Shattuck-St. Mary’s team in the Elite League, the eventual champion of the Bauer National Invitational Tournament which culminates league action.

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Wild signs Tyler Cuma; Why no Gaborik?; Bad week for Koivu; Sunday scrimmage reminder

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

UPDATED FROM 11,323 FEET

Coming to you from 38,000 feet right now (yes, I paid $9.95 to blog this because I really couldn’t pull out blackberry as we were flying down the runway).

The Wild has signed 2008 first-round pick Tyler Cuma to a three-year, $2.625 million entry-level deal. An announcement is expected Friday. The Wild had until June 1, 2010, to sign this prized defenseman.

This doesn’t change the rules — Because of his age, if he doesn’t make the Wild in the fall, he’s got to be returned to Ottawa of the OHL. If that’s the case, his contract slides and the contract won’t start until he turns pro in likely 2010-11.

I still think it’ll be a longshot. Wild has seven defensemen on one-ways, barring a trade, and Cuma barely played any hockey last season at the junior level because of his meniscus injury.

Now that Delta’s got Internet on most its flights, this should be a fun upcoming season for you. Now I can tell you every time we hit turbulence or the guy next to me coughs on me — LIKE RIGHT NOW!

OK, they just served me a chef salad. It was good.

I might as well continue with this blog, eh?

How about Stephane Veilleux and Kurtis Foster signing with Tampa Bay? Both should fit in quite nice, and personally, they’ll be missed in Minnesota by this beat writer. My favorite Veilleux story I wrote is this one (click link). The guy was a true character — on and off the ice.

And Foster is by far one of the nicest, most down-to-earth guys I’ve ever covered. His return from a broken leg was inspirational, and as you know from when he was playing regularly, he was a go-to quote for the beat writers.

Speaking of which, before my flight, he had a pretty hysterical line. Noting that Veilleux was Mikko Koivu’s linemate, how Foster was one of Mikko’s best friends on the team and how his brother Saku declined the Wild’s contract offers, Foster said, “Pretty tough week for Mikko.”

This plane’s bouncing around the sky right now. Onward.

Remember, if you need a hockey fix, Sunday from 12:30-2:30 p.m., the Wild prospects will be scrimmaging down at Xcel Energy Center. You can see guys like Cuma, Colton Gillies, Nick Leddy, Petr Kalus, Matt Hackett, Cody Almond, Carson McMillan, Marco Scandella, former Shattuck roomies Alex Fallstrom and Erik Haula and the infamous Eero Elo, who according to google doubles as a Finnish hotel.

Incidentally, I’ll be there to blog, and quite frankly folks, that might be the last you’ll be seeing/hearing from me for some time. I’ve got time off on the horizon, and it’s been a busy offseason. So to ensure my battery’s running when camp starts, I hope you understand that unless there’s big news, my byline will probably be missing for awhile and the blog will be updated by somebody else.

Lastly, I’ve gotten a gazillion (in the dictionary now) emails about why the Wild made no offers to Marian Gaborik when the team portrayed like it would. To this point, GM Chuck Fletcher has declined comment on this subject, but let me tell you, Marian Gaborik was not re-signing here even if Fletcher did the P.R. thing and offered him a contract.

I wish Gaborik well. He’s the second-best scorer I’ve ever covered (Pavel Bure being Numero Uno). Gaborik was just a sensational talent and goal scorer. But he was not re-signing here. He turned down $78.5 million last fall. Every contract he’s ever signed with Minnesota has been a problem. Think Ron Salcer was just going to sign him up here days before he had his pick of teams? It just wasn’t happening, so to me, this is beyond a moot point. If the changes were made last summer, he probably signs on the dotted line. But this close to free agency, it just wasn’t going to happen.

The Wild entered this free-agent period $13 million under the cap with a to-do list of re-signing Gaborik/finding his replacement, adding a No. 2 center, signing two defensemen, re-signing Josh Harding, Benoit Pouliot, Kyle Brodziak and others.

The team wants to be $1.5 million under the cap for injury cushion/in-season trades or waiver pickups. That means it had $11.5 million to spend. Re-sign Gaborik at $7.5 mill, that would have left $4 million to sign two defensemen, a No. 2 center and re-sign the restricted free agents. Basically, re-signing Gaborik probably would’ve meant the team could not have even made a run at Saku Koivu.

So I think the Wild made the conscious decision to pursue Martin Havlat at $5 million so it would have $6.5 million to spend on two defensemen, Saku Koivu and the RFA’s. Unfortunately, Koivu didn’t sign. But that doesn’t change the fact that the team was making a fiscal decision to try to fill as many holes as possible, something that could not have happened if Gaborik was re-signed. Havlat is a nice replacement. The guy is a stud player when healthy, somebody that WILL do things that dazzle on the ice. He’s been basically a point-a-game player since 2002 (look at his numbers in 2006-07 especially).

Again, the caveat with him has been health, but the same can be said for Gaborik, too. As I mentioned last week, there were only two real replacements for Gaborik — Mike Cammalleri and Havlat — because Marian Hossa clearly picked his team and the Sedins were off the board before free agency started.

The Wild got one of them. The Wild could have gotten none of them.

Now, yes, the team didn’t get Koivu, but going out and just signing players for the sake of signing players is a stupid idea. The Wild can’t let itself get hamstrung by bad contracts. Quite frankly, the reason for the lack of flexibility now is because it has a few unmovable contracts.

So Fletcher is trying to be patient, search the trade market and if the right move comes up, he’ll pounce. But maybe that move doesn’t happen to camp, doesn’t happen until midseason, at the trade deadline or next summer.

To use a terrible cliche, Rome wasn’t build in a day. To expect that a new GM can come in and fill every single hole in one summer when the free-agent pool was so thin was unrealistic. Fletcher is trying to build long-term, so again, to sign an Alex Kovalev at 36 years old at $5 million per makes little sense. No doubt Kovalev can still play the game and would be an upgrade.

But you know what usually happens when you make short-sighted decisions like that? Something falls into your lap later in the summer or next season, and you can’t pull the trigger because you signed a 36-year-old at $5 million per. 

I can ramble on and on, but we’re descending and the flight attendant is giving me the stare-down. So like I said to you on July 1, after reading some of these comments lately and fielding some of the emails lately, I am worried for your health.

It ain’t so bad, folks. Calm down, take a deep breath, be patient, maybe listen to a little Cat Stevens to calm the nerves and enjoy your summer.

Wild wants to host NHL Entry Draft; RFA refresher

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Monday morning update: Since I’ll be in the air when the Wild announces which restricted free agents it qualifies to retain their rights, I thought I’d give you an explanation. Essentially, by 4 p.m., teams must tender qualifying offers to restricted free agents. If they don’t, those players become unrestricted free agents when free agency opens Monday and they’re free to sign with any team in the league.

Basically, to retain a players rights today, teams must offer 10-percent raises on players who made $660,000 or less last season, 5 percent raises on players who made $660,000-$1 million and no raise on players who made more than $1 million.

So, for instance, Kyle Brodziak made $497,500, so he’s got to be offered a $49,750 raise (10 percent). Benoit Pouliot’s salary if he had played a full year in the NHL would have been $765,000 (not including bonuses). So he’s got to be offered a 5 percent raise or a contract of $803,250. Josh Harding must be offered a 5 percent raise of $725,000. Dan Fritsche made $875,000, so to qualify him, he’d have to be offered a contract of $918,750 (5 percent raise).

And remember, this is just to keep them. This is before you actually negotiate the contract. If you take a look at the above, you’ll see a very good reason why the Wild might not qualify Fritsche today. He plays the same role as Brodziak might play, yet just to keep him, you’d have to offer him almost $1 million or $371,500 more than Brodziak to perhaps play the same role. If you let Fritsche go, that $918,750 could come in very handy when you’re trying to sign players in free agency.

Again though, we’ll find out for sure today. I was told by a few sources yesterday that Chuck Fletcher was trying to trade Fritsche the last few weeks. Obviously he was unable to, which could be a further clue that he might be let go today. 

Sunday night blog: Good day from Vermont, where I spent part of the day on Lake Champlain. Other than the gnats, it was a good way to decompress from a busy week.

Here are the links from Sunday’s articles:

Here is the Insider on owner Craig Leipold talking about having the money to spend in free agency

Here is the Kyle Brodziak trade story

Here is the notebook on drafting two Shattuck-St. Mary’s roommates and improving the goalie depth of the club

Here is the roster situation

I’ll be flying home Monday, and as I’ve mentioned, there will at least be the news of the restricted free agents. When that comes out and perhaps other news, if I’m in the air, the blog will be updated from the office. So no worries.

Just thought I’d clean out my draft notebook from the weekend:

– Owner Craig Leipold loves the passion and hype and hoopla that comes with the draft, and he told me he’s looking to soon bring one to Minnesota for the Wild to host. Remember, the Nashville Predators — Leipold’s previous team — hosted the 2003 draft.

– GM Chuck Fletcher on free agency: “We’ve had some ideas what we wanted to do in free agency all along if we weren’t able to make trades and we have some things we can do internally too with player shifting to different areas. I think we have some flexibility what can we do. I do believe having cap space is a very valuable commodity. I do believe if we have cap space, at some point we will  be rewarded. I’m not sure we have to fill every hole the first week of July but what will happen will be a product of which way the market goes. If it’s a buyers market, hopefully we do well.”

I did want to make one note on free agency after reading the Insider again today. I know I mentioned a lot of names in there. I wanted to make clear though if the Wild gets a star, that obviously inhibits other things like maybe the top defensemen I mentioned, etc. I don’t want you to think that IF they signed a Hossa or the Sedins, then they can go out AND sign a Beauchemin or a Scuderi.

The higher the price, the less money they can spend in other areas. If you looked at the updated salary chart in the paper, the Wild is roughly $13 million below the cap. However, if Colton Gillies plays in the minors, that frees up $1.04 million of cap space. However, remember, even though the cap is $56.8 million, most teams would want to be at least $2 million below.

As for the Draft……

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Walsh meeting with Veilleux today

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Just about to pack up and leave Montreal. The draft here was a tremendous experience. The passionate hockey fans here were in glee with every who’s who in hockey being in town.

I can tell you, I talked with a lot of other team’s scouts out around town last night, and many were very positive about the Wild’s draft, the fact Chuck Fletcher accomplished what he said he’d accomplish with moving down and grabbing draft picks and the picks of Leddy and Hackett specifically.

Assistant GM Tommy Thompson raved about the move Fletcher made because he so wanted Hackett.

“[Goalie coach] Bob [Mason] was saying of Hackett, ‘You think we have any chance to get him?’ and I said, ‘Don’t get your hopes up,’” Thompson said. “That shows the benefit of the trade that Chuck Fletcher made. Without that pick, we don’t get Hackett. If he turns into an NHL goalie, look how important that is. It was nice to have some picks; that allowed us to take some risks later on.”

Real quick, the only bit of news right now is agent Allan Walsh is on his way to Minnesota to meet with new client Stephane Veilleux, a pending free agent. Remember, Veilleux acted as his own agent last summer but as I reported in April, he hired Walsh for this summer.

“I’ve had several conversations with Chuck Fletcher. Stephane’s first priority is exploring all options with Minnesota and we have expressed those feelings to Chuck,” Walsh said.

Free agency is Wednesday and Fletcher planned to take a lot of today and think about free agency and whether he plans to make offers to Veilleux, Marian Gaborik (he will here, I’m told), Martin Skoula, Kurtis Foster and Marc-Andre Bergeron.

There will be news Monday as the Wild must tender qualifying offers to its restricted free agents by 4 p.m. The Wild’s RFA’s are Josh Harding, Kyle Brodziak, Dan Fritsche, Peter Olvecky, Benoit Pouliot, Danny Irmen, Robbie Earl, Clayton Stoner, Riley Emmerson and Paul Albers.

As I mentioned yesterday, it certainly seems a possibility that Fritsche could be out in Minnesota.

OK, I’ll be back on later tonight to clean out the draft notebook. Assistant GM hiring and assistant coaches should be in a matter of days, too.

Thoughts on Wild taking Eden Prairie’s Nick Leddy; Quotes from Chuck Fletcher, Tommy Thompson, Jordan Schroeder

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Ha. There are always people unhappy. Open my email box now and subject “Wild cave in to Gophers pressure.” Next one: “Wild take wrong Gopher.”

First, I genuinely believe the Wild did not do the P.R. thing here and take the Minnesotan because some alienated Minnesotans wanted them to. That’d be absolutely absurd, and if something like that did happen, everybody should be fired tonight. Thompson did say other Minnesotans are in their “gun sights” Saturday, but it’s only because they’re very, very good…Guys Thompson mentioned are Budish, Mike Lee and Birkholz are available.

First-round picks are too precious, as proven by the steps back the Wild took when it blew its 2004 and 2005 first-rounders.

As I’ve been telling you for a few days, the Wild absolutely love Nick Leddy. They’ve seen him more than any draft-eligible player arguably — Tommy Thompson alone 12 times — and they wanted this dynamic player whom Chuck Fletcher called the typical “new-rules defenseman.”

I knew they valued him more than Jordan Schroeder, who as I think I mentioned yesterday, another team’s scout predicted this because they “already have Pierre-Marc Bouchard.” Unfortunately Schroeder’s size (5-8) clearly hurt as he slipped to 22.

But, there is no doubt, taking Leddy over Schroeder will create years of comparisons of their development and debates, ESPECIALLY now that Schroeder landed with the bitter Vancouver Canucks. Oh my, if Schroeder goes there and develops into a star, …

In hope you enjoyed the Twitters tonight. It was actually fun, although I probably went overboard. But it was kind of cool to break the Pronger story, predict Leddy coming to the Wild and give you play by play of the trade being made. Chuck Fletcher was working hard to trade 16, too, but he wouldn’t take the risk to drop more than five spots and everybody that offered him something was too far. As I mentioned on Twitter, Columbus GM Scott Howson sprinted to Fletcher because the Jackets wanted John Moore, but Fletcher didn’t want to drop 10 spots and risk losing Leddy.

The Jackets got Moore anyway.

Fletcher did say he was offered a player at one point for 12, but the team called back when the guy they wanted was taken. Only one trade was made in the entire league, showing it is awfully difficult making trades in this salary-cap world. A lot of teams are in lots and lots of trouble, although Fletcher hopes to commit highway robbery this summer when these overstuffed teams with cap issues look to dump guys.

Fletcher did achieve one thing. He added a third-rounder and another seventh, giving the Wild eight picks Saturday and nine total — the amount of picks the Wild had the previous two drafts.

Does this change free agency strategy now that the Wild didn’t pick up any NHLers? I’ll write about that Sunday. By the way, Fletcher would not comment on Marian Gaborik’s situation.

You can read more on Leddy in Saturday’s paper. His uncle actually was Todd Richards’ defense partner at Armstrong. I talked to Steve Leddy, whose brother Mike is Steve’s brother, and I’ll put those quotes up tomorrow.

Here’s some quotes:

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Wild takes Nick Leddy; And let the picking (and trading?) begin; Sources: Kalus coming back to the Wild

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Wild takes Nick Leddy 16th. They passed on Jordan Schroeder … twice. Fresh blog in a couple hours 

Wild makes trade?; Chris Snow to Central Registry. Wild moves down, trading the 12th to the Islanders for the 16th and 77th they just acquired from Columbus and the 182nd. Wild now has nine picks in the draft.

I have this feeling Nick Leddy will be with the Wild. Just a gut feeling.

Hedman goes 2 to TB, Duchene 3 to COL, Evander Kane 4 to Hotlanta, Brayden Schenn 5 to L.A., … Phoenix on the clock with cheers of HAMILTON, HAMILTON (takes Larsson 6th); Kadri goes 7 as Burkie gets bigtime booed (he loved it); Scott Glennie to Dallas at 8, Jared Cowen 9 to Ottawa, Svensson 10th to Edmonton, Nashville takes Ellis 11th; Isles take de Haan at 12, Kassian to Buffalo at 13, Kulikov to FLA at 14, Holland at 15 to Anaheim

6:51 EDT: Star Tribune sources say Chris Pronger to Philly is “done.” Don’t know who’s going other way yet. Joffrey Lupul’s got to be going back to Anaheim plus other things. TSN’s reporting now it’s for Lupul, Sbisa and two firsts.

John Tavares does go No. 1, which is very funny. Word started to be leaked all around the place that Duchene was going 1, and you know that  came right from the Islanders table. Dater’s probably got half a Tavares feature written by now :)  

“I had no idea,” said Taveras, the London Knights star who used to play with the Wild’s Cal Clutterbuck in Oshawa. “I was just like everybody else wondering what the decision would be. It was a great moment and special feeling.”

Here we go, the Islanders are on the clock in nine minutes.

Also, and I’ve been working on this for a few days and I told you it wasn’t earth-shattering, but I am now comfortable reporting that according to multiple sources, prospect Petr Kalus is returning to the Wild. Kalus, 21, quit the Houston Aeros last October after being upset about not making the Wild. He only played 17 games in the Kontinental Hockey League and was miserable.

Kalus, a former Bruin, was acquired in the Manny Fernandez deal set up at the Draft two years ago. He will be at the Wild’s development camp July 6.