Peter Olvecky


Fletcher continues to work trade market

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Good morning everyone. Nothing like the NHL schedule being released to really get one pumped up for the season.

Spent last night booking hotels through December. Might as well get a jump on it, eh?

I’m about to take some R&R, and I mean it this time. The blog and newspaper will continue to be updated by others when news breaks, but I’m going to do my best to take a giant step back for the next number of weeks.

As far as news on the horizon, there will likely be little minor-league, depth signings (I hear Duncan Milroy and Jon DiSalvatore), the negotiations and eventual signings of Josh Harding and Kyle Brodziak (Brodziak has an arbitration hearing scheduled for July 31, but it would be shocking if it got there) and the release of the preseason schedule (although I think it’s pretty much ironed down on the previous blog).

The team will likely also plan some sort of trip in the middle of camp as team-building (Pittsburgh and Anaheim used to do this when Chuck Fletcher was there). A reader (or maybe readers) also emailed me recently to see if I can ask Fletcher if the team would try to get an East Coast Hockey League affiliate. I asked Fletcher the other day, and he and assistant to the GM Jim Mill plan to investigate this. Fletcher doesn’t feel it’s a pressing issue, but if there’s a possibility out there, it could happen in time for next season.

As for the current roster, Fletcher says he continues to scour the trade market and that if there’s a next move this summer, that’ll likely be it. He said there are a few quality free agents out there, but none that really gets his appetite whet.

As I reported earlier this summer, he’s willing to go a player or two short deep into the summer with the hope of having the cap space and roster flexibility to make a move.

“I think we still have some cap flexibility and there are teams that need to acquire cap flexibility,” Fletcher said. ”So there’s certainly the ability to acquire somebody by trade if something makes sense. We’ll look at all the options and see what makes sense and see what the best fit is. But with this group, we feel comfortable going into training camp if it doesn’t happen.

“I don’t think it was the deepest free-agent class to begin with. There was a pretty good rush on July 1. There are still some possibilities out there. But in the cap system, once you spend your money, it’s spent. So how patient do you want to be? There’s certainly conversation now amongst teams and I expect there will continue to be right until the trade deadline. So the question would be: When do you want to make your play and what makes sense? It’s obviously the process we’re going through on a daily and weekly basis, but it’s tough to handicap.”

So what is Fletcher saying here?

Later in the summer or into next season, some teams are likely going to have to move some bigtime players to get under the $56.8 million cap ceiling or create cap flexibility going into next summer. I know some fans are dying for the team to take a “risk,” but the risk has to be the right one. And if there are no free agents out there, there are no free agents — plain and simple.

You can’t dump players in an NHL world with guaranteed contracts, so if you make a mistake and spend your money on a player that is inferior to one maybe you can get via trade later on, you simply can’t make the next move.

So Fletcher wants to save the cap space now to allow him to hopefully trade for a significant player.

Remember, teams can go over the cap by 10 percent during the summer as long as they get below the ceiling by the last day of training camp. Boston, Ottawa and Chicago are over the cap right now. San Jose’s not over the cap, but if you plug in three or four holes the Sharks still have on their roster, they’re basically over the cap.

What does this mean? Maybe Phil Kessel still becomes available in Boston. Maybe Ottawa’s Dany Heatley can still be had. Maybe Jonathan Cheechoo in San Jose. Eventually, Chicago will undoubtedly have to dump salary — whether that’s Patrick Kane himself, or a Patrick Sharp or Dustin Byfuglien.

The Blackhawks might be fine going into the season because if you send Brent Sopel to the minors and one of their one-way contract goalies (Crawford or Niemi), by my math, they’re under the cap for this season (BUT BARELY).

So do you really want to sign Mike Comrie or Jason Williams now if there’s some sort of chance to maybe land a Patrick Sharp?

This is the stuff that has to be weighed. I agree that when you look at the Wild’s depth chart as it currently stands, there’s one giant hole — whether it’s a top center, or if Pierre-Marc Bouchard can fill that hole, a scoring winger.

But sometimes it’s better to wait — especially if there are few exciting free agents available.

As you can tell, it’s hard to make a trade right now in the NHL. The only really substantial one that’s happened since the end of the season was Chris Pronger to Philly, and the Flyers paid an enormous price.

It’s hard to move money outright. Even if you take a pretty good player for a pick or prospect, teams are still asking you to take a player back to balance it off a little bit. It’s not quite like the NBA, but teams are trying to balance contracts and money all the time.

But there are teams like the Wild that have left a little flexibility, so just maybe you can take a $3 or $4 million player from Chicago and not make the Blackhawks take a contract back.

Interestingly, a team that’s left a lot of flexibility is New Jersey. Lou Lamoriello’s left a lot of cap room, which is interesting to me because historically the Devils are a team at the other end. They still have to re-sign Zajac, but by laying in the weeds, Lamoriello’s another guy I expect to eventually make a move.

OK, as usual, I got sidetracked. But things just pop in my head and come out my fingertips.

As I mentioned last week, patience everyone. And when I say patience, I’m not saying be “satisfied with being mediocre” as some fans accuse. Like I said, I agree there are holes. But it’s imperative to figure out the correct way to fill those holes because in a league where it’s proving impossible to repair a mistake via trade, you better not make mistakes. Make cap mistakes, and it could wind up costing you a Patrick Kane, or in the Wild’s case, a Mikko Koivu or Brent Burns eventually.

Now, as Fletcher said above, this could be the team if he can’t make his “play” before the season. The only reason before the summer I was talking about Colton Gillies potentially being in the minors is I thought the team would probably need his $1-plus million cap space. But right now, if no move is made, he’s got a good shot at making the team.

And I know he was playing prospects in that scrimmage the other day, but he looked very, very good. Fast, nasty (buried Petr Kalus) and scored two goals — one exceptional one.

Anyway, I’ve said my peace. Have a good rest of the summer, and hopefully I’ve got it in myself to stand down and let others cover the team. Mid-July is usually the official end of the previous hockey season for me, so I hope you enjoyed the coverage this season. See you next season, amazingly, my fifth already covering the Wild.

(OK, I’m back. Nashville signed Peter Olvecky).

I’ll leave you with this. Here’s a look at the depth chart as of now:

Goalie 

Niklas Backstrom

Josh Harding

Barry Brust

Anton Khudobin

LD-RD

Kim Johnsson-Brent Burns

Nick Schultz-Marek Zidlicky

Greg Zanon-Shane Hnidy

John Scott-Jaime Sifers

Tyler Cuma-Justin Falk

Clayton Stoner-Jamie Fraser

Marco Scandella-Maxim Noreau

LW-C-RW

Andrew Brunette-Mikko Koivu-Martin Havlat

Owen Nolan-James Sheppard-Pierre-Marc Bouchard (RW until training camp)

Antti Miettinen-Eric Belanger-Cal Clutterbuck

Colton Gillies-Kyle Brodziak-Derek Boogaard

Petr Kalus-Benoit Pouliot-Craig Weller

Robbie Earl-Morten Madsen-Danny Irmen

Matt Kassian-Cody Almond-Carson McMillan

(the depth chart will change when the Wild plugs some minor-league holes, believed to be Duncan Milroy and Jon DiSalvatore, to replace Corey Locke and Krys Kolanos).

Brodziak files for arbitration

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

TUESDAY ALERT: Still out of town, but Stephane Veilleux’s Wild career is expected to officially end today. I hear he’s close to signing a free-agent deal elsewhere.
The leaves defensemen Martin Skoula (most NHL games of any defenseman his age), Kurtis Foster (Wild rookie dman record with 10 goals), Marc-Andre Bergeron (14 goals last season, I think 61 goals the last six seasons – tremendous for blue-liner), Krys Kolanos, Peter Olvecky and Dan Fritsche.

———————

Recently-acquired center Kyle Brodziak filed for arbitration by tonight’s deadline. The Wild and Brodziak can negotiate a contract right up until the hearing, which will be scheduled for later this month or early next month.

Restricted free agent Josh Harding did not file for arbitration.
OK, that is it. I actually left town for a few days, so blog won’t be updated as frequently unless there’s news. Nate Taylor will have development camp covered and I’ll be back in time for the scrimmage.

Wild make qualifying offers to Harding, Pouliot among others

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Russo is flying now, so we post this as a favor to him:

Here’s the breakdown of the players who received qualifying offers from the Wild:

C Kyle Brodziak
LW Robbie Earl
G Josh Harding
RW Danny Irmen
LW Benoit Pouliot
D Clayton Stoner

And here’s the list of those who didn’t get offers and now become unrestricted free agents who can shop for a team starting July 1:

D Paul Albers
LW Riley Emmerson
LW Dan Fritsche
LW Peter Olvecky

Fritsche was probably the player most expected would be cut loose, based on the acquisition of Brodziak at the draft. So no big surprise there.

About Pouliot, Fletcher said: “We’re excited to see where he is come training camp. He’s had his ups and downs along the road, but (new coach) Todd Richards is excited about seeing him in camp. We want to see if he can push his career forward, take the next step. It’s up to him, but we want to give him that opportunity.”

He said not qualifying Fritsche and Olecky was a roster “flexibility” issue. About Olvecky, Fletcher said making him a qualifying offer might possibly have “made him eligible for a one-way contract. We wanted to keep the option open of a two-way contract.” So, by not qualifying him, Fletcher said he still held out hope that he could reach agreement on a two-way deal and keep Olvecky in the fold. Fletcher said it was important for the franchise to have as much financial flexibility as possible heading into free agency.

The NHL free agency period opens on Wednesday at 11 a.m., so stay tuned to this site for constant updates.

Russo will be back on later this afternoon to update this post.

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.

Talking Aeros hockey; Getting out of dodge for a bit

Friday, May 15th, 2009

Good day everybody. Just thought I’d jump on to say goodbye.
Not for good (unfortunately for some), but I’m heading outside the continental U.S. Saturday for a little more than a week. But I’ll have the cell phone, blackberry and laptop at my side, so I’ll be paying attention to the GM search as best I can on the sands of Hawaii.
How great were those Game 7’s last night, by the way? The conference finals should be extraordinary.
I did a Kevin Constantine story for Saturday’s paper. Remember, many considered him the potential frontrunner to replace Jacques Lemaire if Doug Risebrough was doing the hiring. But once Risebrough was fired, everything changed – for Constantine, too. Now his future is up in the air.
He should still be a candidate, especially after coaching the Aeros to at least the AHL’s Western Conference Finals. But it’ll be tougher for him just because of the perception he’s also a defensive coach, and the Wild’s new GM almost certainly will want to change the Wild’s style to a more up-tempo type in the post-Lemaire era.
I wasn’t able to squeeze in a lot of stuff about the Aeros, so I figured this would be a good venue for that.
Constantine never realized the Aeros had this run in them. After the team won its first four games, the Aeros battled inconsistency due to injuries and callups, including Cal Clutterbuck, Krys Kolanos, Peter Olvecky and John Scott.
Clutterbuck never left Minnesota after his Oct. 16 promotion, while Kolanos, Olvecky and Scott played a combined 72 games for the Wild.
“Whenever guys were gone, we weren’t that good to be honest,” Constantine said. “It just shows how much the players are the most critical factor in wins or losses. When we were healthy and had bodies, we put together runs.
“The turning point might have been when Kurtis Foster came down [on his rehab stint]. We won six in a row with guys like Foster, Kolanos and [Benoit Pouliot] all playing. So we went through stretches where we said, ‘Maybe this team has something.’”
Critics like me have blasted the Wild for not having much talent in the minors, and the reality is even though the Aeros have reached the AHL’s Final Four, they’re nothing without the scoring of veterans Kolanos (37 goals in 59 Aeros’ games), Corey Locke (15 playoff points) and Jesse Schultz (second-leading scorer in the regular season, injured right now), who all could become unrestricted free agents. And quite frankly, there’s a chance they all leave. Heck, a guy like Kolanos can probably make $1 million net in the KHL.
“Those guys carry us offensively, and then you try to wrap some detail around that,” Constantine said. “But I think there’s pieces here. I really do. I’m still a believer in Pouliot because I see talent and improvement. I just think sometimes in pro sports we’re not allowed to be patient, so sometimes it’s like now or never. But I think the guy’s going to be a good player. I don’t know what role. Don’t know if it’ll be a first- or second-line center role, but I think there’s a role for him as he matures through the business.
“[Justin] Falk, in the third [period Wednesday], looked like a very big, strong, calm defenseman. [Maxim] Noreau turned into a good defenseman. I don’t think the main future of the Wild are here, but I think there’s a lot of pieces here.”
Other bright spots include role players in Irmen and Robbie Earl, up-and-coming defenseman Marco Scandella, defenseman Clayton Stoner, who’s rebounded after years hampered by injuries, and goalie Anton Khudobin, who’s extremely unorthodox and raw but has carried the Aeros through the playoffs with injuries to goalies Nolan Schaefer and Barry Brust.
Remember, Carson McMillan’s there now practicing, and Cody Almond will be there too next year. And quite frankly, probably Colton Gillies.
Anyway, that’s my take on the Aeros. It was fun actually getting to see them play in Wednesday’s Game 7, 5-2 win at Milwaukee. 

I also wrote a Tom Lynn feature that should appear some time in the next few days on what he’s been up to the last month and the job he’s done in Houston – which makes him at least a candidate to be the Wild’s next GM – or certainly a GM in this league somewhere someday.
Chuck Fletcher and Pierre McGuire are still the frontrunners, I believe, but knowing Lynn, he probably impressed in his initial interviews with owner Craig Leipold. I still think Leipold’s at the very least a week away from naming a GM. To me, it was necessary to have a far-and-wide search, and Leipold’s done a quality job with it.
Like I said, I’ll do my best to keep tab from Hawaii. Talk to ya later Wild fans.

Scott re-signs for one year; Olvecky to Worlds; Risebrough to hold news conference Tuesday

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Former Wild GM Doug Risebrough, who’s been unavailable for comment since being let go last week, will hold a news conference Tuesday at 11 a.m.

Here’s the link to the John Scott article 

The Wild has re-signed one of its unrestricted free agents.

In his first move as the acting general manager, Tom Lynn — who negotiated every contract anyway in his previous role as assistant GM — signed defenseman John Scott to a one-year, $550,000 contract. It’s a one-way contract, meaning he gets paid his NHL salary if he plays in the minors next season.

“John proved he could play at the NHL level in his stint with the Wild at the end of the season,” Lynn said. ”His next challenge will be to show he can not only play, but contribute and make a good team better. If he works as hard as he did for the last two seasons in Houston, I am confident he can make that transition.”

The 6-foot-8 Scott had one assist in 20 games this season, providing a physical presence on a non-physical blue line.

The Wild’s other notable unsigned potential unrestricted free agents are Marian Gaborik, Martin Skoula, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Kurtis Foster and Stephane Veilleux.

Also, Peter Olvecky will leave the Aeros today to represent Slovakia in the World Championships. NHL rules state that if you play in the NHL and you’re invited by your native country to play in the tourney, that supersedes your AHL responsibilities. 

Here is the updated roster situation:

ROSTER SITUATION

Under contract: G Niklas Backstrom, $6 million; D Kim Johnsson, $4.85 million ($5.3 million salary); RW Pierre-Marc Bouchard, $4.08 million ($4.25 million); D Brent Burns, $3.55 million ($3.4 million); D Nick Schultz, $3.5 million ($3.4 million); D Marek Zidlicky, $3.35 million ($3.5 million); C Mikko Koivu, $3.25 million ($3.3 million); RW Owen Nolan, $2.75 million; RW Antti Miettinen, $2.33 million ($2.5 million); LW Andrew Brunette, $2.33 million ($2.5 million); C Eric Belanger, $1.75 million; C James Sheppard, $1.4 million ($765,000); LW Colton Gillies, $1.0417 million ($875,000); LW Derek Boogaard, $875,000 ($1.025 million); RW Cal Clutterbuck, $725,800 ($623,000); RW Craig Weller, $600,000 ($625,000), D John Scott, $550,000.

Total cap hit: $43,666,944 for 16 players, including $727,778 charged for bought-out Mark Parrish.
Total actual salary: $44,040,778 for 17 players, including $927,778 owed to Parrish and excluding potential bonuses paid to Sheppard and Gillies.

* Salary Cap hit first number; in parentheses is actual salary.
** Salary cap will be announced in late June, but it was $56.7 million in 2008-09.

Restricted free agents (to retain rights, qualifying offer must be tendered by June 29): RW Dan Fritsche, $875,000; C Benoit Pouliot, $765,000; G Josh Harding, $725,000; C Peter Olvecky, $550,000.
*Salary-cap numbers for 2008-09 (Pouliot’s cap hit was $1.7 million).
**Other restricted free agents include minor-leaguers Danny Irmen and Clayton Stoner.

Unrestricted free agents (can become free July 1, may not return): RW Marian Gaborik, $6.33 million; D Martin Skoula, $1.8 million; D Marc-Andre Bergeron, $1.254 million; D Kurtis Foster, $1.025 million; LW Stephane Veilleux, $862,500; C Krys Kolanos, $500,000.

*Salary-cap numbers for 2008-09.
**Other unrestricted free agents include minor-leaguers Nolan Schaefer, Tomas Mojzis and Bryan Lundbohm.