Pierre-Marc Bouchard


Hockey’s on the Horizon; Catching up w/ Bruno, Burnzie, Steph, etc…

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Training camp is less than two weeks away, and amazingly, two weeks from tomorrow (Tuesday) will be the Wild’s first exhibition game in St. Louis on just the third day of training camp.

Something tells me that first lineup coach Todd Richards uses won’t be a true indication of the Wild’s actual Opening Night lineup. Just a guess. We might see a whole lot of Jaime Sifers and Jamie Fraser. Heck, the Wild might have to summon Eero Elo from the Finnish wilderness for that Blues tilt.

Yep, hockey’s just around the corner. Went down to watch a bunch of NHLers/Wild players skate this morning in the camp put on by the Octagon player rep agency. The Wild players there this morning included in no particular order Brent Burns, Owen Nolan, John Scott, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Josh Harding and Andrew Brunette. In the coming days, other Wild players expected to skate there include Derek Boogaard (just wasn’t there today), Nick Schultz (in Chicago busy firing the NHLPA Executive Director), Greg Zanon, Niklas Backstrom, Mikko Koivu and others.

Other NHLers there this morning include Florida’s Keith Ballard, Tampa Bay’s Mike Lundin, Pittsburgh’s Alex Goligoski, the Isles’ Tim Jackman, Chicago’s Dustin Byfuglien, Pittsburgh’s Wyatt Smith, Tampa Bay’s Steve Downie, Montreal’s Andrew Conboy, Ben Clymer and Erik Rasmussen, among others. Mark Parrish is also skating there, but he was at the doctor today because his wife is pregnant with the couple’s second child. Parrish’s only NHL option right now could be the Islanders, but Parrish might be forced to choose between Europe and retiring.

There were also a bunch of college or high school kids there, including Josh Birkholz (Gophers), Max Gardiner (Minnetonka High, Gophers recruit), Zach Budish (Edina, incoming Gopher), Anders Lee (Edina, Notre Dame recruit), Nick Bjugstad (Blaine, Gophers recruit), Nick Mattson (Indiana, USHL; UND), Travis Boyd (U-17 US team, Gophers recruit), Seth Ambroz (Gophers recruit), Christian Isackson (St.Thomas Academy, Gophers recruit) and Nick Jensen (Green Bay, USHL; St. Cloud State recruit).

Oh!!! And Tampa Bay’s Stephane Veilleux, whose hair color resembles the Gophers’ colors I suppose, was there. I talked with Veilleux for awhile, and he had a fun summer, going to Wimbledon and visiting good chum and former Wild roommate Mikko Koivu in Finland. I’ll write more about Veilleux when the Wild visits Tampa in November, but he wanted me to thank the fans and tell you how much he’ll miss playing here. He said he badly wanted to stay but understands it’s a business.

He confirmed to me what I wrote a few days ago — he turned down a two-year deal from San Jose to take one from Tampa. He said it was an agonizing decision because he said Sharks coach Todd McLellan, who used to coach him in Houston, called him two minutes after free agency began. But in the end, Veilleux was told he’d have a chance to play on the second line in Tampa. He feels he owes it to himself to give that a try. He says if you look at his history here, like when he played with Marian Gaborik every training camp during exhibition games, he was able to put up points. But the second the season started, Jacques Lemaire put him back to where the coach felt comfortable with Veilleux — on the checking line.

Veilleux says if he can have the same type of camp he normally had in Minnesota, he feels he can prove to Tampa Bay he can play with Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis on the left side of that No. 2 line. If you look at Tampa’s top-six, there’s a definite left-wing slot open, so we’ll see if Veilleux can pull it off. Of course, one would think former linemate Wes Walz, a Tampa Bay assistant, knows Veilleux better than most anybody, and I’m betting coach Rick Tocchet eventually has Veilleux on that checking line where he’s proven he can be effective.

Here’s a smattering of other little tidbits:

– I shot the breeze with a number of NHLers this morning about NHLPA Executive Director Paul Kelly getting fired. TSN’s Darren Dreger has done a superb job covering this from the outset and he’s in Chicago, so I direct you to tsn.ca/nhl for his coverage. We’ve been hearing a clamoring of discontent for months, and it became clear this summer that Kelly was in trouble when General Counsel Ian Penny had his contract extended without Kelly’s knowledge. But there’s got to be a lot more to this than Kelly allegedly being chummier with the Commissioner’s office than the players would like. This will all come out I’m sure as the Executive Board — guys like Chris Chelios, Shawn Horcoff and Andrew Ference — and 30 player reps communicate the reasons to the membership. But since Kelly’s dismissal and reasons for it didn’t have to go to vote to all 600 or so players, I can tell you there are some very confused and concerned members.

Regardless, the players I talked to are very concerned about what they were calling the “circus” internally at the NHLPA. I’ll have a lot more on this once my daily hockey coverage begins again, but this really should be something all fans pay attention to because it appears as if the union’s gearing up for a fight with the league in the next CBA negotiations.

– Brent Burns looks like his old self. No signs of concussion or shoulder problems, smiling again, chirping opponents like that stinkin’ Pierre-Marc Bouchard and just being a presence every time he skated this morning.

– Andrew Brunette looked very good this morning, and he’s only four months from reconstructive knee surgery. He certainly had no problem schooling some of the high school kids with a couple sick passes in traffic during one shift. Brunette said physically he feels good, but now it’s just a matter of feeling comfortable on the knee and getting over the mental hurdles of stops and starts and turning. “Just knowing I can do it,” Brunette said.

– As I’m sure most of you know because the Wild’s roster has shown the change for weeks, but goalie Josh Harding is changing his number to No. 37. Trivia question for the comment section: Who’s the only Wild player to ever wear No. 37? You’ve got to have an encyclopedia Wild mind to get this answer.

The winner gets to start paying for Russo’s Rants. Congratulations. :)

What else? What else? Let me go to my twitter real quick; I tweeted while I was in the chair waiting for my oral surgeon because I knew I would forget some things.

Oh, Owen Nolan’s goatee is one thick straight line down to below his chin. If he was walking toward you at night and you didn’t know whom he was, you’d hide your pet poodle because you’d be afraid he’d kick it.

Didn’t you miss me? That … is … it … for … now.

Lots more puck talk to come, but at a later date.

Wild pursuing Tanguay; Correction on cap number; Third jersey teaser

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Wish me luck.

In 90 minutes, my wisdom teeth are going to be ripped out of their sockets with a pair of rusty pliers. At least, that’s how my dream portrayed the scene before I woke up in a cold sweat. :)

I’m hoping it won’t be that violent or painful.

As you read in this morning’s paper here, the Wild is trying to sign free agent Alex Tanguay. One correction from today’s story: I wrote the roster’s 23 players have a cap hit of $51,611,827 for 23 players excluding Colton Gillies.

Wrong.

This is why the Miami Herald’s David J. Neal always tells me, “Mike, you shouldn’t be doing math.”

Actually, the error occurred because for some reason I entered Kyle Brodziak twice in my excel file. I just re-did it and 23 players including Gillies comes out to $51,503,494 (includes Mark Parrish’s buyout). Obviously this figure is unofficial, also includes James Sheppard’s potential entry-level bonuses and could change depending on who makes the team.

As of now, the roster I’m using to determine this is:

14 Forwards: Martin Havlat, Mikko Koivu, Andrew Brunette, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Owen Nolan, Antti Miettinen, Eric Belanger, James Sheppard, Benoit Pouliot, Derek Boogaard, Cal Clutterbuck, Kyle Brodziak, Craig Weller, Colton Gillies.

7 Defensemen: Brent Burns, Kim Johnsson, Marek Zidlicky, Nick Schultz, Greg Zanon, Shane Hnidy, John Scott

2 Goalies: Niklas Backstrom, Josh Harding

Back to Tanguay, what my little math gaffe doesn’t change is the fact that GM Chuck Fletcher doesn’t have unlimited cap space to spend on Tanguay. Fletcher decided to be patient all summer hoping that a bargain would fall into his lap. Maybe this is it.

Because of Tanguay’s shoulder injury last season and the fact that his production slipped the past two seasons, his stock fell this summer and he’s been left looking for work. Reading between the lines of what agent Ritch Winter said yesterday, it sounds as if Tanguay may sign a one-year deal so he can go to a team, try to have a “career year” and reestablish his market for a big payday next summer.

Minnesota and Tampa Bay seem to be two teams hot after him, and I was told a few weeks back, Tanguay would love to play in Tampa. But there’s no doubt he’s strongly considering Minnesota.

As I’ve said on here since mid-July, it’s of my opinion the Wild is a scorer short still.

However, the big question: Is Tanguay the right guy to fill that role?

The answer from a fan’s point of view depends on how much more patient are you willing to be. Tanguay is the best left on the open market, and I’m saying this because from everything I’m hearing, Nikolai Zherdev’s mind is at $4 million or Russia.

If you’re willing to be more patient, there should eventually be a trade to be made deep into training camp or in the early part of the season.

If you’re unwilling to be more patient, well, Tanguay’s a gifted playmaker. Problem is he’s a gifted playmaker, not a gifted scorer. As good as he is setting up guys, his history says quite clearly that he’s allergic to shooting the puck and isn’t the grittiest tool in the shed. And the Wild already has a gifted playmaker and perimeter forward in Pierre-Marc Bouchard.

So, to be effective, Tanguay would basically have to play with a guy like Marty Havlat on the top line.

Just remember though: If Tanguay’s the guy the Wild signs, the Wild will be sandwiched close to the cap, meaning that’s the move folks. If there’s any future big trade, it would likely have to come at the trade deadline rather than earlier.

Fletcher has shown some interest in Zherdev, but I think he’s concerned about Zherdev’s motivation to play in Russia. He’s shown interest in Petr Sykora after having him in Anaheim and Pittsburgh. But Sykora, as good a scorer as he is, isn’t the best skater in the world. Contrary to the rumor mongers out there, the Wild has zero interest in Mike Comrie.

Fletcher said if the Wild can’t sign Tanguay, he’ll likely go into camp and maybe the season with this team, discover who emerges and then re-adjust from there as the trade market unfolds.

Benoit Pouliot will be given his sixth last chance. He certainly seems determined to emerge. He stuck around most of the summer and from all reports I’ve been given is working his butt off in the gym. He’s got a great chance of making the team because he requires waivers to be sent to the minors, meaning 29 teams could claim him for zippo if he doesn’t make the team. Fletcher is also hopeful Sheppard makes one giant offensive step this season. As I’ve mentioned, Gillies can be sent to the minors without waivers, but he’s also looking good this summer.

Also, it seems almost guaranteed, Fletcher said, that backup goalie Josh Harding will be on the team when the season starts.

I’d talk more extensively about all of this, but I’ll save it for training camp. Be a little more patient, and the Wild will be in the paper again daily.

Lastly, I’ve gotten all these emails for third jersey sneak previews. This is why you should follow me at twitter.com/russostrib. If you did, you would have gotten some hints about a month ago.

I’d describe it as a pretty traditional front. Green. MINNESOTA WILD in sort of a cursive writing. And I think that “M” in Minnesota will be an “M” you’ll start seeing on a ton of Wild merchandise. :)

Anyways, I’m not officially back to work yet. Unless there’s news, the blog will continue to be dormant until early next month. But you’ll be getting multi-daily blog updates and tweets and articles and Facebook updates and webcasts and …. soon enough.

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).

Ducks sign Saku Koivu, turns down better term, money from the Wild

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

UPDATE: Kurtis Foster has signed a one-year deal with Tampa Bay.

UPDATE: Got to ask Saku a few questions on his presser. Quotes below, but as you’ll see, short of the Wild trading Mikko Koivu, the Wild had no shot in the end. Saku decided he just didn’t feel comfortable playing with his brother.

As you probably saw on the previous blog or my Twitter, Saku Koivu has indeed signed a one-year, $3.25 million deal with the Anaheim Ducks — proof positive there’s nothing the Wild could have done to sweeten that pot. 

If somebody doesn’t want to play here, he doesn’t; there’s no use chasing your own tail and throwing money and term if there are other factors at play. He could’ve gotten a better deal in Minny — sources say the deal would have been in the $4 million annual range on a two-year deal, in the $3-million-plus range on a three-year deal.

As I warned you before last weekend, the Wild started to get the impression things were heading south with negotiations with Koivu. To me, this contract with Anaheim shows two things — 1) he wants to play with buddy Teemu Selanne and only signed for one year because Selanne claims this time he will really retire in one year; 2) there were serious concerns amongst the Koivu Bros. about playing together.

Now you know why I wrote that July 1 column saying the Koivu’s parents wanted them to play together, but “if only it were that simple.”

Where does this leave the Wild? Exactly where GM Chuck Fletcher said he’d be the other day with Koivu did not sign (here’s the link). He’ll continue to look at the trade route for a No. 2 center, and if that can’t be done before the season, the internal options remain James Sheppard, Benoit Pouliot or Eric Belanger — or moving Pierre-Marc Bouchard to the middle.

I briefly talked to Bouchard today, but I was driving at the time. I hope to speak to him on the record later this afternoon, but he was a natural center before the NHL and I think he’s willing to give it a try again in training camp.

The Wild will not look at the free-agent route now at No. 2 center. Contrary to Internet rumors, the Wild IS NOT signing Mike Comrie, I’ve been told.

As you saw in the blog below, columnist Jim Souhan sat down with Marian Gaborik this morning for a one-on-one. That’ll be in tomorrow’s paper, as well as a Koivu/maybe Bouchard story. Also, the Wild will announce later it’s signed Jaime Sifers and Jamie Fraser to two-way contracts. Both have played some NHL games but are likely Houston-bound.

Update: Here are quotes from Saku on Minny:

On not signing in Minnesota: “We spoke to Minnesota a few times. All the talks went very well, but it was more personal reasons. I didn’t feel comfortable. I kind of felt that Minnesota’s Mikko’s place at this point. I wanted him to have his own privacy in a way and make his own name and career. And I just felt there were too many risks for us as brothers and as family members to join on the same team and kind of compete for the same ice time. And I felt we’re better off playing somewhere else.”Did Mikko understand this because it seems like he was intrigued by being teammates: “I think Mikko was really excited about the possibility for us playing on the same team and I can’t deny, if you really think about the possibilities and only the positive side, it would have been a pretty exciting thing. But I looked at it in, I guess, a more negative way and I was thinking, ‘what if this happens or what if things won’t work out?’ And right now, we have such a great relationship and I was too afraid to challenge that. You never know what is going to happen. For me, this was a safer option and I felt myself, I felt more comfortable.

“When I spoke to Mikko today, he understood totally. I guess I looked at things as more of an older brother and I wanted to protect him in a way and I felt there were too many risks for me to sign there.”

But isn’t it riskier taking a one-year than the multi-years the Wild offered? “I felt that the fit for the team in Anaheim and for myself, it was perfect for a one-year deal. We’re going from one extreme coming from Montreal to a very different lifestyle, different weather and hockey not being as big as it is in Montreal. At this point in my career, being an older player and with my family, I felt I wanted to have control for our future. Obviously I’m hoping and I’m confident things will work out and hopefully I play many years in Anaheim. I felt it was an easier decision for me to take it a year at a time at this point and see how everything works out, how we like it there. And then if everything works out well, then we can spend many years hopefully to come. “

SIFERS, FRASER BIOS FROM PRESS RELEASE

Fraser, 23 (11/17/85), played one game with the New York Islanders in 2008-09, making his NHL debut April 4 versus Tampa Bay. Fraser posted 21 points (7-14=21) and 30 penalty minutes (PIM) in 66 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League (AHL). The 6-foot-1, 200-pound native of Sarnia, Ont., played junior hockey with the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) Brampton Battalion and Sarnia Sting. He was originally signed by the Islanders on Feb. 22, 2007.

Sifers, 26 (1/18/83), recorded two assists and 18 PIM in 23 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2008-09 season. He also posted 20 points (4-16=20) and 47 PIM in 43 games for the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. The 5-foot-11, 210-pound native of Stratford, Conn., played collegiately at the University of Vermont, where he was an ECAC Second All-Star Team selection in 2005. Sifers was signed as a free agent by Toronto on July 20, 2006.

Wild signs D Shane Hnidy; Bouchard looking more and more like No. 2 center; Boogey-Havlat to fight for No. 24?; Coaching staff set

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

(updated) 

How excited is “Sheriff” Shane Hnidy to be a member of the Minnesota Wild this afternoon? He’s in the bush of Northern Manitoba fishing. I called his home number, got his wife and she told me he was out of town until Sunday and virtually unreachable. 

Next thing I know, I get a phone call two minutes later with about 17 numbers on the caller I.D.

It was Hnidy calling me from a satellite phone.

Hnidy, who lives eight hours north of here, feels like he just signed with his hometown team. He’s known throughout the league as a character, heart-and-soul, sandpaper guy. Hard hits, gets into a handul of fights a year.

Here’s a YouTube clip worth watching simply for the comical Jack Edwards absolutely losing his mind

So as expected, the Wild got its Nos. 4/5 and 6 with “hard” type defensemen (Greg Zanon and Hnidy) to complement the mobile, offensive types in the top-four.

This rounds out the top-seven. Barring a trade, the blue line will be Burns, Johnsson, Schultz, Zidlicky, Zanon, Hnidy, Scott.

Hnidy signed a one-year, $750,000 contract. He spent the last two years in Boston. In 477 NHL games, he has 14 goals, 57 points, is a plus-22 and 565 penalty minutes.

Also, it is looking more and more like Pierre-Marc Bouchard could be given the biggest look as the team’s No. 2 center. That, of course, is only if the Wild can’t sign Saku Koivu or can’t make a trade.

Chuck Fletcher again said today that Koivu is the only center-ice option minus a trade in free agency, and the team just continues to wait as he makes a decision. It’s up to him now, and like I said on the previous post, the team thinks he’s not signing here.

Todd Richards talked extensively today about how if the Wild doesn’t make another center pickup, he feels Bouchard “can be that guy.”

Winger Ruslan Fedotenko signed a one-year, $1.8 million deal to remain in Pittsburgh. He clearly just didn’t want to leave because I know for the fact the Wild and a number of other teams offered him multi-year deals.

Now, the Wild probably just waits until later in the summer to maybe sign another free agent or work on trades. Fletcher basically said today that Koivu is the one guy they’re still waiting on. I don’t sense a lot of interest in Alex Tanguay or Ales Kotalik. Again, you don’t build a team to sign players just for the sake of signing players. You build teams with the right guys, and to get stuck with a huge Tanguay contract when there could be better options before the season, into the season or even next summer, it just makes no sense.

So, if Koivu doesn’t sign here (and as mentioned on previous blog, it’s not looking good), I wouldn’t expect much news for a little while.

Marty Havlat was introduced to the media today. I bet my life last night to a couple buddles that Marian Gaborik already offered to sell his condo to Martin Havlat. I live!!!!!!!!!!

Also, Havlat’s first conversation was going to be with Derek Boogaard to see what he could do to entice No. 24 to leave his body. Boogaard had a good line to me, … which you can read in the paper :)

Update: Boogaard won; Havlat will wear 14

Development camp next week. Tyler Cuma was in, looked great and said his knee feels great.

Also, Mike Ramsey, Dave Barr (old Colorado assistant), Matt Shaw and Bob Mason will make up next year’s coaching staff. Add: Strength coach Kirk Olson did not have his contract renewed.

Here’s a funny one for you, which explains a major typo in today’s paper. Wild can never sign or play Brian Boucher. When I write Boucher in my MS word, it automatically changes it to Bouchard.

Another thing that’s been on my mind the last few days? Wonder how Gaborik’s groins will react to by far the worst ice in the NHL — Madison Square Garden?

Add: Wild minor-leaguer Corey Locke signed with the Rangers.

All this and much more in Saturday’s paper.

Friday morning check-in; July 12 development camp scrimmage open to public

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

Real quick hello.

I’ll be heading to the Martin Havlat presser at the arena this early afternoon. It’ll be more of an informal meet-and-greet in the locker room mostly for the TV cameras, radio mikes and newspaper photogs because the print media’s already gotten him and the electronic media hasn’t been able to.

Nothing new right now on Saku Koivu or Ruslan Fedotenko.

As mentioned in the earlier post, Koivu to Minny not looking good right now. Quite frankly, I don’t think there’s anything more the Wild can do to sweeten the pot. As I wrote on the blog, I think, June 30 or July 1, the Wild was going to make an offer and if the Koivus wanted to make it happen, they could.

But as Mikko expressed in my story July 1, there are significant concerns there between the two brothers about playing together, and I think that is very, very real. This is Mikko’s team now, and these are two proud guys. If Saku isn’t the same player a year or two into the contract and he’s being taken to task, I think there is very real concern there how that would weigh on both of them.

And like Mikko alluded, as much as it would be a dream for them to play together this is likely Saku’s last contract. He’s looking for the best deal and best fit for his family — he’s got two young children.

So as of now, it’s not looking good. Maybe it changes, but from what I hear, the Wild’s not optimistic.

If the Wild can’t sign Koivu, it’ll likely look at the trade market or go into camp with the same centers. And quite frankly, that is the absolute correct move.

In a cap system, you can’t make mistakes and it makes zero sense to go out and sign one of the remaining centers to a long-term deal if he can’t fit the No. 2 role. That’s what the Wild needs. Dominic Moore, Manny Malhotra, Todd Marchant, these guys are real good centers. But they’re No. 3′s. The Wild already has James Sheppard, Eric Belanger and Kyle Brodziak. Those guys can handle the No. 3 and 4 roles as well as any of the guys available.

And yes, Sheppard or P-M Bouchard or even Benoit Pouliot could very well wind up at the No. 2 spot. Fletcher will undoubtedly try to acquire a No. 2 center, but this might very well have to be the solution because there’s few other options. It is not easy to acquire centers in the NHL. Look at last summer, the Wild tried for centers and just like this year, it was an awful free-agent class. It missed out on the couple available, and let’s be honest, one was Brendan Morrison and the team lucked out he chose Anaheim.

Just like last year’s class, there were only two centers even worth going after — Koivu and Nik Antropov (and that pains me to say because as I mentioned the other day, I’m not a big Antropov guy).

To me, you only sign a Mike Comrie or Jason Williams later in the summer if you can get them as bargains or you can’t make a trade. Waiting sometimes is the right move.

Same thing for wingers. There is no use overspending on a winger now when maybe you can get somebody in a trade or there’s a better free-agent crop next summer.

The Wild cannot give out bad contracts, not when you have to ensure you’ll have the money to re-sign Mikko Koivu and Brent Burns — relatively — soon.

The Wild has targeted a few guys, but if it misses, it’ll wait. It did tender an offer to Ruslan Fedotenko, and he’s expected to make a decision today. A number of teams are interested.

Lastly, the Wild starts its development camp Tuesday. Below is the roster. On Sunday, July 12, if you want a hockey fix, the prospects will be scrimmaging at the X from 12:30-2:30 p.m. Gate 1 at the X opens at noon.

54 Cody Almond  6-2     200     Left    7/24/89 Calgary, Alberta        Kelowna WHL     70      33      33      66      105     EN/07
68 Eero Elo     6-3     189     Right   4/26/90 Rauma, Finland  Lukko Rauma     Fin. Jr.         3       0       0       0       0       EN/08
47 Alexander Fallstrom6-2       195     Right   9/15/90 Gothenburg, Sweden      Shattuck St. Mary’s     H.S.    52      40      47      87      52      EN/09
56 Kristopher Foucault6-1       202     Left    12/12/90        Calgary, Alberta        Kootenay/Calgary        WHL     26      9       8       17      16      EN/08
18 Colton Gillies       6-4     196     Left    2/12/89 Surrey, British Columbia        Minnesota       NHL     45      2       5       7       18      EN/07
49 Anthony Hamburg      6-1     185     Right   8/30/91 Houston, Texas  Dallas Stars AAA        H.S.    70      29      70      99      76      EN/09
60 Erik Haula   6-0     170     Left    3/23/91 Pori, Finland   Shattuck St. Mary’s     H.S.    53      26      58      84      46      EN/09
51 Chris Hickey 6-3     185     Right   9/2/88  St. Paul, Minnesota     Wisconsin       WCHA    8       1       0       1       4       EN/06  
23 Petr Kalus   6-1     201     Left    6/29/87 Ostrava, Czechoslovakia Balashikha       KHL     17      0       2       2       106     TRD/07
57 Matt Kassian 6-4     247     Left    10/28/86        Edmonton, Alberta       Houston AHL     56      1       2       3       130     EN/05
53 Brian Kaufman        6-4     205     Left    2/25/84 Shoreview, Minnesota    Miami University        CCHA    41      10      12      22      12      FA/09
63 Morten Madsen        6-2     191     Left    1/16/87 Rodovre, Denmark        Houston AHL     56      6       16      22      33      EN/05  
65 Carson McMillan      6-2     200     Right   9/10/88 Brandon, Manitoba       Calgary WHL     68      31      41      72      93      EN/07
72 Jarod Palmer 6-0     200     Right   2/10/86 Fridley, Minnesota      Miami University        CCHA    41      8       19      27      34      INVITEE
58 Jere Sallinen        6-0     183     Left    10/26/90        Espoo, Finland  Blues Espoo     Fin. Jr.        9       1       2       3       31      EN/09
 
# DEFENSEMEN     HT      WT      SHOOTS  BORN    BIRTHPLACE      2008-09 TEAM    LGE     GP      G       A       PTS     PIM     ACQ
61 Tyler Cuma   6-1     189     Left    1/19/90 Toronto, Ontario        Ottawa  OHL     21      1       8       9       27      EN/08
73 Justin Falk  6-5     213     Left    10/11/88        Snowflake, Manitoba     Houston AHL     65      0       3       3       44      EN/07
71 Harri Ilvonen        6-2     187     Left    11/3/88 Helsinki, Finland       LeKi Lempaala   Finland 21      4       3       7       8       EN/07
48 Nick Leddy   5-11½    185     Left    3/20/91 Edina, Minnesota        Eden Prairie    H.S.    31      12      33      45      26      EN/09   
52 Sean Lorenz  6-1     198     Right   3/10/90 Littleton, Colorado     Notre Dame      CCHA    39      0       3       3       18      EN/08
59 Kyle Medvec  6-6     205     Left    6/16/88 Westminster, Colorado   Vermont HE      36      2       10      12      40      EN/06
74 Maxim Noreau 5-11    192     Right   5/14/87 Montreal, Quebec        Houston AHL     77      14      25      39      49      FA/08
64 Marco Scandella      6-3     206     Left    2/23/90 Montreal, Quebec        Val d’Or        QMJHL   58      10      27      37      64      EN/08
62 J.P. Testwuide       6-0     210     Left    11/5/84 Vail, Colorado  Denver University       WCHA    36      3       10      13      110     INVITEE
 
# GOALTENDERS    HT      WT      CATCHES BORN    BIRTHPLACE      2008-09 TEAM    LGE     GPI     W-L-OT  SO      GAA     SV%     ACQ
50 Matthew Hackett      6-2     170     Left    3/7/90  London, Ontario Plymouth        OHL     55      34-15-3 2       3.04    .913    EN/09  
70 Darcy Kuemper        6-4     195     Left    5/5/90  Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Red Deer        WHL     55      21-25-8 3       2.96    .898    EN/09