Stephane Veilleux


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.

More context on Tanguay to Bolts, what the Wild does next; How about Sykora?

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

Good Saturday morning to everybody. Wild players report for training camp two weeks from today with players taking the ice for the first time Sept. 13.

Regarding last night’s blog, RDS is reporting that free-agent winger Alex Tanguay has agreed to terms with the Tampa Bay Lightning. This was a two-horse race between Minnesota and Tampa Bay, and the Wild’s offer — one-year, $2.5 million — was $500,000 more than Tampa Bay’s — at least originally. We’ll see when the numbers come out if the Lightning came up in price.

But when Tanguay sat on the Wild’s offer, it became extremely clear to me that Tanguay was going to Tampa Bay because the Bolts had promised Tanguay he’d be on a line with star center Vincent Lecavalier. But the Lightning had a lot more cap room than Minnesota, so I think Tanguay’s camp was just stalling with the hope of Tampa Bay coming up in price. We’ll see if they did.

Plus, look at the Lightning’s depth chart of top-six forwards, and Tanguay knew the Lightning needed him. Without him, Tampa’s second line was shaping up at Stephane Veilleux-Steven Stamkos-Brandon Bochenski. Now, you can put Tanguay-Lecavalier-Ryan Malone and potentially, believe it or not, Veilleux-Stamkos-Martin St. Louis.

In fact, Veilleux turned down a two-year deal in San Jose to take a one-year deal in Tampa because he was told there was potential of him playing on the second line.

The Bolts had about $51 million charged to the cap before Tanguay. The Wild is at exactly $54,403,494 (confirmed), so the Wild couldn’t go up a penny from its $2.5 million offer. In fact, if Tanguay had accepted the Wild’s offer, the team actually would have gone above the cap (you can go over the cap by 10 percent up until the last day of training camp).

The Wild could then have dumped salary by either making a trade or more likely starting second-year winger Colton Gillies in the minors. That would have brought the cap down to $55.86 million, giving the team barely enough room to make injury callups. The team also could have placed Craig Weller on waivers and started him in the minors to create another $600,000 of cap flexibility.

As it currently sits, the Wild has a little less than $2.4 million of cap space — really $3.4 million because I firmly believe that unless Gillies turns into a star in camp, the Wild will start him in the minors. That’s nothing against Gillies, who’s going to be a good NHLer, at all.

But inside the organization, a lot of people were unhappy with former GM Doug Risebrough handing jobs to James Sheppard and Colton Gillies even though Risebrough publicly said four years ago the Wild had made a transition and would no longer do this.

I’ve said this before, but most people around the league feels that inhibits development, not helps. Unless you’re going to be a star at 18, several teams like Detroit and New Jersey would prefer you to continue to be a star in junior, then gain confidence in the minors before making the giant jump to the NHL. For instance, Sheppard hasn’t even experienced being on a No. 1 power play in three years now. I don’t remember the Wild saying it was drafting him to develop into a third-line center.

Also, and this is the most important thing, your seven-year free-agent clock starts the second you play in the NHL. So the Wild has wasted two of Sheppard’s years toward free agency, and one for Gillies. In other words, Sheppard can become an unrestricted free agent in five years now because the Wild decided to use two of them for what was going to be his two most ineffective years anyway, rather than, say, two years in his mid-20s when his career would have been peaking.

This is the type of stuff that is so hard to recover from.

Personally, Tanguay going to Tampa isn’t the worst news for the Wild in my opinion. I was never sold. The Wild doesn’t need another playmaker. It needs another scorer, and I still firmly believe this league is going to see some very good players available next month or into the season. And quite frankly, you could even see good players on waivers.

As I wrote in today’s paper, Chicago, Vancouver, Detroit, Ottawa, Washington and Boston are over the cap right now. Chicago can get down by sending one of their goalies to the minors and Brent Sopel as well. I don’t know what Vancouver’s doing. The Canucks are over the cap and have about 26 players. Boston’s over if you consider Phil Kessel isn’t even signed.

Montreal, Philadelphia, Edmonton and Carolina are about $1 million from the cap. San Jose’s at $53.5 after yesterday’s trade, but with 17 players. So the only way it stays under is if it signs/keeps a bunch of 500K players.

Basically, my point is these teams have to create room somehow, so some teams with a little cap space should be able to get players cheaply via trade or for free (other than a little cash) via waivers.

The Wild has talked to San Jose this summer about Jonathan Cheechoo, I’ve been told. Whether the Sharks still want to move him after yesterday’s Christian Ehrhoff trade is another story though. I know the Wild would love to get Patrick Sharp, but as mentioned above, while Chicago eventually will probably have to trade a big player down the road, the Hawks can easily slip under the cap going into the season with a little nip and tuck. The Wild at one point was interested in Boston’s Kessel, but I don’t see how it could make the numbers fit now with only $2.4 million worth of cap space. It would have to give up salary to be able to sign him, and the Bruins can’t really take much salary right now.

I cannot make this any clearer. Other than what I reported to you near the Draft, all Dany Heatley/Wild trade rumors you read have been invented out of thin air. Unless something changes, the Wild has not had trade talks with Ottawa in six weeks regarding Heatley. Additionally, the Wild has no interest in Mike Comrie, I’ve been told.

So, in conclusion :)

the current roster will likely still be the roster at the start of camp, but by late September, there’s a decent chance GM Chuck Fletcher will have the ability to make some alterations. Have a good weekend everybody.

—————————————————————-

I will add this, however, and since I’m on blackberry now, I’ll just cut and paste from my twitter.com/russostrib, but I’ve always respected Petr Sykora’s game. I know Fletcher has talked to his agent about Sykora at some points this summer. His skating is the only big concern, especially with a potential top-six that includes Andrew Brunette and Owen Nolan, but …

@russostrib: One who could jell perfectly w @martinhavlat is UFA Petr Sykora. Maybe he’d be a fit for #mnwild? All he does is score 20 goals a year.

@russostrib: Sykora didn’t play a ton in playoffs, but…savvy vet, grt guy, has been a consistent #nhl scorer (300 goals) & Fletcher knows him

Wild opens 2009-10 season in Columbus; Gaborik, Lemaire play in Minnesota

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

(Update): Restricted free agents Benoit Pouliot, Clayton Stoner, Danny Irmen and Robbie Earl have accepted their one-year qualifying offers.

The 2009-10 NHL schedule was just released.

Some highlights:

– Wild opens on the road for the first time since the 2003-04 season (in Columbus) Oct. 3. Wild opens with six of seven on the road.

– Wild opens at home against the Ducks on Oct. 6.

– Todd Richards returns to San Jose on Oct. 10.

– All in one week, Martin Havlat returns to Chicago on Oct. 26, Marian Gaborik returns to Minnesota on Oct. 30 and Chuck Fletcher returns to Pittsburgh on Oct. 31.

– Wild visits Stephane Veilleux, Kurtis Foster and the Lightning on Nov. 12.

– The traditional New Year’s Eve game is against Los Angeles.

– Jacques Lemaire, Brian Rolston and the New Jersey Devils come to Minnesota after New Year’s Jan. 2.

– The Olympic break is Feb. 15-28; Wild’s first game after break is March 3 in Calgary.

– The Wild will play 18 games against the Eastern Conference this season, playing seven games against the Atlantic Division, six against the Southeast Division and five against the Northeast Division. Minnesota will play a home game and road game each against Carolina, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Minnesota will also visit Eastern Conference members, Buffalo, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto and Washington, while hosting Atlanta, Boston, Florida, New Jersey, the New York Islanders and the New York Rangers.

– The Wild’s longest homestand is five games: Feb. 4-Feb. 14, against Edmonton, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Atlanta and Vancouver. The club has a pair of five-game road trips: Oct. 8-Oct. 17 at Los Angeles, San Jose, Anaheim, Edmonton and Vancouver, and also Dec. 5-Dec. 12 at Nashville, Phoenix, Colorado, Calgary and Vancouver.

(Updated) Training camp starts Sept. 12 with physicals, on the ice for the first time Sept. 13; preseason schedule will be released at later date, although you can figure out some games by looking at other team’s released preseason scheds. Wild opens preseason two days after camp starts in St. Louis on Sept. 15; Blues comes here Sept. 24. Columbus plays in Minnesota on Sept. 18; Wild goes there Sept. 21. Chicago comes here Sept. 20; Wild goes there Sept. 25. I hear the Wild plays a preseason game in Philadelphia I believe Sept. 29, but we’ll see that schedule when it’s finalized soon.

– Regular-season single-game tickets go on sale Sept. 12. Preseason tickets go on sale Aug. 22. 
DAY     DATE    OPPONENT        TIME (CT)
OCTOBER – REGULAR SEASON
Sat.    3       @ Columbus      6:00 p.m.
TUE.    6       ANAHEIM 8:00 P.M.
Thu.    8       @ Los Angeles   9:30 p.m.
Sat.    10      @ San Jose      9:30 p.m.
Wed.    14      @ Anaheim       9:00 p.m.
Fri.    16      @ Edmonton      8:00 p.m.
Sat.    17      @ Vancouver     9:00 p.m.
WED.    21      COLORADO        7:00 P.M.
Fri.    23      @ St. Louis     7:00 p.m.
SAT.    24      CAROLINA        7:00 P.M.
Mon.    26      @ Chicago        7:30 p.m.
WED.    28      NASHVILLE       7:00 P.M.
FRI.    30      N.Y. RANGERS    7:00 P.M.
Sat.    31      @ Pittsburgh     6:30 p.m.
       
NOVEMBER
THU.    5       VANCOUVER       7:00 P.M.
SAT.    7       DALLAS  7:00 P.M.
Tue.    10      @ Toronto       6:00 p.m.
Thu.    12      @ Tampa Bay     6:30 p.m.
Fri.    13      @ Washington    6:00 p.m.
Sun.    15      @ Carolina      12:30 p.m.
WED.    18      PHOENIX 7:00 P.M.
FRI.    20      N.Y. ISLANDERS  7:00 P.M.
WED.    25      BOSTON  7:00 P.M.
FRI.    27      COLORADO        1:00 P.M.
Sat.    28      @ Colorado       8:00 p.m.
 
DECEMBER
WED.    2       NASHVILLE       7:00 P.M.
FRI.    4       ANAHEIM 7:00 P.M.
Sat.    5       @ Nashville     7:00 p.m.
Mon.    7       @ Phoenix        8:00 p.m.
Wed.    9       @ Colorado      8:00 p.m.
Fri.    11      @ Calgary       8:00 p.m.
Sat.    12      @ Vancouver     9:00 p.m.
TUE.    15      COLUMBUS        7:00 P.M.
Thu.    17      @ Montreal      6:00 p.m.
Sat.    19      @ Ottawa        6:00 p.m.
MON.    21      COLORADO        7:00 P.M.
WED.    23      EDMONTON        6:00 P.M.
SAT.    26      ST. LOUIS       7:00 P.M.
Mon.    28      @ Los Angeles   9:30 p.m.
Tue.    29      @ Anaheim       9:00 p.m.
THUR.   31      LOS ANGELES      7:00 P.M.
 
JANUARY
SAT.    2       NEW JERSEY      7:00 P.M.
Tue.    5       @ Chicago       7:30 p.m.
WED.    6       CALGARY 7:00 p.m.
SAT.    9       CHICAGO 7:00 p.m.
MON.    11      PITTSBURGH      7:00 p.m.
WED.    13      VANCOUVER       6:00 p.m.
Thu.    14      @ St. Louis     7:00 p.m.
Sat.    16      @ Phoenix        7:00 p.m.
Mon.    18      @ Dallas         7:00 p.m.
THU.    21      DETROIT 7:00 P.M.
SAT.    23      COLUMBUS        8:00 P.M.
WED.    27      DETROIT 7:00 P.M.
Thu.    28      @ Colorado      8:00 p.m.
Sat.    30      @ San Jose      9:30 p.m.
 
FEBRUARY
Tue.    2       @ Dallas         7:30 p.m.
THU.    4       EDMONTON        7:00 P.M.
SAT.    6       PHILADELPHIA    7:00 P.M.
WED.    10      PHOENIX 7:00 P.M.
FRI.    12      ATLANTA  7:00 P.M.
SUN.    14      VANCOUVER       2:00 P.M.
Feb. 15-28              Olympic Break
 
MARCH
Wed.    3       @ Calgary       9:00 p.m.
Fri.    5       @ Edmonton      8:00 p.m.
SUN.    7       CALGARY 2:00 P.M.
TUE.    9       FLORIDA 7:00 P.M.
Thu.     11      @ Detroit       6:30 p.m.
Fri.    12      @ Buffalo       6:30 p.m.
SUN.    14      ST. LOUIS       5:00 P.M.
TUE.    16      EDMONTON        7:00 P.M.
Thu.    18      @ Nashville     7:00 p.m.
Fri.    19      @ Columbus      6:00 p.m.
SUN.    21      CALGARY 2:00 P.M.
TUE.    23      SAN JOSE        7:00 P.M.
Thu.    25      @ Philadelphia  6:00 p.m.
Fri.    26      @ Detroit       6:30 p.m.
MON.    29      LOS ANGELES      8:00 P.M.
WED.    31      CHICAGO  7:00 P.M.
       
APRIL
FRI.    2       SAN JOSE        7:00 P.M.
Sun.    4       @ Vancouver     9:00 p.m.
Mon.    5       @ Edmonton      8:30 p.m.
Thu.    8       @ Calgary       8:30 p.m.
SAT.    10      DALLAS  7:00 P.M.
 
 
CAPS INDICATE HOME GAME
DATES AND TIMES SUBJECT TO CHANGE

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.

Veilleux signs with Tampa Bay; practice update

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

Left wing Stephane Veilleux’s career in Minnesota has come to an end. The tennis officienado will get to play plenty of it after signing a one-year, $750,000 contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning as a free agent this afternoon.
Veilleux will be reunited with former linemate Wes Walz, an assistant coach with the Lightning.
The 2001 third-round pick by the Wild scored 43 goals and 90 points in 361 games (fifth all-time) over six seasons in Minnesota.

UPDATE FROM TUESDAY’S DEVELOPMENT CAMP PRACTICE FROM STAR TRIB SPORTS INTERN NATE TAYLOR:

As I stood outside the Minnesota Wild locker room waiting for the players to come off the ice in the first day of the Wild development camp, everyone was wondering where Petr Kalus was. The 22-year-old did not practice during the first day of the Wild’s development camp.

So as every player stepped into the locker room, everyone was waiting to see if Kalus would appear. The short answer was no. But 10 minutes later, I found Kalus in the deep corner of the locker room in street clothes, almost as if he didn’t want to be seen.

Kalus talked to me for a little bit and said he didn’t practice today because he was sick. Still, you could tell he is eager to get back on the ice for the Wild. He said he expects to be participating Tuesday or Wednesday.

I also talked to Tyler Cuma and Nick Leddy about their first experiences back on the ice. For Cuma, he is coming off surgery and says his left knee is finally starting to feel good. Leddy is back on the Xcel Energy Center ice for the first time since his Eden Prairie team won the state title.

Overall the mood was good for the first day of camp. Players seemed to be happy back on the ice and the pace of the practice was not too rough, but at least guys like Cuma and Leddy are playing hockey again. There will be more detail in my Wild Notebook in Tuesday’s Star Tribune.

Also coming out today, it appears fans are happy with the Wild, at least as it relates to their home arena. In a recent survey by ESPN The Magazine, the Wild gives fans the “Best Stadium Experience” in the NHL. According to the magazine, the Xcel Energy Center is the Ultimate Crib in the Ultimate Standings 2009 list. The Wild ranks second overall for Stadium Experience in the field of all 122 major league sports franchises among NHL, NFL, NBA and MLB.

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.

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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.