Tommy Thompson


Flahr to be named assistant GM

Monday, July 27th, 2009

As originally anticipated here on the day Tom Lynn was dismissed June 15, Ottawa Senators Director of Hockey Operations Brent Flahr has been hired as Wild GM Chuck Fletcher’s new right-hand man.

An announcement to name Flahr assistant GM is expected as early as Tuesday.

Flahr, 35, and Fletcher have been friends since their days working with the Florida Panthers in the mid-90s. I know Flahr from covering Florida as well, and he’s a sharp, smart guy and familiar with Minnesota, too. In fact, I ran into him a few times when he was scouting Minnetonka’s Jake Gardiner a few years back, and the Anaheim Ducks — the team Flahr worked for at the time – did eventually draft the now-Wisconsin defenseman in the first round. 

Flahr, a former Princeton captain originally taken out of the ticket office in Florida, spent eight seasons with the Panthers, working at times as a scout, video coordinator and assistant to the GM. He spent four seasons as an amateur scout with the Anaheim Ducks, with which he worked with Fletcher, and the past two as director of hockey operations for the Ottawa Senators. 

Flahr will oversee the hockey operations department, as well as scout and assist Fletcher with contract negotiations. Tommy Thompson will remain in his role as assistant GM/Player Personnel (in charge of scouting).

The Wild has also made changes to its amateur and pro scouting departments, including not renewing the contracts of Director of Player Development Barry MacKenzie and pro scout Todd Woodcroft.

There will be other roles in hockey ops changing as well. 

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.

(more…)

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……

(more…)

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.

Chuck Fletcher on Brodziak trade, draft; Dan Fritsche gone?

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

Here is the Chuck Fletcher transcript, and I think I picked up on the end of Dan Fritsche’s Wild career. Right when they traded for Kyle Brodziak, I thought, “That makes Fritsche expendable.” I asked Fletcher if Fritsche will be qualified to retain his rights Monday, and you’ll see his answers below.

Talked to Todd Richards about Brodziak, too, for tomorrow’s paper. Remember, he coached him in Wilkes-Barre. You’ll see all that below and Tommy Thompson on the draft picks.

Chuck Fletcher

On Brodziak? Todd knows him better than I do. We shared a farm team with Edmonton in Wilkes-Barre three seasons ago and Kyle’s one of the leaders on the team and played really well for Todd and since then has had two successful seasons in the NHL. I got to know Kyle a little bit that season, and he’s a good fit for us. He’s a player who can slide up and down your roster. He’s a right-shot, he can take faceoffs, he’s well above average faceoff guy on the right side of the ice, he can also play wing, he can kill penalties, he shoots the puck well. So he brings a lot of versatility to the lineup and I think he’ll allow our coaching staff to give him different looks and move him around and bring some character and effort to the lineup every night.

Right-handed centers valuable? I think it’s very important, but he may be a right winger that takes faceoffs from the right side. That’ll be up to the coaches, but that element was very important. We were looking at other players here and they were left shots. I just felt the overall fit with Kyle was better for the lineup because of a) the familiarity of knowing him as a person and the fact he’s a right shot, the fact he’s second line, third line, fourth line, right wing, left wing, center. There’s a lot of things you can do with a Kyle Brodziak. There’s energy, there’s work ethic and there’s character.

Scoring ability? Clearly, I think he’s a better checker than an offensive player, but he’s a player that has scored goal in his career. He shoots the puck well and he’s a smart player and the way the game’s played now, you can’t just break your players up into offensive players and defensive players. You have to have every line who can contribute offensively and every line that can play away from the puck. The great thing about Kyle is he is versatile and if you put him out there will skilled players, he can shoot the puck when it gets on his stick, yet he is also very responsible.

In the works? Yes, going back almost a month.
Talked to him a lot last two days? No, a lot of things. Today the conversation shifted back to Kyle. We talked about it at different points in the draft.

(more…)

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:

(more…)