Tyler Cuma


Wild prospect scrimmage starting; Burns coaching one of the teams

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

Live from the X, where a number of diehards have made the long trek out to St. Paul.

Prospects are warming up currently, and I hear a surprise is about to happen.

Brent Burns, dressed in Don Cherry garb, plans to coach one of the teams. Nice honeymoon!

Cal Clutterbuck’s coaching the other team. He’s dressed as Cal Clutterbuck.

This thing needs to start. Wild personality Kevin Falness’ Jumbotron features are driving me loco. And you know he rather be golfing.

Chris Snow just called Burns and said “where are you?” He goes, “In the room. Waiting for the scrimmage.”

Snow goes, “It started!!!”

Clutterbuck just ran to the ice. He only missed 10 minutes.

No score still. Darcy Kuemper, on the white team, just absolutely stoned Tyler Cuma from point blank.

Morten Madsen just gave the white team a 1-0 lead with a short side shot past Matt Hackett.

Green tied it. Harri Ilvonen or Kris Foucault got it.

Burns, while literally reading a magazine, didn’t realize there were too many men. Anthony Hamburg scored on a penalty shot. White leads 2-1.

3-1 white. Alex Fallstrom on a breakaway. 4-1 white. Erik Haula on a breakaway.

Burns pulled Hackett for an extra attacker. I don’t think he knows there’s a whole other half.

1,650 people here.

SECOND HALF

5-1 white. Madsen again. Burns’ is getting heckled by the fans. Clutterbuck’s just laughing from the other bench.

5-2. One shift after he and Petr Kalus got into a nasty wrestling match, Gillies scores from way out.

6-2…Hamburg again — the 17-year-old taken in the seventh round.

6-3…Gillies, making his brother Burnzie proud, just scored a beauty breakaway. As Mike Greenlay said, “Gillies schooling the youngsters.” Gillies is 20.

7-3…Carson McMillan from way out.

Burns pulling Hackett down 7-3.

Fridley’s Jarom Palmer just made it 7-4.

Clutterbuck talking smack to Burnzie. Game over. 7-4 White.

Good day.

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

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

UPDATED FROM 11,323 FEET

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

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

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

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

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

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

I might as well continue with this blog, eh?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wild 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.

Thursday morning scuttlebutt; Kessel, Harding chatter

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

I was once told never make promises because you can only disappoint, so sorry. I fibbed.

Didn’t mean to though, but here’s your morning excuse. The wireless in the hotel is lousy. This hotel is packed with so much media and nine team’s worth of personnel, I just think the network is jammed with laptops. So yesterday, and again this morning, getting into web sites feels like the ancient days of dial up.

So last night when I tried to blog, the admin to the blog just stood there trying, trying and trying to open, just laughing at me as I pounded the desk. I finally needed to go meet folks and never got a chance to blog. This should make Friday morning’s chat next to impossible, but I’ll figure it out.

Anyways, here’s the main story from today on the three Minnesotans that can go in the first round. As the story states, the Wild likes all three players, but there is a chance it takes none of them if the players aren’t next up on its list when it picks. I’ll write more about these kids and other potential Wild targets in tomorrow’s paper, or if space restrains that, tonight’s blog.

And here’s the notebook on a bit of a trade update and the fact that Boston is at least fielding offers for Phil Kessel, the former Gophers forward and last year’s 36-goal scorer at 21 years of age. 

The deal here is Kessel’s restricted, wants between $4.5 million and $5 million and the Bruins are already at $50 million next year with other things to get done. They’re at around $35 million for the following year with several other players to re-sign or sign, and if you look at the fact Marc Savard’s entering the last year of his contract and next summer they’ll probably have to extend Zdeno Chara, Kessel could be a cap casualty.

Now, they are still trying to sign Kessel, but if they do, they’d likely have to move some other players to squeeze him in. So this is very much up in the air. So I’m told by numerous league sources that GM Peter Chiarelli is at least fielding offers from teams and is considering moving Kessel by the Draft or this summer. I saw Kessel’s agent, Wade Arnott (Jason’s brother), about 32 times yesterday, so he’s roaming around and is expected to continue talking with Chiarelli.

But Kessel is four years from unrestricted free agency and again is entering that lofty second contract status, so I can’t imagine Arnott’s going to just do Boston a solid. So, there’s a very real chance he’s dealt, and if so, the Wild has at least shown vast interest, I’m told.

Because Kessel would be traded simply because Boston can’t afford him, the Bruins conversely would not want much money back in a trade. So picks and quality young players is what they’re looking for, so I’m told it would cost Minnesota the 12th pick and at least a top, top young kid. For the Wild, that’d mean Tyler Cuma or James Sheppard, but that does not mean Boston’s necessarily interested and even if the B’s are, it’s unknown what they’re being offered from other teams.

So this gets back to what I’ve been writing for the last couple weeks, and months for that matter – Chuck Fletcher doesn’t have a lot of tradeable assets because of the way things were done here in the past. I cannot make any clearer how much the Wild lacks assets compared to so many other teams in the NHL. I don’t want to keep pounding on the old regime here, but it really is unforgiveable how it didn’t value draft picks and how it just let free agent after free agent walk for squat.

OK, I promise not to mention it again (today at least).

For instance, it certainly appears as if the Wild is about to lose Marian Gaborik for nothing. I ran into a million NHL types yesterday who asked me about Gaborik, and each one said the same thing — losing an asset like that for nothing back is the type of thing that takes years to recover from. And now that the Vancouver Province reported he’s bought a house there — something I still have been unable to confirm, by the way, but the Province stands by the story and its sources — it probably makes trading Gaborik’s rights to anybody next to impossible.

Whether that story is true or not, what team’s going to give up even a skate sharpener for Gaborik’s rights when it’s been reported that it’s a foregone conclusion he signs in Vancouver?

Also, remember, the Wild might be into Kessel now, but if Chiarelli’s waiting until Friday, who knows what Fletcher dips his toes into by then? And right now Fletcher’s in on a lot of different things, from Heatley to countless other things (lots of rumors, but I only report what I know from sources, not what’s just floating around) to talking with Toronto, Edmonton, Colorado, Detroit, St. Louis and Philly about Josh Harding.

(I was told last night that the Blues are very interested in Harding, and few teams are as overstuffed with young assets as the Blues). So it’ll be interesting to see if Fletcher gets something substantial done with so few tradeable pieces to dangle.

I have an interesting story in tomorrow’s paper — again, unless there’s hard news today — about Fletcher giving colorful behind the scenes anecdotes of the orchestration of previous trades he’s taken part in.

Anyways, Internet permitting, I’ll be back this afternoon with more stuff. I really want to attend the Team Canada presser and offer some Jacques Lemaire stuff later, but it’s a half-hour away and the prospects media luncheon is an hour later back here. So I don’t know how that’ll work out.

Heatley-Wild trade chatter; Coaching search continues with Laviolette sitdown

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

That Heatley part got your attention, eh? :)

First things first, but there’ll be a Game 7 for the right to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup on Friday in Detroit. Great game last night, and what an ending. Detroit’s net is empty for about 1:20, and Detroit wins three draws. Is there anybody in the league who protects the puck better than Pavel Datsyuk, by the way?

Apparently the Wings don’t care that the Wild’s currently conducting a coaching search. Otherwise, they would have gotten it done last night, right?

It appears all but certain that Chuck Fletcher at least wants to interview Wings assistant Paul MacLean, and maybe even Brad McCrimmon, so by the series continuing, it delays the interview(s) to this weekend at the earliest.

Fletcher attended last night’s game and is scheduled back in his St. Paul office today. In fact, he’s been hopping around the last couple days working on the coaching search. Peter Laviolette’s been MIA since originally being quoted in the Strib, so that often means you can bet your last dollar they’ve met within the last couple days.

And that is what I’ve been told by myriad sources. As I’ve written on here in the past, of all the former NHL coaches, Laviolette makes the most sense. Well respected, won a Cup, coaches a very aggressive system in which it’s all about attacking with the puck. 

One name I’ve heard in the last couple days is former Bruins coach Mike Sullivan, who’s been given permission by Lightning boss Brian Lawton to seek a head coaching job. Not sure completely if he’s talked to Fletcher, however, although he was on the original Fletcher “list.”

Technically, Sullivan’s still a Lightning assistant. He’s known as a details guy and was loved by John Tortorella when he coached there.

But from everything I hear, this is between Todd Richards, Peter Laviolette and eventually Paul MacLean. I don’t know exactly where Craig MacTavish sits right now.

As for Heatley, there seems to be a perception out there that if the Wild loses Marian Gaborik, it can just go out and acquire $7.5 million players.

It’s a lot more complex than that, especially since it’s unknown where the salary cap will dip to in the next two or three years and because the team spent $6 million a year on Niklas Backstrom. That $4.08 million salary cap hit for Pierre-Marc Bouchard the next four years tightens things up as well.

Yes, the Wild could take Heatley’s $7.5 million cap hit the next five years, but it would affect any flexibility or ability to plug other holes, like center and defenseman though the end of his contract. And remember, Mikko Koivu’s a UFA after two seasons and Brent Burns after three seasons. It’s imperative in today’s day and age to think that far ahead.

With that said, however, I am sure Chuck Fletcher will investigate what Ottawa GM Bryan Murray would want in a package if — and I repeat, if — he moves Heatley, who’s top-three in goals per game the last several years along with Kovalchuk and Ovechkin.

He’s a true superstar, and if you want to make a splash as a first-year GM, well, Heatley would be more like a tidal wave.  

And remember, Fletcher and Murray are very close. Fletcher was his assistant GM for seven of Fletcher’s nine years in Florida, and then Murray brought Fletcher to Anaheim after Rick Dudley was hired in Florida. (Incidentally, I hear Dudley will soon be leaving Chicago as assistant GM for another top job in the league).

I’ve talked to a number of people the last day on this Heatley situation, and it’s certainly not guaranteed that Murray’s just going to move Heatley because he is asking off the second team in his career (Atlanta being the first). Plus, Heatley’s got to approve any trade, so it’s not guaranteed he’d come to Minny even if Fletcher worked out a deal.

Also, it’s not guaranteed the Wild has the pieces to get Heatley. Murray would want a ton for Heatley, and lets be honest, the Wild’s not moving Koivu or Burns. So right there, that could take them out of it. Any deal would probably have to include Tyler Cuma and a first, plus a top position player.

Murray has long been interested in Kim Johnsson, but Johnsson’s in the last year of his deal at a $4.85 million cap hit, so that probably won’t work. Neither would goalie Josh Harding anymore either since Murray dealt Antoine Vermette to Columbus for Pascal Leclaire at the trade deadline.

Either way, you can bet Fletcher will make the call and see if he can dive into the trade talks. But again, this would be a complex deal because you have to find the right fits for a trade and then decide if it’s worth potentially creating other holes and/or putting yourself in a position where you can’t fill holes that are already there. 

As for Gaborik, I’m told Fletcher and agent Ron Salcer won’t talk again until after a coach is hired. Fletcher feels it important that Gaborik knows who’s coaching the team and what direction they’ll be going in. And regardless, Salcer’s currently vacationing with his family in Israel, so he won’t be back until later next week anyway. 

OK, that’s it from here. I’ll be on KFAN from 11-11:30 today.