Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday Fillers

  • Today is MLB non-waiver trade deadline day. The deadline hits at 3pm Twin Cities time, and my story today recaps who's gone and who's available. Be sure to check my Examiner page for updates should the Twins make a move. A better option may be to follow me on Twitter, as I will likely post there more frequently.
  • I guess the Mets decided to listen to me and get rid of Tony Bernazard. However, in true Mets' dysfunction, the firing was announced via press conference, and GM Omar Minaya ended up sparring with the Mets' New York Daily News beat writer, Adam Rubin. Minaya accused Rubin of angling for a personnel job with the Mets, and Minaya ended up apologizing for the act. Minaya could have just squashed this thing via press conference, firing Bernazard for his poor record of player development, and it would have been over and done with.
  • In Gopher puck news this week, Roman Augustoviz points out that three who have committed to the Gophers are on the under-18 select team which is competing in a tournament in Slovakia. The players, D Ben Marshall (Mahtomedhi HS), F Nick Bjugstad (Blaine HS), and F Christian Isakson (St. Thomas Academy), will take the ice in mid-August in an 8-team international tournament which will get the future Gophers some international exposure to further their development.
  • More from Roman......Minnetonka HS defenseman Nick Holl has committed to play hockey for the Gophers. When Holl joins the program is yet to be determined, but the 6-2, 170 lb. defenseman will be a senior at Tonka this fall. He chipped-in 6-7-13 in 28 games last season as a junior and is described as a smooth-skating defensive defenseman. Colorado College, Denver, Wisconsin, and some Ivy League schools also recruited him. Here is my favorite passage in the article, "The Omaha Lancers of the USHL want Holl to play for them before and after the high school season, (Tonka Coach Brian) Urick said, but he resisted the temptations to skip his senior year at Tonka. 'He wanted to play with his buddies,' Urick said."
  • As a reminder, check my WCHA Examiner page for prospect profiles this summer. I am doing two profiles a week for the time being, and am aiming for one from each of the 10 teams. I currently have 6 down and 4 to go! Starting the first week of September, we'll do two team previews each week leading into the season launch in early October. It's hard to believe WCHA action is only two months away!
  • The implication of incoming freshman Trevor Mbakwe in an assault case is certainly not good news for the Gopher basketball program. Mbakwe is one of Tubby Smith's gems in what should be a fine recruiting class for this season. Although, as the Strib's Myron Medcalf states via Twitter, Mbakwe is innocent until proven guilty, the last thing the U needs is more off-the-field/court troubles. Stay tuned to this one.
  • Kurt Rambis is apparently the favorite in the Timberwolves' coaching search. The Lakers' assistant has had interviews with David Kahn, and Jerry Zgoda mentions any hang-ups are over money and length of contract. I cannot get excited over Rambis, but he'd be better than Mark Jackson.
  • In the same post above, the Wolves open the season October 28 in New Jersey. Hopefully, they'll have a coach by then. Also, an interesting note is that an estimated 20 fewer games will be televised this season, meaning 55 or so will be on TV. Many of the 20 are expected to be home games in an effort to get fans to buy tickets. Ask the Chicago Blackhawks how keeping home games off TV helped their ticket base.
  • To Vikings' fans (and perhaps my only purple-related post ever): Sorry about Brett Favre.
  • To Kenechi Udeze who retired after his battle with leukemia, all the best beyond football.
  • The story of why I am a New York Islanders' fan is long and rather boring, so I won't subject readers to the sordid tale. Over the past year, I have followed the team largely through the Islanders Point Blank website. The team recruited longtime Isles' PR VP Chris Botta to provide daily and independent coverage of the team, and Botta poured his heart and soul into the job. He was no hack for the team, and criticized many from owner Charles Wang to head coach Scott Gordon. The news that PB has lost its "team-sponsored" tag and may soon shut down is definitely not good. In a crowded media market, the Islanders are often crowded out. Despite fine coverage from Greg Logan of Newsday, the Islanders now have one less quality voice telling their story.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Timberwolves Continue to Make Moves, Near Coaching Decision

The Minnesota Timberwolves made a trade on Monday, acquiring PG Chucky Atkins and SG Damien Wilkins from the Oklahoma City Thunder for newly-acquired C Etan Thomas. The deal was made largely because of Atkins's contract. Although the veteran is slated to make $3.48M this season, only $760k is guaranteed, meaning the Wolves could save cap money by simply buying Atkins out or could move him in a future trade.

My thought is that the Wolves will likely buy Atkins out and cut Wilkins loose. This trade was made for cap purposes only and Thomas was a surplus piece. Basketball operations head David Kahn continues to make moves this summer which put the Wolves in a much better salary cap position than they were one year ago. The upcoming season will be painful, but with a solid young core of Ricky Rubio, Jonny Flynn, Al Jefferson, and Kevin Love, the Wolves are in a position to be players in a rich 2010 free agent class.

Coaching Search Continues: Kahn is reportedly conducting more interviews with potential head coaches. Reports surfaced that the finalists are NBA TV analyst Mark Jackson and Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis. Houston assistant Elston Turner is also reportedly in the mix.

Sid Does it Again: Sid Hartman had a column over the weekend in the Star Tribune stating that one of his sources, an "NBA insider," judged first rounder Ricky Rubio as 'overhyped." The insider is Bill Duffy who was part of the Gopher basketball program in the 1970's and is now a successful NBA agent who apparently had the ear of former basketball operations chief and head coach Kevin McHale. Of course, if you continue reading in the fifth paragraph, you'll note that Duffy represents Brandon Jennings, who was picked by Milwaukee #10 overall in the same draft, and does not represent Rubio. Duffy mentioned in the article that the Wolves jumped too fast at Rubio at #5 when just about every ranking service had the Spanish point guard going in the top five. If he's a savvy NBA insider, than I strongly question his judgment. Duffy did offer a clarification in Tuesday's Star Tribune, backing away at the comments somewhat.

Of course Duffy will say in print that his player is better because he doesn't want to say anything negative about his client. However, the senior columnist does his readers a dis-service by passing this judgment of a savvy NBA follower as objective analysis when the evaluator has a dog in the hunt.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday Fillers

  • Former University of North Dakota defenseman, and Edina native, Joe Finley is in trouble with the law. Finley and UND junior forward Matt Frattin got liquored-up and started throwing stuff on the street. Items including a lawn mower, kitchen table, among others, caused traffic disruptions in the area. They were both arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. Finley has signed with the Washington Capitals and Frattin was suspended for the first two games of the season. Stay classy, guys!
  • MSU-Mankato extended coach Troy Jutting's contract for four more years. Jutting is 142-162-44 in 9 years behind the Mavericks' bench. Good move for 'Kato.
  • Colorado College lost a top recruit when defenseman John Moore decided to sign with Columbus and play junior hockey. Moore was picked by the Blue Jackets with the 21st pick of the first round in the 2009 NHL Draft. The move is unfortunate, as the Tigers have lost a lot of talent from last year's squad which finished third in the WCHA. Also, electing to develop in the OHL as opposed to the WCHA is not a good decision in my opinion.
  • Entirely not Twins or Minnesota sports-related, but this article is bizarre. Here's another account. I'm actually surprised he didn't offer to beat up their dads as well. If either of these incidents is true, the Mets should consider firing the guy. Of course, for a person whose title is "Vice President of Player Development," the teams' minor league records should be the main cause for his dismissal. For a franchise as dysfunctional as the Mets, this is par for the course. Recent examples: having Willie Randolph fly with the team from New York to Los Angeles only to fire him in the middle of the night after a win; removing Dwight Gooden's autograph from a Citi Field restaurant wall - only to reverse course after public outcry; having almost no memorabilia from the team's past; ludicrious contracts - $150M payroll in 2009, and look at Castillo, Beltran, Delgado, and Sheffield's deals). The Mets certainly aren't dysfunctional, are they?
  • A reminder: Take a look at my Twins and WCHA sites on I write about the Twins pretty much Monday-Friday during the season. On the WCHA front, I am in the process of profiling top NHL prospects this summer, but occasionally write about breaking news as well.
  • If you choose to follow me on Twitter or Facebook, please do so as well. I update these tools whenever I write, so that's another way to follow along as well.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Rubio Reportedly Wants Out of Spanish Contract

Reports surfaced on Wednesday that Timberwolves #1 draft pick Ricky Rubio wants out of his contract with Spanish professional team DKV Joventut Badalona, regardless of whether or not he signs with the Wolves.

Jerry Zgoda reports that basketball operations chief David Kahn is currently meeting with Rubio representatives in Spain looking to negotiate the buyout amount downward. According to NBA rules, the Timberwolves' organization can only contribute a maximum of $500,000 toward any professional league buyout clause, and Rubio's buyout is estimated at around $6M US. Kahn apparently has a list of local corporations who are prepared to sign Rubio to immediate endorsement deals amounting to around $4M, which Rubio could then contribute directly to his Joventut buyout.

Much is still left to be settled, but it apparently will come to a close within the next few days. Spanish teams Real Madrid and Barcelona (they play basketball, too?) are reportedly also interested in Rubio, and the flashy point guard could end up there instead of the Wolves.

This is clearly good news for Wolves fans. Rubio is apparently willing to listen to Kahn's offers and is open to coming to Minnesota for next season. Of course, as I have written before, having him develop in Europe for two seasons is fine as well because he then comes to the Wolves as a more polished 20 year-old player. However, this organization definitely needs a shot of energy, and Rubio would certainly provide the interest. In a basketball sense, the Wolves have room for him now, especially after the summertime trades of Randy Foye, Mike Miller, and Sebastian Telfair. The Jonny Flynn situation would still need to be addressed, but that would be tomorrow's problem.

Still, the Timberwolves are in good shape either way if Rubio signs with another European team or if he develops on the job in the NBA with Minnesota.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wolves Make Another Major Trade

The Minnesota Timberwolves made some more room in their crowded backcourt on Monday by trading point man Sebastian Telfair, along with forwards Mark Madsen and Craig Smith to the Los Angeles Clippers for shooting guard Quentin Richardson.

Richardson is a veteran of 9 NBA seasons out of DePaul, and has spent time with the Clippers, Phoenix Sunx, and New York Knicks. He has had an active summer, sent from the Knicks to Memphis for Darko Milicic, and later sent to the Clippers for Zach Randolph. Richardson's $9.352M contract expires after the 2009-10 season. Even with the trade of Smith and Madsen, the Wolves have well over $20M in expiring contracts after the upcoming season to use in a highly-anticipated 2010 free agent class.

Richardson gives the Wolves their only true shooting guard with experience on the roster, joining 2009 draftee Wayne Ellington. Richardson averaged 10.2 points per game for the Knicks last year in 72 games, and is a career 11.5-a-game scorer on 40% shooting. However, in the Jerry Zgoda article, notice that basketball ops head David Kahn states that Richardson's deal "less an acquisition at this point rather than an ability to create roster flexibility." This means that the Wolves aren't done yet.

Telfair will back-up Baron Davis in LA, and leaves the Wolves after two pretty solid seasons. He averaged 9.8 a game last year, averaging 28 minutes and 4.8 assists per game. Smith's time would have been curtailed behind Corey Brewer, Al Jefferson, and Kevin Love. He leaves the Wolves after three seasons. Madsen was one of the most popular Wolves due to his all-out hustle, but his minutes were already severely-limited. He averaged just 6.1 minutes in 19 games last season.

How this plays with the Ricky Rubio situation remains to be seen. Kahn is currently meeting with Rubio's representatives in Spain to try to get the buyout fee (expected to be $6.5M) reduced. However, Kahn said this deal is not necessarily a foreshadowing to another deal involving Rubio. However, this one clears the way for Rubio and Jonny Flynn to get just about all the minutes at the point this upcoming season, unless Kahn deals for someone else this summer.

The Wolves clearly are not done. In this deal, they have created more flexibility for the remainder of this summer and at the end of next season in the contract department. They still need to decide on a coach, and it should be an active final months of the summer of 2009.

Friday, July 17, 2009

R.I.P., Walter Cronkite

The longtime anchor of "The CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite" died Friday at 92.

I wanted to be a newscaster from the time I was six years old, and I remember Cronkite behind the desk. He had a great wrap-up phrase, "and that's the way it is.....Friday, July 17, 2009," which has been long-attempted to no avail by others. I wanted to do his job. However, I never made it.

Cronkite was a dynamo in his space coverage, broke the news to a shocked nation when President Kennedy was killed in Dallas in 1963, and was "The Most Trusted Man in America." No other newscaster has had a hold on his audience before or since.

Friday Fillers

  • This is good news! Grant Potulny will be a great assistant coach for the Gophers and I think he's a natural leader who will be an up-and-comer in the coaching ranks as he gains experience. Also, former U of M goaltender Justin Johnson will be the volunteer goalie coach. The Gophs never found anyone to replace Robb Stauber, who left at the beginning of last season. Johnson had been at St. Cloud for the past three seasons. Gopher fans won't forget the work Johnson did in an emergency starter role in the 2003 WCHA Final Five, when he led the Gophers to a tournament victory, and was in the nets for one of the regionals in route to a second-consecutive NCAA title.
  • Jacques Lemaire is back in the NHL as coach of the New Jersey Devils. He spent five years in Jersey during the 90's, leading them to the 1995 Stanley Cup championship. We walked away from the Wild after 9 seasons in April. GM Lou Lamoriello likes to recycle coaches, and Lemaire fits the bill. It will be interesting to see how his style fits guys like Zach Parise. Although Lemaire will take some heat for playing a defense-first style, the Brent Sutter-coached Devils ranked 15th in goals per game, despite 45 goals from Parise, 31 from Patrik Elias, and 29 from Jamie Langenbrunner.
  • The Wild's regular season schedule was released this week. The team opens with 9 of its first 15 games on the road, including games in Chicago and Pittsburgh. Marian Gaborik returns with the New York Rangers on October 30, while Lemaire comes in with the Devils on January 2.
  • The Chicago Blackhawks fired GM Dale Tallon this week and replaced him with Stan Bowman - Scotty's son. The team has had political issues for a while now, and Tallon was believed to have been forced out by president John McDonough, formerly of the Chicago Cubs. New Wild signee and former Blackhawk Martin Havlat gained some noteriety on this story this week via his Twitter account (thanks to Michael Russo of the Strib) and an article by's Darren Dreger, where Havlat sounds off on the firing. Keep an eye on this story.
  • More academic issues for the Gopher football team, as two expected contributors were booted from the team this week due to grades. Somewhere, Sid Hartman is stewing about kids "not getting any breaks at the U."
  • The Timberwolves' coaching search continues, and four names are mentioned in this ESPN piece: NBA assistants Terry Stotts (Dallas), Elston Turner (Houston), and Kurt Rambis (LA). NBA TV analyst Mark Jackson is also mentioned. Basketball chief David Kahn reportedly wants an up-and-coming coach, which will eliminate Stotts, since he has had head coaching stints in Milwaukee and Atlanta, and has a career record of 115-168. This piece has the Wolves talking to U. of Colorado coach (and former Denver Nuggets' coach) Jeff Bzdelik, but he doesn't fit the "up-and-comer" mold, although his fine college record has helped rehabilitate his NBA image. Sam Mitchell is apparently not a candidate. It seems hard to believe that Rambis would leave LA for the Wolves, since Phil Jackson's long-term status is not defined, and Rambis would seemingly get a good look to take over that team when the "Zen Master" departs to contemplate his own genius. I can't get excited about any of these choices.
  • The Wolves also met with Ricky Rubio's representatives this week and the issue is the buyout of Rubio's Spanish league contract, which sources stated was around $6.6M (the Wolves could only pay $500k per league rules). It would be nice to see Rubio in uniform next season, but, as I stated earlier, having him develop in Europe for two more seasons and join the Wolves as a 20-year-old would be fine as well.
  • Jacko fix of the week.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday Fillers

  • Sorry for the infrequency of posts this week. However, there's not much going on. The NBA and NHL drafts are over. NHL free agency opened last week and after an initial frenzy, it has quieted down considerably. The Wolves haven't signed anyone. I could add absolutely nothing on the Brett Favre situation. I write about the Twins for, so writing here on the same subject would be repetitive. So, we'll empty the notebook once a week for the time being until things start heating up in late August or early September. Unless, of course, something worthwhile happens during the week. Thanks for the patience.
  • Saku Koivu spurned the Wild on Wednesday and signed a one-year deal with the Ducks. The release from Anaheim does not provide financial terms, but Michael Russo of the Strib reports that it's a one-year, $3.25M deal. Also in the Russo piece, it is reported that Koivu's offer from the Wild was for either 2 years, $4M per or 3 years, $3M per. Simply put, he turned down more years and more money not to play for the Wild. Don't bag on Koivu, however. He simply wanted to play with his close friend, Teemu Selanne, in Anaheim. Selanne has already stated the upcoming season will be his final one in the NHL, and this would be Koivu's final chance to play with Selanne in the NHL. Plus, and perhaps the biggest reason why he took the Anaheim deal, Koivu wanted to let brother Mikko blaze his own trail in Minnesota outside of his shadow. Koivu is now the Wild's most recognizable player and is a likely captain next season. Saku did not want to step on Mikko's toes, despite the fact Mikko was totally behind his brother playing here. Read the end of Russo's entry for some quotes from Saku Koivu about his not signing with the Wild.
  • From a hockey standpoint, it puts the Wild in a tough spot if they do nothing else. Saku Koivu would have been a legitimate #2 center for this team. As Russo suggests, internal options are James Sheppard, Benoit Pouliot, or Eric Belanger. New coach Todd Richards suggested perhaps looking at Pierre-Marc Bouchard in the middle. Free agent options are listed here, but do you see any #2 centers on this list? I don't. The Wild has the money to spend, but they'll likely use it carefully.
  • Kurtis Foster and Stephane Vellieux also left the Wild this week, both signing with Tampa Bay. These losses shouldn't hurt the Wild too much this upcoming season. Vellieux was a checker, and the market is full of possible replacements, as it is sure to shift to a buyers' market soon. Foster is still recovering from the broken femur suffered in March 2008 and wasn't among the Wild's top-seven defensemen, especially after the signing of Shane Hnidy and Greg Zanon.
  • The Wild also hired Chris Pietrzak-Wegner as its new strength and conditioning coach. Full disclosure: he's my cousin. He's also an all-around good guy, and is respected everywhere he has been. At the professional level, he's been with the Milwaukee Admirals and Wilkes Barre-Scranton Pengiuns, and worked with Todd Richards in both places. He was the person most responsible for my fandom of the New York Islanders and of hard rock music - especially Dio.
  • As I mentioned previously, I now cover the WCHA for the Examiner in addition to my Twins coverage. All is quiet around the league right now, so my focus will be on developmental camps held by NHL teams and featuring WCHA players, but admittedly, I won't have much beyond that for the time being. In about six weeks, however, we'll start up the team-by-team previews. Management at the Examiner is skeptical about this site taking off, so please read often.
  • I'll continue to focus on Gopher Hockey on DP, so that will not change - unlike the Twins' Examiner bit.
  • Speaking of Gopher Hockey, Roman reports the Gophers will have co-captains for the first time since 2001-02, as Ryan Flynn and Tony Lucia were named captains for the 2009-10 season. Flynn's a natural leader who had an 'A' last season, and Lucia leads by example on the ice, so naming both seniors as captains for next season is a no-brainer.
  • Over in Minneapolis, the Wolves' summer league team is listed here. No news on the Ricky Rubio front yet, nor do the Wolves have a coach. Basketball boss David Kahn has said the Wolves will be a "late player" in the free agent signing period, which is not surprising. The Puppies have $20M coming off the books after this season and do not seem likely to add payroll to the roster. 2009-10 will be a tough year for the Wolves, either with or without Rubio. However, with $20M coming off, three first round picks in the 2010 draft, and some young talent, it's easier to see the clearing in the forest. It will take time, however.
  • Today's Michael Jackson installment is here, in an under-rated song you don't hear much anymore -- with a big assist from a couple of "Guitars for Hire."

Friday, July 3, 2009

Friday Morning Fillers

  • No news on the Saku Koivu front. According to this piece, the deal has moved from being a near-lock to a big maybe. With the top free agents landing so quickly (Marian Hossa, Martin Havlat, the Sedins, etc.), Koivu's not a very sought-after free agent, as many teams are searching for a #2 centerman. It appears Anaheim is in the mix along with New Jersey. The Wild need a guy like Koivu, but should not overpay for a 34-year-old. The market is expected to be a buyers' fair soon enough, and the team can continue its shopping later.
  • The Florida Panthers signed former Gopher Jordan Leopold to a one-year deal. His rights were acquired by Florida in last week's Jay Bouwmeester trade. Leo's my favorite all-time Gopher and there was some talk about the Wild being interested in the six-year NHLer. This article suggests Leopold turned down longer-term deals and some worth more money to take a one-year deal in FLA. He'll be re-united with former Gopher teammate Keith Ballard in South Florida. Injuries have hurt his NHL career, but he's an experienced and smooth defenseman who would have seemingly thrived in Todd Richards' up-tempo system. It isn't known if the Wild were interested, but it's difficult to believe he wouldn't have signed here if they had been.
  • The Ricky Rubio saga continues. I've had some time to think more about the draft, and I still think David Kahn made the right move in picking Rubio and Jonny Flynn. First of all, Rubio's NBA rights remain with Minnesota forever. His path to the NBA goes through the T-Wolves. If he wants to play in the NBA, it has to be for the Wolves or for a team to whom the Wolves trade him. This means Rubio needs to speak with the Timberwolves if he has any desire to play in the NBA. Secondly, he is 18-years-old. He still needs time to develop. If he plays one or two years overseas to develop, that's fine. He'll come over as a 20-year-old more polished than he is today. Third, and most importantly, having Flynn in the mix is great. It gives the team a point guard option for next season no matter what. If Rubio signs, then you have trade options with Flynn, or vice versa. As "worst" case, you keep both. Not a bad plan. This story is going to drag out all summer, so don't lose patience.
  • Meanwhile in Timberwolves land, no coach has been hired as of yet.
  • The Gopher hockey team officially released its 2009-10 schedule. No more speculation from Roman on this site.
  • The US and Canada released its 2010 Olympic Team training rosters. The US is laden with Minnesotans and those with Minnesota or WCHA ties (16 of 34 players by my count), while Canada has only a few with WCHA (Heatley and Toews) and Minnesota (Burns, Crosby - played 8th grade at Shattuck-St. Mary's) ties. I'll have an Examiner post on this probably Monday morning, so stay tuned.
  • Also, continue to check out my Examiner home pages for the Twins and the WCHA. I added the WCHA this week and am still building traffic. It'll be quiet there for a few months (1-3 posts a week), but we'll get it all cranked-up in September for this underserved market.
  • Today's Jacko fix.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

NHL FA Opens / Gaborik Departs / Wild Add Zanon, Havlat

The beginning of the NHL's free agency season was eventful, and the Minnesota Wild took major steps toward getting better. And, they're not done yet.

The day started quickly with the Sedin Twins opting to stay in Vancouver (5 years, $30.5M each). It also became clear that the Wild was out of the mix for Marian Gaborik, who opted for a 5 year, $37.5M deal with the NY Rangers. The deal ended Gaborik's run with the Wild. The team's first-ever draftee leaves as the leader in every offensive category, but his injury-filled past also remains fresh in fans' - and management's - collective mind.

Other prominent free agents landed throughout the day, including Mike Cammalleri to Montreal, Mike Komisarek to Toronto, Marian Hossa with a huge deal in Chicago (12 years), Nikolai Khabibulin to Edmonton, among others. The Wild were quiet initially, but waited to make their move.

The first move was to sign free agent defenseman Greg Zanon of Nashville (3 years, $5.8M). The 29-year-old rearguard played in all 82 games with the Predators last season, racked up 11 points, and was +8. He has played three full seasons in the NHL - all with Nashville - and is a defensive specialist. Zanon was trained at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, and also played in the AHL for new coach Todd Richards in Milwaukee. The familiarity of Richards and GM Chuck Fletcher (a former Milwaukee GM and Nashville assistant GM) played a large part in this signing. Zanon provides stability defensively and frees up guys like Brent Burns to challenge from the blue line.

The big move, however, was the signing of Chicago forward Martin Havlat to a 6-year, $30M contract late Wednesday evening, a record contract for the team. Havlat was deemed expendable after the Hawks signed Hossa earlier in the day. The 6-2, 217 lb. right winger notched 77 points (29 goals, 48 assists) in 81 games for the Blackhawks last season, and was an impressive +29. In the playoffs, Havlat chipped-in another 5 goals, 10 assists, and 15 points in 16 contests. The 28-year-old Havlat was the Ottawa Senators' first round pick (26th overall) in 1999, and just completed his 8th NHL season. In 470 NHL contests, Havlat has 169 career goals, 227 assists, and 396 points, and is a collective +87.

Havlat is the dynamic scorer the Wild coveted and his fast-skating style fits along with Richards' up-tempo system. The knock on Havlat over the years is his health. Before his healthy 2008-09 campaign, he played only 109 of a possible 246 regular season games due to injuries, but the Wild is banking on his being healthy.

In the linked piece above from Michael Russo, it appears the Wild is not done. The team is apparently still in negotiations with Montreal captain Saku Koivu. His brother, Mikko, is a Wild stalwart, and adding the veteran center is exactly what the Wild needs. The team also is apparently in negotiations with Pittsburgh forward Ruslan Fedotenko. It also need to add a defenseman, and the names of Francois Beauchamin, Rob Scuderi, and Jordan Leopold have been floated as possibilities. Even with the signings of Zanon and Havlat, the Wild still has plenty of money available in this marketplace.

Having Gaborik leave on the same day the Wild got better is bittersweet. When healthy, Gaborik is simply among the game's best talents. The knock on him is health, and those questions follow him to New York. He and his agent, Ron Salcer, turned down the Wild's offer of 10 years, $78.5M last season and he signed with the Rangers for half the time and half the money. I wonder if he'll regret that decision? Still, Wild fans must remember fondly the numbers Gaborik put up here and wonder why the team never provided him with the top line center he so needed.

The team is not done, but the Wild took steps toward getting much better on Wednesday. They needed to, as divisional rivals Calgary (signed Jay Bouwmeester long-term and will pay him and four others - Dion Phaneuf, Jarome Iginla, and Olli Jokinen a combined $34.6M next season - thanks to Islanders Point Blank's Chris Botta for that fact) and Edmonton (signed Khabibulin) improved. Thursday could be another productive day, so stay tuned for updates.

Jacko Fix: Today's Michael Jackson selection, for your listening and viewing pleasure.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Wild Draft Review / Six Gophers Drafted

First off, it's nice to see Glen Sonmor in the picture above, on the right, along with Wild Assistant GM Tom Thompson and first round draft pick Nick Leddy. Sonmor scouts for the Wild and also serves as a Gopher hockey broadcaster. One only hopes Glen will be giggling amply upon watching Leddy at the U this fall!

All in all, Minnesota made eight selections at the NHL Draft. The team held the 12th overall pick on Thursday night, but traded it to the New York Islanders for the Isles' first (#16), third (#77), and seventh (#182) round picks. The Wild took the highly-regarded Leddy with the 16th pick. The Eden Prairie defenseman was Minnesota's Mr. Hockey for the 2008-09 season and will be attending the University of Minnesota next fall.

The pick was certainly not a hometown discount. The Wild clearly coveted the puck-rushing defenseman, passing up on the more publicized Jordan Schroeder. The U of M forward was available at #12 and #16, but the Wild elected to used the pick on Leddy. Schroeder ended up going to Vancouver at #22.

Leddy provides the Wild with what it needs: a puck moving defenseman. The team will also need to be patient with him, as young defensemen rarely jump from the high school ranks to the NHL, and it seems unlikely they'll sign him out of the draft and instead allow him to develop at the U for at least one season.

On the second day, the Wild selected goaltender Matt Hackett in the third round. Hackett was the highest-ranked goaltender in the draft and fills a long-term goaltending organizational need. The team is expected to trade backup Josh Harding soon, and the two goalies in Houston are in the final years of their contracts.

Two forwards were taken in the fourth round: Canadian left winger Kristopher Foucault and Shattuck-St. Mary's Alexander Fallstrom. The Wild went for a goalie again in the sixth round with Red Deer goaltender Darcy Kuemper. They also added Finnish winger Jere Sallinen in the sixth. In the seventh round, Shattuck-St. Mary's - and Gopher recruit - Erik Haula was selected with the first pick of the round, followed by Texan Anthony Hamburg as the team's final pick. Hamburg is a product of the Dallas Stars youth hockey program.

The Wild clearly drafted for the future this year, as it is unlikely none of the players selected with have an impact this year. Still, new GM Chuck Fletcher's aim was to stockpile picks and try to re-stock the team's minor league system.

My new Examiner piece has a recap of the WCHA draftees. As mentioned previously, I am now covering the league for the Examiner, so please check out that home page throughout the season. The Gophers had six players selected: Leddy (first round to Minnesota), Schroeder (first round to Vancouver), Zach Budish (second round to Vancouver), Josh Birkholz (third round to Florida), Seth Helgeson (fourth round to New Jersey), and Haula (seventh round to Minnesota). Coach Don Lucia has yet another strong recruiting class for 2009-10.

NHL free agency opens up at 11am CDT Wednesday. We'll have a recap Thursday. The Wild are rumored to be in the hunt for Montreal's Saku Koivu, and are mentioned as potential trade partners for Ottawa center Dany Heatley - he vetoed a trade to Edmonton already. The trade winds already started blowing Tuesday with Scott Gomez going to Montreal and Christopher Higgins going to the New York Rangers. Stay tuned, as the Wild have a lot of cap money and need to make a splash in the market. Also, for those hoping for a Marian Gaborik return, don't hold your breath......