Minnesota Wild Summer Round-Up: 2010 Entry Draft and Free Agency
If anyone were to speak to Chuck Fletcher last year, you probably would have thought this man was looking at an impossible task at rebuilding a franchise that was on the down turn.
The Wild couldn't keep quality players in their lineup with failed trade talks and did not attract outside players through free agency or trading.
All that has changed.
After speaking to Wild GM Chuck Fletcher on Thursday night after signing forward free agents Matt Cullen and Eric Nystrom, Fletcher seemed very confident in not only what he had accomplished, but he is very comfortable with the team he has helped to put together.
"We like our hockey team and we know we have a better hockey team tonight than we did this morning," said Fletcher after the free agent signings.
"If the season started tomorrow, I would be very comfortable with the group we have right now."
After conducting exit interviews with the team after last season, Fletcher concluded that the character in the room needed to change, and he wanted his team to have the identity of being hard working.
Matt Cullen is one of those hard working character players who won the Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006.
"We've been looking for a number two conterman for many seasons," Fletcher said.
"We've been looking to fill that hole since I've been here, in Matt Cullen not only do we get a number two centerman, we get a player with a strong work ethic, good skill level, and a lot of versatility."
It took all of three seconds according to Chuck after the clock struck 11 am to call Matt Cullen and offer him a contract with Minnesota.
Cullen personally felt honored that the Wild made him the teams' priority by calling him first.
"It means a lot that a team calls you first, and being able to Chuck and Todd [Richards] was really helpful," Cullen said.
Minnesota also inked Eric Nystrom the same night, and Fletcher complimented him on his work ethic, grit, and leadership.
"Our goal is to be an organization that is respected as a good place to play, a place where you can go and win games and a place that has an identity with respect to character and work ethic."
Matt Cullen also seemed excited as he described coming to the Wild as a team "on the rise."
As a kid growing up watching the North Stars, he has visions of playing for his own state and now that dream has come true.
Earlier this summer Minnesota acquired forward Brad Staubitz from San Jose in exchange for the teams fifth round pick (#129) in this past years Entry Draft and signed him a day later to a two-year deal.
"Brad is a tough, physical player that will provide grit and energy to our team," said Flecther.
Minnesota also lost forward Andrew Ebbett who signed with Phoenix.
One player they did not lose however was Guillaume Latendresse who signed a two year, $5 million deal.
Latendresse led the team in goals with 27 last season and set new career highs in just about every stat that is worth mentioning.
Minnesota also re-signed defensmen Matt Kassian and Nate Prosser.
As for the Draft, Minnesota went overseas with the ninth overall selection in the 2010 Entry Draft and selected C Mikael Granlund from SM-Liiga.
"Mikeal is a skilled center with elite hockey sense and competitivness," said Wild Assisstant General Manager Brent Flahr. "He has had a lot of success playing against men in the Finnish Elite League."
Granlund posted 40 points (13-27=40) in 43 games last season.
On day two of the draft, Minnesota selected five more players:Brett Bulmer (#39), Johan Larsson (#56), Jason Zucker (#59), Johan Gustafsson (#159), Dylen McKinlay (#189).
With four picks in the top 60, Wild fans should feel pretty comfortable that the Wild are gearing up for a deep playoff run in the near future.
Before the draft, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher mentioned that he wanted to add offensive depth to his talent pool, and he definitely succeeded.
The front office staff has also been getting a face lift, former Wild defenseman Brad Bombardir was name director of player development.
Penguins Assistant Coach Mike Yeo was named head coach of the Wild's minor league affiliate the Houston Aeros.
The pieces are coming together for the team of 18,000, and everyone should feel the excitment as Fletcher and his new regime will enter his second season having made many changes all of them positive.
Prospect camp for Minnesota starts in one week where 30 players are expected.
Normal training camp will not begin until September before the team heads to Finland to play two games in NHL's premiere week series.
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