NHL Offseason: Minnesota Wild Notes
Well, let’s face it. It’s the offseason.
We’re on day 10 of Kovie Watch 2010, with no signs of anything happening anytime soon and free agency news has slowed to a trickle. So what’s a hockey fan to do?
Make news out of nothing? We’re not in that business here.
So, let’s just take a look at some of the goings on around the Minnesota Wild.
Modano Interested in the Wild?
Well, it’s amazing how much difference a few weeks makes.
First, the Dallas Stars decided that they don’t want to let Mike Modano “Brett Farve” them until the season starts. Then, the rampant speculation starts in Minnesota.
Let’s be honest with ourselves here. For whatever reason, Wild fans have some sort of sick obsession with Minnesota hockey players.
For whatever reason, anytime anyone with ties to Minnesota is available, fans start frothing at the mouth. When Modano became available, the sharks began circling.
Immediately, however, all of the speculation was squashed.
It wasn’t the right fit. The Wild were in the running for a No. 2 center and Modano, at this stage in his career, isn’t that.
But, what do you know? The Wild suddenly want some insurance in case James Sheppard doesn’t step up his game or in case Casey Wellman isn’t ready to play in the NHL.
But, is this the right way for the Wild to go?
If Modano is willing to take a lesser roll with the team, then yes it is.
Modano still has a little bit of tread left on the tires, but he isn’t a top-six forward at this stage in his career—at least, he wasn’t with the Stars.
What signing Modano would do is give the Wild some insurance up the middle.
So, say Matt Cullen doesn’t fit with G-Lat and Havlat. Or Sheppard doesn’t step up to the challenge of making the team. Or they feel that Wellman would be best served to be in the AHL. Well, then they’ve got Modano, who is one heck of a contingency plan.
As of right now, the Wild find themselves in an interesting situation in net.
They have about $3.5 million in cap space with Josh Harding left to sign in order to fill out their roster.
So, that means that they’ll likely have about $1 to $1.5 million left over once that happens.
So what does this mean? Are we done?
Like Russo, I tend to think not. I can’t imagine that the Wild wouldn’t be looking for another defenseman.
It sounds like Fletcher might be thinking the same thing, as there are rumblings that the Wild have had talks with Willie Mitchell.
The problem with that is that Mitchell will likely command more than the Wild have left, so someone will have to go.
Right now, the obvious candidate is James Sheppard, but there are others that wouldn’t surprise me, especially at forward.
The most likely forward other than Sheppard, however, is Antti Miettinen. Mittens has performed admirably on the team’s first line, but he just doesn’t seem to fit anywhere on the team. In each situation, there seems to be a player who could potentially do the job better than he.
Combine that with his size, or lack thereof, and you can see that he could very well be shopped around this season.
What Does Endras Signing Mean?
Well, in the short run, nothing.
Dennis Endras will go ply his trade overseas again and likely will then come to the team next season.
What the signing of Endras does do, however, is create competition among the Wild’s goaltenders.
Next season, it’s going to be Matthew Hackett and Anton Khudobin in Houston, with Darcy Keumper likely heading back to Red Deer.
The season after, however? The Wild are going to have a four-way battle to see who will be taking over in the back-up role for either Josh Harding or Niklas Backstrom.
Now, I say Harding or Backstrom, because I don’t know that Fletcher and Richards have ruled out the possibility of moving Nik if it comes to that.
Harding is younger and has shown some significant signs of improvement over the last couple seasons.
Backstrom, though he has gotten a bit of a bad rap for his performance last season, is still Backstrom. He’s nowhere near as bad as he looked at times last season and, in my opinion, is still a top-10 goalie in this league.
So, the signing of Endras is both a depth move as well as one to spark something in the goaltenders and make them work for their jobs—both of which are good things to be sure.
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