A couple days ago I was leaving work when I got a tweet from fellow FRB writer Nate Wells- it was a bit of a chirp, but the gist was that Matt Read, the Senior Center from Bemidji State, signed with the Philadelphia Flyers. It was a bit disappointing, but nothing that would make me want to curl up in the fetal position and cry; Read was a higher profile NCAA free agent, and since this is the initial harvest season for NHL teams to bolster their organizational depth at roughly no personnel or asset cost, I was hoping The Wild would sign Read for that very reason (although I did spend a considerable amount of money and a few years at BSU in my formative years- we'll just disregard that though.)
Ultimately, because Read was going to be 25 as of September 15th, he was beyond the stage where he could be offered an entry-level contract meaning there was a possibility a bidding war could happen; teams upping the ante with seven figure money and one way deals. Paul Holmgren ended up winning his services, with a three year, 2.7 million dollar one way deal.
Minnesota, realistically, probably never stood a chance when it came to signing Matt Read.
So while Chuck Fletcher and Co. are still hot on the trail of a few players, who are currently engaged in the NCAA Regionals. While no names have been explicitly said, you can connect some dots: Justin Fontaine of Minnesota-Duluth and Cameron Schilling of Miami of Ohio participated in the Wild Prospect Camp last summer; and North Dakota Captain Chay Genoway is superbly talented, and likely will get an NHL contract. There could be more; who saw them signing Scott Campbell of UMass-Lowell to an ATO?
But the holy grail is Merrimack's Stephane Da Costa.
Da Costa is seen as a player who could be an impact guy at the NHL level; granted the caveat is that he'd likely need top-6 and power play minutes, but any time a team can add that sort of potential for financial cost, you do your damndest to do it. Last night on ESPN 1500 Mike Russo stated the Wild were "going really hard on Da Costa" and understandably so; in theory he'd be an immediate boost to a goal-starved team, if not an offensively-anemic pipeline. The problem to this is that there are roughly 19 or 20 other teams on Da Costa like hounds chasing a fox. If not more.
So I ask you this; what does Chuck Fletcher or Brent Flahr or whomever sell Stephane Costa on in attempting to persuade him to sign with the Minnesota Wild? The likelihood is that once Merrimack's NCAA run is finished, Da Costa and his "advisor(s)" will sit down and vet out the NHL offers. The money, the situation, the personnel, the coaches, the GM's, etc. Signing a professional contract shouldn't be done is hasty fashion, after all.
Which could mean trouble for our Minnesota Wild. This is a team that:
1. Inexplicably melted down from playoff contention, and now we're looking at a possible lottery pick.
2. A Head Coach that went from hot seat to creating some legitimacy to possibly back on the hot seat.
3. Three straight years of no playoffs, in a cut throat Division in the toughest conference in the league. Not exactly a legacy of winning either.
4. They have 20 players signed for next year, with just under seven million in cap space.
5. This is Minnesota. Not New York. Not Chicago. Not LA. Not Washington. Not Boston. MINNESOTA. Really gets you excited doesn't it?
That being said, there would definitely be a top-6 spot available and all the power play time Da Costa could handle almost from the get-go. What do you say to him? "Our Media is pretty soft on the players, and we got a nice arena full of fans who continue to pay and show up despite our current stretch of mediocrity"?
But at this point would you really be surprised if Da Costa signs elsewhere? Minnesota just doesn't have the selling points that really makes them a viable option for a player of Stephane Da Costa's caliber and potential.