Anton Khudobin Is Shipping Up To Boston (or) The Wild Trade For A Penner


The Departed...Shipping up to Boston? This works on two levels!

The trade deadline has come and gone and there's only one minor trade which affects the Wild. Snuck between Los Angeles trading for Dustin Penner, Chuck Fletcher added a Penner of his own by trading Houston Aeros goalie Anton Khudobin for Jeff Penner and Mikko Lehtonen. On first glance, I like this trade for Minnesota. Despite the obvious joke of the Wild trading for a Penner, not the Penner (which pretty much sums up every Minnesota trade deadline), the team wasn't going to do much with their chemistry yet traded from a position of strength.

The most surprising thing was that someone wanted to trade for Khudobin. I didn't even put him on the "if these moves happen" list because it was hard to see Khudobin's value being met. While it's been obvious since the start of the season that Minnesota does not have a place in the future for Khudobin. In addition, the Wild are planning to add Darcy Kuemper (playing in the WHL this eason) and Dennis Endras (playing in Germany this season) to Matthew Hackett and Houston/Bakersfield next season.

With Khudobin being an unrestricted free agent and threatening to go to Russia, any return for him is appreciated. In this case, the return is a AHL defenseman (Penner) and rights to one of the top scorers in the Swedish Elite League (Lehtonen). The key to the deal will be getting Lehtonen over, but in the end this is a low-risk, high-reward trade for the Wild.

****ADDENDUM****

This is Dan, I was working on a post like this when I saw Nate beat me to the punch. So I thought I'd add a few thoughts on top of this, instead of simply adding to the post count by rehashing the same concept.

This trade works on a number of levels, like Nate mentioned; With Drew Bagnall and Tyler Cuma out with injury in Houston, Penner steps in to fill a roster spot, and also help contribute some offense too; in a way he looks to be similar to Maxim Noreau: a smallish defenseman with offensive acumen. While Houston's goalie depth takes an immediate hit with the departure of Anton Khudobin (Josh Tordjman is expected to join Houston as Matt Hackett's backup) the reality is that Khudobin doesn't fit into the long-term picture; not with Hackett in Houston, and Darcy Kuemper (expected to join the Aeros following his season in Red Deer,) Dennis Endras (coming over from Germany next fall,) and 2010 Draft Pick Johan Gustafsson in the hopper. There's no room, and while its nice to get four wins from the 2004 Seventh Rounder, we must say adieu.
Khubobin's going to a good situation though; he's now a form of insurance in Boston, in case Tim Thomas or Tuukka Rask get hurt. After that who knows, because well, its not our problem anymore.
I think the real key to this deal was Mikko Lehtonen. Lehtonen scored 28 and 23 goals in his two AHL seasons in Providence, and has 29 goals and 56 points in 57 games in Swedish Elite League this year. Lehtonen's still trying to round out his game but has intriguing upside for a big kid (6'4", 200 lbs.) and the hope is that he comes back over to North America next year; he left Boston because he didn't feel like he had a chance to crack the roster.
Really, in the end, its surprising that Chuck Fletcher was able to get something in return for Khudobin, who was gonna be let go at season's end. Just how much we get in return is dependent upon what Penner does for Houston, and what we can make of Lehtonen, who will be presented with the chance to make Minnesota's roster out of camp.

Sunday Roundtable: How Devastating Is Losing Mikko Koivu?

The Sunday Roundtable is a weekly feature where every Sunday a group of Wild fans discuss what's going on with the Minnesota Wild and other hockey-related issues. Today's question is "Is losing Mikko Koivu for an extended period of time the worst thing which could have happened to the Wild's playoff hopes?"

The Speckled Kiwi:

Not at all. Losing Backstrom would have been devastating. Koivu is significant injury but we have guys that could stand up instead of him and we got good depth at center. A guy like Brodie or Cullen could take over for a stretch.


Tim:
No. Right now, it would have to be losing Backstrom and then Theo (again) and having to rely on Khudobin and or Hackett for more than two or three games.

The thing this season is that Richards has FINALLY adjusted to what it takes to coach in the NHL. The system actually did change once we found out that Mikko was out. Instead of a 2-1-2 forechecking system, he did switch to a 1-2-2. Although it wasn't really a neutral zone trap, the number of forwards that the team was sending in on the forecheck was often just one. It would depend on who was on the ice if you were determining which position was in deep.

Slowing the game down enough so that puck possession becomes easier is enough for this roster. Losing both of our starting goalies would pretty much doom the Wild into season oblivion.


Tony:

While the loss is very significant because they've lost the best 2-way player on the team, it isn't the most damaging in my opinion. The simple reasoning behind my own assessment is that Havlat's line has become the most damaging to opposing teams. When its Bouchard-Cullen/Brodz-Havlat out there with Burns and Schultz feeding them they spend the most time on the other end of the ice and generate the most offense. Backstrom and Theodore are playing out of their minds right now and the biggest reason losing Mikko for 3 weeks wasn't nearly as big of a deal as it could have been last year. The team is playing incredibly well together right now.


Nate:
Losing Mikko Koivu for any period of time is devastating. He's the heart and soul of the Wild, the captain and a top-five defensive forward. Koivu is also an offensive threat and makes those around him better; he's the sole reason the Brunette-Koivu-Miettinen line has been the first line this season. So not having the Captain down the stretch will be a challenge for Minnesota.

However with that said, the Wild have thankfully been able to adapt away from the Marian Gaborik-led teams where one star made the difference. This year's team has more depth than in the past and have shown to be able to cope without players for extended periods of time. One player does not make this team and unless Marty Havlat, Niklas Backstrom and Brent Burns join Koivu and Guillaume Latendresse, the Wild can overcome losing a Mikko Koivu.

28 Days Later



Roughly a month ago the motley crew of the FRB Pirate Ship asked the roundtable question "What Do The Wild Need To Do In February" in order to maintain their playoff pace, and I followed that up with on a more general basis, with 4 Keys for the Rest of the Season. So now here we are, on the eve of the final February game, tomorrow night in St. Paul against Chicago, so I thought it would be prudent to see if Minnesota did the things we were thought they should do...to keep doing what they're doing.

Play For One Another:
Well, the locker room chemistry is getting a lot of attention. Mike Russo wrote about it today, I wrote about it, and it is evident, especially in the games of late where Mikko Koivu has been out. This John Madden quote sums it up best:

""We started off a little slow, but we've grown with one another, we've grown to trust one another and we enjoy being around each other...and when you get that combination, it's almost like team symmetry. There's only five guys on the ice, but it feels like six because we're working together and for each other.

It makes a huge difference when you go the extra mile for the next guy. This is quite the team."

Stay Healthy:
By and large this has happened, even getting one Marek Zidlicky back on the blueline, which increases depth back there...BUT. Mikko Koivu broke a finger a week ago, and is expected back in a few weeks. This does tie into the previous bullet point; this team, in Koivu's absence (and especially in Kyle Brodziak's recent battle with the flu), this team has really bore down to continue to play very well, going 2-1-1 in the last four games.
There are always going to be little injuries, where they keep a player out a game or two, but there hasn't been anything of tremendous significance that causes a gaping hole in the roster.

No Milk Carton Kids:
That was a key; if the secondary scoring options aside from Mikko Koivu and Martin Havlat dissipated, this team was going to be in trouble; what's happened has been an all-around effort. Just looking at the usual suspects; guys like Matt Cullen, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Antti Miettinen, Kyle Brodziak, Martin Havlat, Cal Clutterbuck, and even Mikko Koivu, these guys all have between 6(Koivu) and 9(Brodziak!) points for the month, which proves how well-rounded the scoring is on the team. John Madden also as four points, and Eric Nystrom has scored two goals in the past week, furthering the contributions.

Home and Road Split:

In the thirteen games so far, Minnesota has gone 8-4-1, getting 17 out of a possible 26 points so far. We started the month with an 11-11-2 record at The X, and I argued that they had to leave this month with a 5-3 record...at least. They've gone 5-1-1 so far, which is very impressive, with wins over LA and Anaheim, and nabbing a point against Detroit, all of whom are playoff contenders.
The road record going into this month was 14-8-3; we finished it 3-3, which still keeps the record are very good 17-11-3. This includes the thrilling win over Anaheim Friday night.
Also worth noting, is that Minnesota is now +1 in the goal differential, having outscored the opponents 31-27 with a game to go. For the stat heads, that means:
- Roughly 2.4 goals a game, while the opponents have scored just 2.07 a game.
- An average of 2.3 goals/game on the road, holding the home team 2.83. The home team goals/per also reflects an empty net goal by Jake Dowell in the 2/16 game in Chicago, and the Anze Kopitar empty-netter in the LA game Thursday. Without those two, its still a very stout 2.5/game.
- At home we've averaged 2.43 goals a game, while the opposition scores just 1.43 goals/game.
- We've gone 2-1 in shootouts as well.

That's more statistical analysis than I care to ever do.

A few observations to close this out:

- the team continues to show a resiliency to battle back; the shootout win in St. Louis being a prime example. The game is never really over until its over.
- It cannot be understated how well the goaltending's been; Nik Backstrom is rocking a 5-3-1 record, .935 save%, and a 1.44 GAA. Jose Theodore's gone 3-1, with a .929 save% and a 2.75 GAA.
- Maybe the most impressive part, which is the most pertinent tie breaker, is that six of the eight wins are in regulation, giving Minnesota 27 regulations wins. That is good for a tie for fourth in the conference- the relevance is that regulation wins is the first tie-breaker.

We'll see how February ends tomorrow night, but so far its been pretty damn good so far.

If These Moves Happen (Part II)

With two days until the Trade Deadline there have been a flurry of rumors. Some of these are credible, but most are of the not-so-credible variety. Some rumors are just made up by fans who hope to see their favorite player return home; others are made by people who like profit off of curious minds. While I don't expect the Wild to be major players, here's the second of a series tackling what it means for the short and long-term if GM Chuck Fletcher trades these pieces. Part I covered Wild players and Part III covers the ever-popular Minnesotan question.

After looking at the players on Thursday, we now look at prospects and draft picks. Again, I don't see GM Chuck Fletcher making a big move or two, but if it happens...

Mikael Granlund - As the top prospect in a weak Wild pool, he is at the top of every team's wish list when dealing with Fletcher. Minnesota has a lot invested in his success in the NHL and should bring him to North America next season. That's not to say - especially since it happened last season with Nick Leddy - but the lack of elite forward depth in the Minnesota system makes Granlund more valuable than one of three top defensemen. If it happens, then Chuck Fletcher acquired (or believes he did) someone who can replace Granlund's projected value. And then some.

Jason Zucker - Zucker is having an offensive explosion at the University of Denver this season. However like Granlund (and any other 2010 draftees), I don't see the Wild giving up on any of them so soon due to the lack of depth in the prospect pool.

Marco Scandella - The top defensive prospect after Tyler Cuma's injury and Nick Leddy's trade to Chicago, Scandella has been promising during his stint with the Wild although his current concussion makes it hard to trade him. If Scandella is traded, it means the Wild are confident in one of the other defensemen (Spurgeon, Prosser, Stoner) taking a top-four role and possibly re-signing Brent Burns.

Colton Gillies - Gillies is the latest in a series of Doug Risebrough first round busts and has spent most of the last two seasons with the Houston Aeros. Gillies has some value despite not fulfilling his potential, but if he is traded it means the Wild have given up on him making an impact with the big club.

Matthew Hackett/Darcy Kuemper - I'm putting both together because they are fighting for the same job and have both been developing well. Unfortunately, the goaltender market is not too valuable and most teams have their goalie of the future. If one is traded, expect the other to be put in a situation where they will fight for the #2 job.

1st in 2011 - If this is traded, there will be a lot of sad people in St. Paul this June. In all seriousness, the theme of this blog has been a lack of depth in the Minnesota prospect pool and there's no better way to get . If it's traded, it will have been for a core piece.

2nd in 2011 - Is already held by Boston. They've traded around prospects (Joe Colborne) and young players (Blake Wheeler) this, but despite that I see the Bruins hanging onto it. And if they don't, it's unlikely Minnesota will get it back.

2nd in 2012/3rd in 2011 - If this is traded, we're looking at a rental in the spirit of Dominic Moore; a player who can replace the loss of Mikko Koivu and still fit in when he comes back. It also signifies that the Wild are serious about making the playoffs.

Mid-round pick - Chuck Fletcher has found someone who he feels can make an impact for cheap or is making a depth move like Brad Staubitz last season.

Winds of Change

There are two pertinent non-game Wild news nuggets of the day (Sorry Warren Peters.)

Dustin Penner:
Mike Russo wrote this morning that Chuck Fletcher has inquired about Dustin Penner. Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal has elaborated a bit more on the meeting between Fletcher and Oiler GM Steve Tambellini as well. A few things to chew on:
Why?
- This is pure conjecture on my part, but in my opinion, if Penner is brought in it is meant for him to play with Mikko Koivu (when he returns) and Andrew Brunette. Clearly the Martin Havlat-Kyle Brodziak duo will be cemented with the imminent return of Guillaume Latendresse, and Cal Clutterbuck-Matt Cullen-Pierre-Marc Bouchard has solidified into a nice scoring option as well. Take it as an indictment of Antti Miettinen if you want, but I think you need to get more punch out of a line with two superb passers like Brunette and Koivu. And since that line's effectiveness isn't predicated on speed, but more of a down-low cycle style, Penner, in theory, should be a good fit.
- Chuck Fletcher has a history with Penner from their time in Anaheim. He knows the player, and what situations where he succeeds; to me Penner isn't a guy who can shoulder the load and be THE guy, but when he's a piece of the puzzle (there is scoring spread around) he can be very effective.
- With another year on his deal, Penner is a member of the team next year, not just a rental- this fits in with the forward-type thinking evident in Chuck Fletcher deals made so far.
- Penner has position flexibility; he can play wing and center (centre for our canadian readers.)

Why Not?
- The asking price. Tambellini doesn't have to trade Penner, and Fletcher isn't willing to deal our 1st Rounder- we don't have a 2nd this year either.
- The chemistry element; the hot topic of late is tinkering with locker room chemistry. Clearly the team has come together, but you don't want to negate that by altering the pieces.
- By bringing in Penner, we're not exactly enhancing the overall team speed, which for a team that depends on the forecheck, that may not be a good thing.
- We gotta move salary to take that contract for the rest of the year. Just a hunch, the salaries we want to move aren't that appealing to The Oil.

It'll be interesting to see how this will play out, and I wonder if this report and its possible fruition will coincide with...

Chuck Kobasew:
Darren Dreger of TSN has reported that Kobasew's agent, Pat Brisson, is trying to find him a new team. Kobasew was recently a healthy scratch, and played roughly nine minutes last night. Somehow this is fitting, considering how Kobasew's tenure here in Minnesota has been marred by injuries, inconsistencies, ineffectiveness, and now press box popcorn. When he was brought in last fall (and what we sent to Boston, aside from Craig Weller, seems like a massive overpayment for what we've gotten) he was supposed to inject speed and a scoring touch to a struggling lineup, and he's just never found that security blanket, bouncing up and down line combinations. It's sad to see it come to this, but there comes times where you have to cut your losses and move on; any GM would want to get something in return, but I'm not convinced that Kobasew has much value across the league, despite what his past statistics and playoff experience may indicate. Its not like he's a hot commodity; instead what looks like casualty of the playoff chase in the salary cap world.

So that makes me wonder, is Chuck Kobasew the linchpin to a deal, maybe for someone like the aforementioned Dustin Penner? While on the surface its about getting #12 to a place where he can play, the underlying theme is shedding salary and creating some quick cap flexibility. If we can move him, and I wonder if waivers is an option, would that be the proverbial green light for something before the Trade Deadline?

If These Moves Happen (Part I)

With four days until the Trade Deadline there have been a flurry of rumors. Some of these are credible, but most are of the not-so-credible variety. Some rumors are just made up by fans who hope to see their favorite player return home; others are made by people who like profit off of curious minds. While I don't expect the Wild to be major players, here's the first of a series tackling what it means for the short and long-term if GM Chuck Fletcher trades these pieces. Part II covers draft picks and prospects and Part III covers the ever-popular Minnesotan question.


Up first, the Wild players most likely to be moved; if anyone does.

Andrew Brunette - If Bruno gets traded, it's a sign that the Wild are throwing in the towel and focusing on next year. It's hard to see a situation where Brunette gets traded and Minnesota is able to get a return on him where his veteran presence and abilities are replaced. At the same time, he is the most valuable trade option out of the unrestricted free agents and can bring in a draft pick and/or prospect on his own. Because of that, where Brunette goes is where the Wild go.

Antii Miettinen - If Miettinen, a free agent at the end of the year, gets traded it could either be for picks (again a sign which says Minnesota is focusing on next year) or for a player who would help the playoff run this year and next year. The latter option is a possibility as it doesn't appear that Miettinen is going to be a part of the future and if the right deal comes along it's better to get something for future without hurting the present.

Chuck Kobasew - After being scratched on Tuesday for enforcer Brad Staubitz on Tuesday, the Wild have proven that they can by without Kobasew. Despite, he can never quite stick and another team might have use for him. However the cost is surely not going to be the same as the one Fletcher paid sixteen months ago (a 2nd and mid-tier prospect). If someone trades for Kobasew, it's going to be for a pick in the 3-5 range.

Jose Theodore - The goalie market is a beast of its own. That happens when there are more than enough capable goalies to take the sixty NHL spots and most of the playoff teams are happy with who they have between the pipes. With Backstrom looking like a true #1 and Theodore looking for a starting job next season, it's possible to see him traded. However given the lack of a market (the two goalie trades so far have been swaps) and a backup (I don't believe the Wild organization have too much confidence in Anton Khudobin), it's tough to see Theodore traded. If he does it's for either a longer-term backup (remember Josh Harding is a UFA July 1) or draft picks.

John Madden - Unfortunately with the injuries to Mikko Koivu and Kyle Brodziak's sickness, trading a center on a team which had depleted center depth is a tough pill to swallow. Madden is a veteran player with 3 Stanley Cups that plenty of teams would like; however his value to the Wild right now outweighs Madden's value on most teams. If this move happens, the Wild are selling.

Cam Barker - Everyone in Minnesota rejoices? Okay that was easy. Let's move on.

Greg Zanon - Zanon's an interesting case. If anything, it's possible he could moved in the offseason, as the Wild are starting to compile . If this move happens, the Wild are confident in their young blue line and/or believe Zanon's value can't get any better.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard - Like Greg Zanon, Bouchard being traded would be a case of his value. With Mikael Granlund coming over next year, that could make Pierre-Marc expendable. However, the biggest hurdle to trading Bouchard is his contract; he's a good playmaker but not at $4.05 million for another two years. Because of that, if Bouchard gets moved it would be a sign Minnesota is confident that he can be replaced, Latendresse will be back for the stretch run or that the right deal came across. Then again, most of what I just said is a pipe dream.

Brent Burns - Not going to happen unless the HF Boards Trade Forum starts operating in reality. If Burns gets traded by the Wild, it won't happen until at least the summer and after Chuck Fletcher can gauge agent Ron Salcer and Burns' interest in wearing Iron Range Red and for how much. He is the most valuable trade piece Minnesota has, but that doesn't mean Burns can be had for anything right now.

Tidbits: The "On A Rope" Edition




The West is fucking insane.

Take a look at the standings. As of tonight (and I have to use the actual time of the night because things will change before night's end, so 7:45pm, 2/23) there are three teams at 70 points (Minnesota, Calgary, and Nashville,) four teams at 68 points (LA, Chicago, Anaheim, and Dallas), and suddenly Columbus (!) is back from the dead with 66 points.
There are some awful wonky trajectories going on; on Sunday Minnesota moved from 10th to 7th with a single point, and jumped from 7th to 5th with a win last night. However, things change nightly- even a few days off between games, no matter what momentum the team may have, may mean a slide from a playoff berth to the outside looking in. The craziest thing is that the so-called "shake out" which happens post All-Star Break; where the pretenders fall off and the real McCoys step up- has only really yielded two more teams aside from Edmonton; St. Louis and Colorado. Teams that were generally though to be left for dead are now neck and neck for those playoff spots; right or wrong I had Calgary written off after The Wild blew them out at the Saddledome 6-0 in January, and the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are 7-2-1 in their last ten after being largely irrelevant for most of the year, are suddenly omnipresent in the standings.
So what does that mean for Wild Nation? It means that there isn't a perceived "lull" in the schedule, a swing of games against league doormats where you can afford put on the cruise control. The West, say what you want to say about the level of competition within, is do or die every night.

- So that brings me to this; I wonder if the team can really put much stock into its position in the standings considering how dynamic the Conference is? I'd think that there is some scoreboard watching, but I wonder if its a mentality where its only about winning as many games as possible and seeing where the team stands when the dust settles.
- Do you think its even possible to create point separation at this stage of the game? Sure, you can bury Colorado and St. Louis, but can it even happen with the other teams?
- Which brings me this little California "roadie"; LA and Anaheim are right there with The Wild; even though we're missing Koivu, now it looks like Kyle Brodziak will miss the first of the back-to-back with the sniffles. I mentioned the Phoenix game from earlier this month, where an altered lineup led to a disjointed effort, so is that gonna happen when our best center (at the moment) is out, and Jed Ortmeyer is in?
- Speaking of Ortmeyer, I'm curious to see what he can do to contribute.
- Todd Richards doesn't have any choice but to lean on Cody Almond a bit more than usual.
- When Martin Havlat signed with Minnesota, there was a misguided notion that he was Marian Gaborik's "replacement"- which is a fallacy of course because their styles of play are vastly different, but its funny that his last two goals are very Gaborik-like; get behind the opposing D and get a long stretch pass from the Wild D to start a breakaway.
- That begs the question; is this a conscious effort by Havlat, reading the play and trying to exploit the space he's given, or sheer coincidence that he's scored on breakaways?
- More Havlat: whatever the case, if there's a guy who can shoulder the load while Mikko Koivu is mending his finger, its Havlat. He has just a disgusting amount of finesse. That little saucer pass to Pierre-Marc Bouchard last night was just disgusting.
- Considering how brazen a pre-meditated spin-o-rama is, I wonder if the Oilers will have the next Min/Edm game, March 31st, circled. We, as Minnesota fans, can say it was a great goal, but on the other side of the coin it could be misconstrued as showing up the opponent.
- Good for Jared Spurgeon scoring his first goal last night. You have to appreciate the excitement his teammates had for him- although it seemed like they were more jacked up about it than he was.
- Finally, something to watch for; Minnesota struggles carrying the puck across the offensive blueline early in games, instead of dumping pucks in deep from the get-go. Even against an Edmonton team that is taking its lumps, there were far too many pucks coughed up at the Oil blueline instead of being dumped behind the defense. Ya, we all know the dump-and-chase isn't sexy, but it opens up avenues as the game goes on...because the D is sick of being killed by guys like Cal Clutterbuck.

Wednesday Roundtable: "If Craig Leipold Gave You The Keys At The Trade Deadline..."

The Sunday Roundtable is a weekly feature where every Sunday a group of Wild fans discuss what's going on with the Minnesota Wild and other hockey-related issues. With the trade deadline approaching, we present a special Wednesday edition. Today's question is "If Craig Leipold gave you the keys at the Trade Deadline, what do you do?"


Dan:

To be honest, I don't think there is much you can do. You're not going to find an adequate replacement for Mikko Koivu, and for a team that's thin prospect-wise, there isn't any sense in dealing away guys like Granlund and Zucker. I know its not the sexiest position to take, but I think its the most prudent. You've got Guillaume Latendresse coming back, and reasonable center depth behind Koivu. Stand pat.


Jarick:

Up until the Koivu injury, I'd have been quiet, but the team is going to need another forward. I won't throw fantasy trades out that will never happen, but moving some of the depth guys and/or mid-round picks for a younger center with a glimmer of upside (like a Brodziak) would be a solid move. I don't expect much with this inflated market though, so I'll just hope that the team can stay afloat and Koivu returns early.

Bozak:

To me, the answer is pretty simple at this point considering who is coming back from injury and who is now injured. There are no teams that will take our scraps for anything that will make an impact. By our scraps, I mean Barker and Kobasew, which means we need to be sellers, but not say we are sellers because we are still in the mix.

To pick up a Penner, Hemsky or a Weiss... I don't think I could swallow the price for any of them. Buying is not really an option.

So that leaves us with trying to unload Barker. Listen to any and all offers for him, and be disappointed when the phone doesn't ring. Try to ship out Kobasew, but don't be disappointed when the phone doesn't ring there, either.

The Wild are what they are at this point, basically.


Tony:

Hard to really answer I guess, but it would all depend if we felt we could make a pitch to Parise, or anyone else, this off season to come to Minnesota that can put us into a realm we only had with Gaborik. If we can, then I say make the moves to get wiggle room in the draft and hope you can get the fans to believe in you that while this year is great to see progress, we aren't making Conference Finals again yet with this team. We still need scoring depth that does not rely on a NHL's leading hitter to rack up points. The first line needs major shakeups to give us 3 lines that can actually score on a nightly basis.


Nate:

Unless the right deal comes along for Andrew Brunette, Antii Mietinen or Cam Barker, I stand pat. While losing Mikko Koivu puts a wrench in Minnesota's playoff plans, the Wild don't have the talent or assets to make a deal which improves their lineup short-term. It's unfortunate but after all the trades last season and a slightly growing prospect pool, GM Chuck Fletcher is in a position where he owns the cards he wants rather than playing the hand he was dealt.

Guest Blog: What The Wild Should Do At The Deadline

Editor's Note: In the true spirit of FRB, we encourage and endorse guest blogs from Wild fans near and far. If you want to guest post on First Round Bust, please email us at
firstroundbust@gmail.com. Today's post comes from Roundtable participant The Speckled Kiwi, a true man of mystery.


The team and the organization is in an interesting position at this time. We're one of the older teams in the league and we have a lot of money tied up in contracts that we cannot move. Our prospect depth is getting better little by little but we're still missing a blue chip offensive player. Granlund, Zucker and Haula are all great pieces but this organization has been starving for a dynamic offensive player since 2005 to play with Gaborik when he was here.

Latendresse, Havlat and Bouchard are excellent complementary pieces for this organization but they are not guys that can stand up and take over a game like Gaborik could do.

We got a solid foundation with Burns and Koivu (if Burns is signed to an extension) but the pieces are still missing for us to be a dangerous team year in and year out. We'll do damage in the regular season and cause some noise but our depth is lacking and we are mired in mediocrity. For three years in a row we've been in the bottom 3rd of goals scored at around 210. And it's not going to get any better.

Haula and Granlund are not pure goal scorers. They are complementary players like Havlat and Latendresse and Bouchard. Zucker isn't going to be an immediate impact player for at least 3+ years. And we've got bits and pieces here and there that fill out our prospect depth.

We've also got a lot of money tied up in contracts for aging players that do nothing for the future of this organization.

We can make the playoffs one year and then miss the next two and then make it again but we constantly are struggling to find a steady pace and goal for this team.

We're losing three major pieces this year, for better or worse. People moan and groan about Brunette's lack of foot speed or Miettinen's inability to hit the net but the options out there are not any better for this organization. As well finding chemistry with Koivu could be difficult.

We got to replace two thirds of our top line. And we lose Kobasew, who while we overpaid for has been a decent depth guy when healthy.

This team is going into two directions and trying to find an alignment will be difficult. The fans want the playoffs. We've been starved for the playoffs for years given that Riser drove this team into the ground and Fletcher made a few panic moves to appease the head guy.

In order to keep us knee deep in the playoff race, we've had to sacrifice the future for the present and let our guys walk. Now some years wasn't as bad as other years and there is a balance that needs to be struck. However, given the health of the organization, not just in the NHL but the development programs as well, there are times where you need to trust your scouts to find a project player that can turn out to be someone like Haula, like Zucker and you trade guys off for mid range picks in order to provide depth so when you go to the playoffs, you have a deeper roster to pull from. That is why teams like Detroit have had success is finding those mid round guys to add a little more depth to an already deep roster.

As for what to do this year; it's easy to say to sell or to buy or to stay put.

We can't buy. We can't sacrifice another first round player or pick and miss the playoffs by a point or two. And we don't have anything to buy with.

So the other option is to sell or to stay put.

Personally I would explore the option to sell; see what is out there and see what we can get. We should at least move Kobasew or Miettinen. Try to extend Brunette or at least offer him a position in the organization after this year. We should also explore options to move Backstrom and his contract along with Barker. Moving Backstrom and Barker can clear almost 10 million from the cap making it easier and more flexible to bring in someone like Wheeler or Setoguchi as we can now take on some 'bad' contracts.

Staying put would be the last option I would explore. At least explore the options to move players and think long term instead of short term for this organization.

A Primer On Trade Deadline Week


And behind door number three is...Cam Barker?

With seven days until the trade deadline, things are about to get a lot more interesting. Or not. So far with eighteen trades already happening and more on the way, it's going to be a wild week; however First Round Bust is a Minnesota Wild-influenced blog (despite frequently discussing prospects and the draft) and as Wild fans know that excitement doesn't always make its way to the State of Hockey. In previous years under General Manager Doug Risebrough the trade deadline felt like being a Jewish kid on Christmas - everyone else made a move and someone gives you a gift like Chris Simon out of pity - and last season's moves were spread out over two weeks. Either way we look forward to looking at the Trade Deadline from different angles and to start if off, here's a primer.

-The trade deadline is Monday February 28th at 2 PM Central. Any trades after that time will not be allowed (as Wild fans should know after last season's rumored Boogaard to Tampa deal).

-The deadline day is set in the current CBA to be the 40th day from the end of the regular season.

-Cap hits are prorated so that even though a player's cap hit may exceed the salary cap number, the team only has to pay for the number of days the player is on the team. For example, if Jason Arnott of the New Jersey Devils is traded on deadline day, his $4.5 million cap hit only costs a team $991,000 in space.

-According to capgeek.com, The Wild can in theory take a max cap hit of ~$4.9 million without having salary go the other way.

-Draft picks, rights to prospects and NHL players are all eligible to be traded.

-Three 2011 first round draft picks have been traded already, which are two more than last year's trade deadline. In addition, there is the possibility of a fourth depending on where the St. Louis Blues finish.

-Three is also the number of former Gophers who have been traded so far; defenseman Alex Goligoski joins Erik Johnson and Blake Wheeler in being moved.

-If you include all Minnesotans, that number doubles. Matt Niskanen was in the Goligoski deal, Mark Stuart was traded with Wheeler to Atlanta and Wisconsin defenseman Jake Gardiner had his rights traded to Toronto.

-Johan Larsson is the last player in the Wild organization which was received in a trade deadline deal. He was picked by Minnesota with the draft pick Washington sent over in exchange for Eric Belanger.

-Cam Barker and Matt Cullen are the most recent Wild players to have been traded in February as both were traded on February 12, 2010. Cullen was traded by the Hurricanes traded to Ottawa and Barker was traded by the Blackhawks to the Wild.

-Teams can win the Stanley Cup without being active at the trade deadline. The most notable player received by the two Stanley Cup finalists around the trade deadline last season was Kim Johnsson and neither team made a deal on deadline day.

-By contrast, Pittsburgh made two deadline day deals the year they won the Cup and Detroit made one.

(Monty Hall photo from reason.com)

Sunday Roundtable: What You Change About Hockey's Future Top 20 Wild Prospect List?

The Sunday Roundtable is a weekly feature where every Sunday a group of Wild fans discuss what's going on with the Minnesota Wild and other hockey-related issues. Today's question is "What would you change about the Hockey's Future Top 20 Minnesota Wild Prospect List?"


Dan:

I think its funny how they talk about Darcy Kuemper, who is an absolute wall in Red Deer this season, is the 17th best prospect we have- but they preface it by saying he's "making a strong case for a role in the franchise." And where is Dennis Endras, the German goalie we signed as a Free Agent last summer?


Jarick:

Just one? Because the Kuemper and Spurgeon mistakes are so glaringly obvious, I'd say Gillies at #7. He shouldn't be higher than about 12-14. Sure he could step into the NHL as early as next year, but I don't think he'll ever get more than about 10-15 points at the NHL level or play much more than 10-12 minutes per game. Nearly everyone else on the list has a higher ceiling.

The Speckled Kiwi:

Drop Hackett down and move Zucker up.


Bozak:

If I could magically affect the prospect pipeline, I would probably swap out a few of our defensive prospects for a couple of higher graded offensive forwards. Noreau wouldn't be on there, instead I would rather have a MacLean. Cuma would be a Nemisz instead. It also irritates me to see Lorenz and Medvec on there when I am 90% sure that GMCF will not tender offers to keep them in the system.

5th, 6th, and 7th defensemen are easy holes to fill with free agents and they aren't that expensive. To have a plethora of those type of D in our top 20 prospects list...


Nate:

I'd raise Kuemper. Although I don't believe he should be as high in the order as others, Kuemper deserves to be higher than 17th. There are some reservations for a goalie who is having a great season as an overager; however Darcy is having a season for the ages. Next season in Houston is going to be a big indicator of Kuemper's NHL future but for now his development and potential have him around 10th in my book.

Tidbits: The "Clampdown" Edition




What are we gonna do now?

I'm sure Chuck Fletcher's getting phonecalls from fellow GM's, who are willing "to help out" with the current predictament; "Oh, sorry to hear about Mikko Koivu. You can have this guy for a nominal fee- your first and we'll take Granlund or Scandella off of your hands too." While on the surface the lack of a definitive in-house replacement isn't there, the trade market looks worse, and the estimated cost of a transaction is even worse than that.
A first round pick, arguably the holy grail of assets, seems to be involved in every trade made in the last two weeks and for a team with a lack of real quality talent, its not a cost we can afford to spend. While my feel for Chuck Fletcher is such that he wouldn't make a move like that (if anything it would be a deal that helps now and into next year) you have to think that he and the brain trust have to be looking at every outside option.
For now Cody Almond and his wardrobe are up to stay, and he is slated to be the fourth line center. I like the kid as a player, and while I don't think he's gonna light the world on fire offensively, he can hang with the skilled players; when the Aeros were here in St. Paul, he centered Jon DiSalvatore and Patrick O'Sullivan. He's defensively responsible enough to where he's not a liability, and he plays with some sandpaper to his game.
I want to see Almond center Andrew Brunette and Antti Miettinen- not because I think Almond is deserving of 20 minutes a night, but I don't want the other three lines to be subjected to juggling, and disrupting whatever chemistry that's been fostered over the past 25-35 games. Lean on the Havlat and Cullen lines a bit more if need be; Andrew Brunette will always see PP time, and Almond would bring some speed, grit, and defensive ability to what is the slowest set of wingers the Wild have, and who knows, maybe kid and the veterans click and they can continue to play 18-20 a night.

- Re: the line juggling. If the other three lines aren't broken, then don't fix them. I look at the Phoenix game, where we missed two regulars (Matt Cullen and Jared Spurgeon) and that was arguably the worst game the Wild has played on this little run. No crispness, bad passing, no nothing. Let's not make things worse by trying to remedy one line by screwing up the others.
- Re: Almond. I also want to see what the kid can do in a situation where his role isn't just to go crash and bang, and bring energy. He put up nice numbers on a defensive-oriented Kelowna team, and some relatively good numbers on some low-scoring Houston teams, so I think its time to see what, if anything, he can do offensively at the NHL level. Like I said, let's not lean on him 20 minutes a night against other top lines, but I think there are elements of Almond's game that could work well with Brunette and Miettinen.
- Also, on Almond. Kevin Constantine had some nice things to say about Almond a few years ago, saying the kid is really good at picking up things and applying them. Constantine said that Almond was an improved player every year he came into Prospect Development camp, which Constantine ran.
- It will be interesting to see how Miettinen plays without the luxury of being on Mikko Koivu's hip.
- You cannot put enough praise on Chuck Fletcher and Brent Flahr for signing Jared Spurgeon. I just love the kid, and talking with other Wild fans they do as well- to me the most intriguing part is that the kid is getting the NHL level, and is beginning to show more especially on the offensive side of the coin. Smart, smart player.
- Having Marek Zidlicky back is huge. It creates depth on the blueline again; we were skating on thin ice for a while as Marco Scandella was dealing with the concussion. Also, we got a shot that can get through from the point, which can create scoring chances.
- Interesting point made by Todd Richards this week: the returns of Zidlicky and especially Guillaume Latendresse should serve to reinvigorate the guys who are 60 games deep into the NHL season. The aches, pains, bruises, bumps, strains, and sprains are everyday occurences at this point, and when you have guys who have missed time and are eager to get back, that can be infectious.
- Not to look ahead, but I wonder in what shape Latendresse enters Training Camp in. By all accounts he wasn't in very good shape this last fall, so eight games in and five surgeries later, his return is on the horizon. Whether or not its related, but there's got to be a professional lesson in there somewhere. I believe its called "protecting your career."
- Good for Eric Nystrom scoring last night. He's managed to redefine snake bitten, but still goes out there and works his ass off. I keep telling people, he's gonna score the biggest goal of the Wild season, whenever that is, strictly on karmic principles.
- Speaking of the Nystrom goal...ever seen a lunch pail forward set on the power play on par with Nystrom-John Madden-Chuck Kobasew?
- And finally...with Koivu going to be out indefinitely, it means that some of the other forwards are going to have to step up and do more. For instance, Martin Havlat will probably help on the penalty kill- which is good, because he should be given all the ice time he can handle due to how well he is playing. But you also have to wonder if those same players wear down at a quicker pace because they are playing more.

What Is and What Should Never Be

This last Wednesday Glen Andresen of Wild.Com wrote a feature about what The Wild would have been if, well, they weren't The Wild. Local creative agency The Shinebox was brought in to do up mock jerseys to enhance the imagery of the other five finalists for the team name.

And, out of 13,000 entries, The Wild and these other five are the best they could do.


The Minnesota Blue Ox. Seriously. As if it isn't weird enough that you can't refer to "The Wild" in singular form, we're talking about one animal. I get that the parties responsible for choosing a name, to quote Dickie Dunn, were trying to "capture the spirit of the thing" and its got a Minnesota tie...but it just doesn't work. Not even on a Trojan Horse level. Could you imagine trying to lure players in when Free Agency strikes?

"Hello Player X, this is Doug Risebrough. And we want you to be a Blue Ox."


The Minnesota Voyageurs. Its better, and the logo isn't bad...but still. It just doesn't strike fear into the hearts of opponents; a french guy rowing a canoe with a hockey stick. Too many syllables in the name.


The Minnesota Freeze. This just screams roller hockey. And we don't need a constant reminder that it gets to be freaking cold during the winter.


The Minnesota White Bears. Insert Darren Pang joke here. Decent unis though.

Finally...


The Minnesota Northern Lights. All I need to do is post the description.

"we present Nick Schultz, the all-time games played leader for the Minnesota Northern Lights. At first glance (at the top of the page), you'd think the Northern Lights sported similar colors to the Minnesota Vikings, but you'd be wrong. Look closer, and you'll see these jerseys are hyper color (remember those?), and actually change colors when heat is applied. As you can see, Schultz is breaking quite a sweat, causing the Aurora Borealis within the fabric to start changing color to a vibrant yellow."


DEAR GOD.


I will freely admit that despite being a paying season ticket holder, and a guy who blogs about the team (from my mom's basement of course,) I don't particularly care for "The Wild" as a name. I do like what they do with the sweaters, but the name is clunky and doesn't lend itself to proper truncation: Off the top of the head you got Preds, Pens, Sens, Wings, Hawks, Canes, etc. Also, a plural form works better; not what amounts to be an amorphous entity.

So with that in mind, let's retrofit the club. I present to you...




THE MINNESOTA TRAPPERS!

Well hell, thanks to the aforementioned "Architect of the Trap", we have been, are now, and forever will be associated with the neutral zone trap- which only goes to show how much people really know about our plucky Minnesota club. Its got that Minnesota flavor to it, since fur was the only way to dress warm in these freaky cold winters, and everyone would have fun calling the team "The Traps." And you could argue that bringing the family to the X for a game is a "Parent Trap" as well.


Go Ahead...try and skate the puck through the neutral zone.


Can't believe no one thought of this...

Saturday Morning Hangover

I was at last night's Anaheim/Wild game, courtesy of a close friend, who got tickets courtesy of a work connection. While I'm sure I'll incriminate myself here, I snuck in a fifth of Windsor Canadian to serve as the booze component of the night's festivities; in good conscience I cannot shell out hard earned duckets for the exhorbitantly priced beer that is being sold in the X. As I sipped on my "special diet coke" in my center ice lower level seat, we took in the game, including the potentially devasting injury to Captain Mikko Koivu.
I saw him block the shot, and was told by my compatriots that he went right down the tunnel, and he never returned. While Minnesota began to roll as the game went on; breakaway shorthanded goals, baseball style goals, a freaking power play goal by Eric Nystrom (!!!), it became easy to forget that Mikko Koivu wasn't on the bench; as the game tilted further and further into Minnesota's favor, it became less likely and less necessary for him to do so.

And the whiskey went down with no problem.

Morning arrives, having passed out in the spare bedroom of the close friend's house. I'm groggy, head slightly hurts, and after a slight case of "where am I", I get up. But despite the fun I had last night, I'm not all there, and I certainly am not at full strength.
Much like our Minnesota Wild.
While a win helped the Wild's playoff push (and the Chicago loss was huge too) like the corned beef hash and eggs helped me feel better, there is still an undeniable fact that we are facing a harsh reality that lost in the revelry of last night is that today hurts. I'll feel better after a nap, and probably a few more advil, but Minnesota isn't so lucky, losing their Captain on what doesn't seem like a short term basis.
So the course up until now was that the additions of Marek Zidlicky and Guillaume Latendresse to the the roster off of IR would be much greater a benefit than to peruse through the expensive Trade Market. That I agree with- but now you have to got to think that Chuck Fletcher's hand is now forced; as much as I like him as a player, Cody Almond isn't the answer. No one in Houston is.

What a way to kick off the weekend.

What I Read This Week (2/19)


Keep forgetting to post this, but it's awesome!

Sad times in Wild country after kaptain Mikko Koivu left last night's game with an apparent wrist or finger injury (more on that later). I'm sure this will create a lot of discussion (as it already has), but for now we take a look back at the last week. As always, you can write a guest blog, follow Dan or me on Twitter and I hope everyone enjoys their weekend.

Minnesota Wild:
-What would we look like if we weren't the Wild? To be honest, I'm not a fan of any of these names, including the Wild. (Wild.com)

-An update on James Sheppard and Josh Harding. It's good to see them working hard and hopefully that will stick with the pair when they are healthy; even if it means cutting back on James Sheppard jokes. (Star Tribune)

-The Wild are doing a cool thing on Tuesday as they'll be supporting the military by wearing camouflage jerseys in warmups (Pro Hockey Talk)

-Wild decisions at the Deadline, by friend of the blog CircularTheory. (ProHockeyNews.com)

-An interview with Wild.com editor Glen Andersen. (Blackhawk Up)


Wild Prospects and The Farm:
-It is prospect rankings time. Here's Hockey's Future take on the top 20.

-And here is our buddy CircularTheory's rankings. Dan's keeping busy this week. (Hockey Wilderness)

-The USHL should be well-represented in this summer's draft. A primer on those prospects. (United States of Hockey)

-You score two goals in two games and all is right with the world. Keep up the work Erik Haula! (Star Tribune)

-Mikael Granlund scoring another goal today, which makes for 27 points in 31 games. (SM-Liiga)


General Hockey (or thank you BigMike for most of these):
-For the stat nerds, a look at passing during a Detroit-Chicago game in December. This is only one in a series. (Behind The Net)

-In what has to be one of the coolest things a blogger can do, The Production Line got to go on a roadtrip with the Detroit Red Wings. I would love to do the same someday. Parts 1 2 3 4 5

-In an article which goes against the grain, Justin Bourne writes about why dealing players for draft picks is painful. (Puck Daddy)


College and HS Hockey:
-All-for-one ethos works for hockey. This story is close to my heart as a hockey player growing up in the inner-city. Really would like to see the Novas continue their success as it is things like this and Highland Park restarting their team which give others hope. (Star Tribune)

-Border Battle comes with playoff implication for Minnesota, Wisconsin. After last night, I'm happy with how the Gophers are finishing up their season. Keep it going Don...or else! (USCHO)

-Rankings will return next week.

You Know You Want To. Don't Hit The Button.




We've lost two in a row.

We've scored just twice in 120 minutes.

We're now 10th in the conference.

OMFG!



Well, I'm here to tell you that there is no reason to panic. This recent skid; and that's what it is, a skid- isn't about a power outage on the offensive side of the puck, and its not about a flaccid power play, and its not about an overall lack of talent. The playoff push isn't dead, the season isn't wasted, and there's no reason to sell off every asset not nailed to the floor within the next 11 days, and start looking toward next season.
These losses are about unforced errors; the effort, the goaltending, the "compete" (just the worst noun ever,) the scoring chances; they are all there. Its little things like a march to the penalty box, which can kill momentum; for example, Chuck Kobasew's javelin throw toward Michael Frolik last night, which led to a backbreaker of a Hawks goal 23 seconds- 23 SECONDS! after Matt Cullen ties it up at ones. While you can also point at a failed John Madden clear attempt, but the Wild should have never been in that position, having to kill a senseless penalty when they should have been riding the crest of momentum.
The little things do kill; but alas, they are little things. Little things can be remedied; whereas major things, you know, like chemistry and not buying into the "we", would have done this team in long ago. I believe the team recognizes that this downturn is only temporary- ask Cal Clutterbuck.

"I'd be standing here worried if we were not ready to go or not in these games, but that's definitely not the case...There's no doubt in my mind if we keep playing the way we're playing, things will turn around for us."

It's Not You Vancouver...


May this day be celebrated every year...or not

At one point, it could be argued that the Wild's biggest rival was Vancouver. Fans would point to the 2003 Western Conference Semifinals, Todd Bertuzzi, Mattias Ohlund's two-handed slash of Mikko Koivu and Derek Boogaard's "Pinky and the Brain Twins" comment as to there being love lost between the two teams. For once, the Wild were not known as that team who replaced the North Stars. Some thought it felt nice to be hated, even if our team was number three on the list by Canucks fan. And sometimes it was nice to overlook the fact that there are a lot of Vancouver fans on the internet.

So with that said, it's nice to finally put down the whole "Vancouver is our hated rival" talk. I've never been a fan of it personally. Yes the two teams had a stretch of time where they did like one another and yes, they are still division rivals, but that doesn't make the teams rivals. Rivalries are built one of three ways. First, rivalries are built upon repeated playoff match-ups. This was made easier in the old divisional playoff days where teams were more likely to meet, but there are still cases of this happening today (the most notable example being Detroit-Colorado during the late 90s and early 00s while Vancouver-Chicago the last two seasons is another one). Minnesota-Vancouver was at its hottest after the 2003 playoffs, but they haven't met since.

Second, rivalries are based upon geography. It's easy to be competitive and feel hate towards those who are nearby. Plenty of Minnesotans have this towards our neighbors to the East. Unfortunately for the Wild, this doesn't help anyone out in the NHL. The Twin Cities is fairly isolated from other metro areas to begin with and the Wild play in a division with teams that are a time zone or two away. In fact, St. Paul is closer to Miami than it is to Vancouver. With the Canucks fanbase also having nationalistic and geographical beef with their Alberta neighbors, it's easy to say that this is not applicable.

Finally, rivalries are based upon is history. Teams can go years without facing each other but if there is history between the two the hatred can be rekindled. The Wild don't really have that either although to be fair it's hard for a ten-year old team to have any sort of history. The closest they would get is with the last team who called the Twin Cities home and that has pretty much died since the two don't play in the same division or have met in a meaningful game.

So it's pretty easy to see Minnesota-Vancouver is not a rivalry as it does not meet any of the three factors. If anything, the "rivalry" was there for a season and Wild fans made it one-way after the Lockout due to having no other option. But thankfully as of Tuesday's game, any talk of a rivalry is dead. And this is coming from a team who had a player punch a Wild fan earlier in the season. Remember that?

Take a look at the above play. A star player dove and pretty much made an ass out of himself. In a rivalry, that's a play which gets analyzed, taken out of context and bashed. Would Washington and Pittsburgh fans let a play like that go if Ovechkin or Crosby dove? How about Montreal and Boston fans? No. It'd be discussion fodder for years. So did anyone bring that play up in their postgame reports? No and no. It wasn't even discussed by the Wild fans on HF Boards. The only time I saw it brought up was at Gone Puck Wild and that portrayed it as a joke more than anything. This play didn't matter in the grand scheme of things and neither does the Vancouver Canucks to the general fanbase. So with no repeated playoff matchups, geography or history, it's safe to say that it's not you Vancouver; Wild fans don't see the Canucks as anything special either.

The Value of Brent Burns



Although the team is in the thick of a playoff race and summer’s free agency seems a lifetime away, I would argue that the #1 priority come July 1st is to lock down Brent Burns to a long-term contract.

Burns seems to like it here, has taken over the #1 defenseman spot, is playing well offensively and defensively, represented the Wild at the All Star game, and has started a family (and zoo) in our state. But as we saw with Mikko Koivu, the Wild aren’t going to get a bargain deal out of their star player.

The best way to guess at Burns’ next contract would be to look at similar defensemen and what they make. I’m going to look at their production in that contract year, the terms of the deal, and also adjust for salary cap hit. This is a crucial element that is often left out of discussions, but the salary cap has increased by well over 50%, so we will need to adjust salaries accordingly.

To do this, I am simply multiplying the yearly cap hit by the projected 2011-12 cap max divided by the cap max in the contract year of the deal. In other words, if a player signed a contract in 2007, the salary cap was $50.3m. The projected 2011-12 salary cap is about $62m. So I multiple the cap hit by (62/50.3) = 1.23. A player signing for $6m in 2007 has an adjusted cap hit of $7.4m if he had signed a contract in 2011.

Let’s look at Burns’ stats. I’m using his age and status at the end of his current contract as well as projecting his current production:

Age: 26 (2012)
Status: UFA (2012)
Goals: 20 (projected)
Points: 49 (projected)
Time on Ice: 24.9 minutes

The cap-conscious among us would point to three recently-signed offensive defensemen as “comparables” from which to base his next contract: Mike Green, Duncan Keith, and recently Dustin Byfuglien. These players aren’t far off in terms of style or importance, but they were all restricted free agents when signing, meaning that they were negotiating with one team, lowering their earnings. Still, we could use them as a “floor”.

Dustin Byfuglien (25) - $5.2m for 5 years, 24g, 60pts, 23.3min TOI
Mike Green (23) - $5.7m for 4 years, 18g, 56pts, 23.6min TOI
Duncan Keith (26) - $5.8m for 13 years, 14g, 69pts, 26.6min TOI

These guys all produced a little more than Burns but have a lot more offensive power on their teams, so I would argue they are all in the same class offensively. They average about $5.6m, but as RFA’s they are making less than they would on the open market. Furthermore, Keith’s contract has several “cheat” years, artificially lowering his cap hit by front-loading the contract.

Now let’s look at some players who DID reach the open market. We should expect them to make quite a bit more money than the RFA’s as they could negotiate with all 30 teams. They could be used as a “ceiling” of sorts.

Lubomir Visnovsky (32) - $6.1m for 5 years, 8g, 41pts, 23.0min TOI
Wade Redden (30) - $7.1m for 6 years, 6g, 38pts, 22.2min TOI
Brian Campbell (29) - $7.8m for 8 years, 8g, 62pts, 25.1min TOI
Zdeno Chara (29) - $10.6m for 5 years, 16g, 43pts, 27.2min TOI

These guys produced a little less than Burns in terms of goals and even points (except for Campbell), but are still roughly in the same class offensively. The average is $7.9m, which is quite a bit higher than the RFA’s obviously.

Finally, let’s look at a few comparable players, who re-signed with their current teams before hitting the free market, but in their unrestricted free agency years:

Tomas Kaberle (28) - $6.0m for 5 years, 9g, 67pts, 28.2min TOI
Dan Boyle (32) - $7.3m for 6 years, 4g, 25pts, 27.2min TOI
Andrei Markov (29) - $7.1m for 4 years, 6g, 49pts, 24.5min TOI

Boyle had a down year but has before and since put up numbers in that offensive class. And as we see, they are right in between the RFA and UFA salaries averaging $6.8m.

So we have a floor of $5.6m, a ceiling of $7.9m, and a comparable average of $6.8m. And I would argue that $6.8m is about what we would pay for a player of Burns’ calibre.

BUT, I don’t think Burns will sign for $6.8m for a few reasons. First, The Captain, Mikko “Franchise” Koivu, signed a long-term deal for $6.75m. I believe that effectively set the upper limit for team salaries, and I don’t think Burns would feel comfortable making as much or more than Mikko.

Second, I believe there are some intangibles in signing here. Frankly, Burns is rooted here with his family and massive animal shelter. He has a comfort level both in terms of his life and the organization. I think that could help the Wild get a slightly lower salary.

Third, I’m guessing Burns will have some sort of no trade or no movement clause in his contract, and management (and ownership) wouldn’t want to trade him anyway. That also helps to lower the cap hit of a player because he trades higher money and uncertainty for less money but security.

My final answer? I believe Burns will sign for roughly $6.5m per year, on about a 6-8 year deal. I think management wants to keep him long-term, I think he wants to stay here long-term, but Wild ownership does not give out “lifetime” contracts with cheat year salaries at the end to artificially lower the cap hit. And I think this would be a very fair deal for both sides, with the added benefit that I could finally replace my Gaborik jersey with a new Brent Burns jersey!

Restocking The Cupboard: Tyler Johnson

Since Chuck Fletcher took the helm roughly 18 months ago, he made it a point of emphasis that the proverbial cupboard- the organizational prospect pool should always be bountiful; prospects are assets after all. But unlike the previous regime, Fletcher and Co. are willing to aggressively pursue free agents in the NCAA, CHL, and European leagues. So that being said, those markets should be getting active soon, so with that in mind, let's take a look at a possible free agent target.



Tyler Johnson
Center, Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
5'9", 175 lbs.



Johnson went undrafted, but has been to three Developmental Camps; one with Phoenix, and the last two have been with your Minnesota Wild, and has played in the Prospect Tournament in Traverse City wearing the Wild Sweater. Johnson is a fantastic skater; speedy and agile, and displays a very good two-way game; while he's leading the WHL in scoring (43 goals and 92 points in 55 games) he is a tenacious defensive player who was on the checking line when he won the WHL Championship Finals MVP.



Because his size, the perceived knock and glaring con about his game, Johnson has had to prove his worth at every level, against bigger competition, and has succeeded in doing so. He is fearless going into corners, and is determined to win foot races and puck battles. There's always been an offensive component, but he's exploded in his overage season (take the stats with a grain of salt, since he's in his fourth year of WHL play.) In a recent survey, Johnson was voted (deep breath): Best Overage Player, Best Defensive Forward, Best Skater, and Top Face Off Man- he finished 2nd in Most Valuable to His Team, and 3rd in Most Accurate Shot. Impressive stuff indeed.

Considering the tie that binds the Wild to Tyler Johnson; the invites to Development Camp and the Prospect Tourneys, I think there's a very strong chance that Minnesota makes a run at him when his season is over. Size aside, the kid has everything you want in a player.


Photos courtesy of Spokesman-Review and Wild.Com

Monday Roundtable: Marek Zidlicky or Guillaume Latendresse

The Sunday Monday Roundtable is a weekly feature where every Sunday a group of Wild fans discuss what's going on with the Minnesota Wild and other hockey-related issues. Today's question is "If they could only have one player return, would the Wild be better off getting back Marek Zidlicky or Gui Latendresse?"

Tony:

No brainer for me, and that is to get Latendresse back. While Zid's minutes are missed during EV and PP time, our defensive core has done phenominally well considering it is made up of 1 guy can only be utilized for shot blocking essentially (Zanon), three prospects (Stoner, Scandella, and Spurgeon), and then 2 players who are Top 4 dmen. Meanwhile, we still struggle on the offensive side and we sorely miss having another threat on the wings to keep opposing teams guessing what to do with lines in order to combat it. Having Lats back essentially gives us a better opportunity at scoring chances since you can then mix up 3 lines of players who we've already seen can compliment one another extremely well. This allows Richards the ability to move Mittens/Bruno up and down the lines as he sees fit along with having Lats play with puck handlers like Bouchard and Havlat as well. Basically in short, while I would love to have the minutes ate up on the blue line, the gains far outweigh if Lats came back and was able to produce as he did last year.


Bozak:

I'm going to have to go with Zidlicky. I'm doubting that Zidlicky will need a rehab stint and can make an impact right away. It will also allow Barker to be put in the press box or best case, traded.

While we need scoring and can use Lats back, Zidlicky really does give our ability to break the puck out of the zone better.

Jarick:

Without a doubt it's Latendresse. Don't get me wrong, I like Zidlicky, what he brings to the table offensively, and his shot on the PP, but Lats is a big body with soft hands who can score up front, and this team could use all the offense it can get.

Right now, the defense is pretty solid. Sure, you'd like an upgrade at Barker's spot, but the three pairings, Burns-Schultz, Stoner-Zanon, Spurgeon-Barker all have a puck mover who can do the job. And I've been happy with what I've seen from Spurgeon and Stoner.

But up front, who couldn't use a 25-30 goal scorer? Clutterbuck is a great energy guy, but he doesn't have the hands and finishing touch of Latendresse. Bringing Lats back into the fold would give the Wild three honest scoring lines and take a little heat of the Koivu line.


The Speckled Kiwi:
Latendresse. Defense is holding up pretty good and we got some puck movers but we need another goal scorer and another body up front for the playoffs. Our depth is weak on the top 6 and if we get hit by an injury, Lats can help fill in that problem.

Zidlicky is okay but we got guys that can move the puck and we got more depth in the minors for defensemen then forward.

Cole:

It's a tough question to answer at the moment just because so many different, unknown variables come into play with a question like this. What Marek Zidlicky and Gui Latendresse would the Wild really be getting back? The Zidlicky who's been playing fairly exceptional two-way defensive hockey for well over a season? Or one who's physical play and vital shot from the point may be hampered by a wonky shoulder injury that may not be completely healed? What about Latendresse? Would we get the player who gave Wild fans hope that we may have a budding scorer on our hands? Or will we see him come back still out of shape and not ready to take a top 6 shift as a result; even disregarding his surgeries?

It's hard to say for certain who I'd like to see given the uncertainty surrounding each player. Even then, given how well the team is currently playing, you've got to figure out the most seamless transition for slotting players into the line-up (as well as the effects each would create up and down the line-up).

Knowing what we know to date about each of the players in addition to watching what we have with this team, I'm taking Marek Zidlicky. I think he's the player that represents the most realistic option of bringing the most to the table. Given the time Gui has missed and the way he originally showed up to camp, I don't think he'd be in proper game shape. I also believe the Wild can sustain their goal scoring depth well enough without him. On the back end, well, I think there are some players playing a bit over their head at the moment. And as it stands, the depth isn't the caliber as I see from the forwards. With Zidlicky, the team would also be getting the shot from the power play that the team has been missing in his absence. As much as I admire Jared Spurgeon's play to this point, Zidlicky is rather large upgrade on the power play.


Nick:

Since we have all been surprised by the play of Jared Spurgeon, I'd say that the Wild be better off getting Latendresse back because we can always use more scoring. Latendresse knows how to score, and you can always use more goal-scoring. If our defenseman were struggling, I'd say Zidlicky, but Latendresse has a natural knack for scoring goals. That's something that's much harder to replace.

Nate:

Although it has worked in the short-term, I feel that the Wild would be better off getting back Marek Zidlicky in the long-term. It's a lot to ask our blue line (made up of two rookies) and goaltending to continue to be overstreched and overachieve. Getting Zidlicky back alleviates that problem and puts a few defensemen back into a more comfortable position. Adding Latendresse, the team's leading goalscorer last year, is just icing on the cake as there are other options to score with or without him.

Turning Points

Let's be presumptuous for a moment. Yeah, I know, I shouldn't say anything; it's a jinx; blah, blah, blah; but let's just say, for argument's sake, that the Wild make the playoffs this year. Let's even say, as long as we're in this hypothetical mindset, that they make a surprise playoff run. I'd say that after a season that started off with so much negativity, a season where Guillaume "Baby Jesus" Latendresse was a non-factor for most of the campaign, a season which, just a few months ago, I said would be doomed if we kept Coach Richards around (oops!)––if we made the playoffs that year, I think the logical question would be, "wait, what the hell happened?" Put a bit more eloquently, I think that if the Wild can maintain this level of play, the pressing question down the road will be, "What was the turning point? What changed?"

For once, I think the answer is actually pretty simple. The turning point happened on January 2, 2011, at precisely this moment:



Thoughts from the stands were pretty typical:

"Wild give up a late lead, as we've come to expect." "Ugh, another home loss. What happened to this place?" "Here comes the empty net. Nice job, Richards, just give them the 'bonus goal' again."

This was followed by something we Wild fans hadn't really felt since "The Comeback" in January 2010. I won't try and put it in quotes, but it was something to the tune of "Woah, what's Bouchard doing?" followed by jumping up, screaming, and generally making mayhem. And they said the Xcel Center had turned into a library. Capping it off with an OT winner (from, of all people, Cam Barker) was crucial.

One come-from-behind win isn't enough to turn around a season, no. (Just look at the aforementioned Blackhawks at Wild game from last season for proof.) But in this case it meant a bit more. Certainly it preceded a bit of a shift in fan attitudes, but I'm also willing to postulate that it had a little something to do with the players' mentalities, too. The Wild have been the best team in the Western Conference since that thriller of a game. I think it may have shown to the players that all of the old platitudes the coach tries to get them to believe might just actually have something to do with this team:

"We may be down late, but we're still in this thing. If we control the puck and get the sixth skater out there, we can send this thing to OT." Not only have the Wild given up just one 'bonus goal' since that fateful night, but they've also managed to tie the game with the extra skater––and win the game in OT––a second time this year. This is a drastic turnaround, as pulling the goalie situationally was one of Richards' biggest weaknesses in his first season-and-a-half behind the bench. If you'll permit some tackiness, this seems in some ways symbolic of the season as a whole. Rising and falling between 7th and 11th in a matter of days can be hugely frustrating, but the team no longer seems to be letting it weigh them down.

"We have to go out and play hard and hold on to this lead." Not only have the Wild held more leads than we've been accustomed to, but the "death period" seems to have evaporated, as the Wild's struggles in the middle stanza seem, frankly, a thing of the distant past. Even in the later parts of games, the team has rarely seemed complacent with the lead, a marked improvement over the early season.

"We can win in the shootout."  Okay, this one still sort of baffles me.

"This injury's not going to end our season." Losing Zidlicky, our top blueliner from the '09-'10 campaign, should have hurt us, big-time. Losing Scandella, his intelligent, puck-handling "replacement," could easily have been the last nail in the coffin. But the way the Wild have been playing, you'd be hard-pressed to call them injury-plagued. Plenty of Wild fans, myself included, were, frankly, terrified about Clayton Stoner, lil' Jared Spurgeon, and Certifiable First Round Bust Cam Barker carrying so much of the defensive load. Somehow, it seems to have fallen into place, though. (Now imagine the team playing at this level, but with Latendresse, Zidlicky, and Scandella all healthy... I might need a change of pants.)

I don't know exactly what changed in the locker room or on the ice to create the atmosphere conducive to these attitudinal shifts. Maybe it was the return of Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Maybe his skill and chemistry with Marty Havlat, whose effort level has seemed off-the-charts lately, lit up the whole team. Maybe it's been Backs's phenomenal play. Maybe it's that military motivational speaker Richards seems to keep bringing in, or maybe Cal's been playing pranks in the locker room again or something. I don't know. But between everything, it seems like all the positivity came back when Butch's clutch goal proved all those sports-isms true. The players look like they're having fun; their gameplan clicks; even the fans seem noticeably more into the game than usual. And all of this is happening with consistency, for the first time in Todd Richards' NHL tenure. Once the team proved they could really do this thing, the magic came back.

What I Read This Week (2/14)


Watched Fight Club last night. After this past week of hockey, who hasn't been...

The beginning of a new week. And some other holiday. Apologies for the recent lack of posts, but hopefully the Wild's winning ways have kept your hopes up. As always, you can write a guest blog, follow First Round Bust on Twitter and I hope everyone had a great weekend. Enjoy!


Minnesota Wild:

-I have to be honest. Don't really see this outdoor practice going down given the weather this week. It's going the way of my skates, stick and a half-dozen bruises. Until next year outdoor pickup hockey. RIP. (USA Today)

-Ms. Conduct's first trip to the X. Oh and the Aeros played there yesterday. (The Third Intermission)

-Andrew Brunette gets given a silver stick for appearing in 1000 games. Oh and some other nonsense about the playoffs. (Pioneer Press)

-...we are, yeah I said it we are. In all honesty, this is one of the more amusing blog posts about the Wild I've read for a multitude of reasons. (CBS)


Prospects:

-Jason Zucker is the fourth-best western college hockey prospect (Western College Hockey)

-And in case that didn't get your hopes up on Zucker or you are new to the blog, he's also a hit. (Pioneer Press)

-Two Wild prospects. One hot, one not. Guess who is who. (Star Tribune)

-Dan touched on it yesterday, but RIP Tyler Cuma's left knee. (Star Tribune)

-Mikael Granlund scoring two goals in the Finnish Winter Classic.



General Hockey:

-Future Winter Classic jersey. Or so I'd like to think. (Third String Goalie)

-Hockey in Minnesota by Darby Hendrickson. (Pioneer Press)

-Pens-Isles Fight Night: A Pens fan's take. (Hitting The Post)

-Pens-Isles Fight Night Counterpoint: Mario Lemieux blasts league. (Hockey Wilderness)

-Matt Cooke counter-counter-point (or) he's an asshole. (Gone Puck Wild)

-My buddy John (one of the best hockey and fantasy minds I know) gives his Ten Thoughts on the NHL. (Hockey Now)

-And something which happened while compiling this list, Peter Forsberg retires for the fourth or fifth time. (Pro Hockey Talk)


College and HS:

-Mariucci is the most somber college arena? Somewhere the AIC fan feels robbed. (WSJ)

-Not sure which is more surprising. Minnesota thumping Denver 7-3 on Hockey Day Minnesota or the fact that it's on a San Antonio website. (mysanantonio.com)

-Novacaine for the Soul. Can't say no to an Eels reference. (Runnin' With The Dogs)

-Today's the finals of a tournament which only matters if you are inside Route 128. Or are ESPN.

-INCH Power Rankings

-Let's Play Hockey HS Rankings

Tidbits: Your Houston Aeros Edition



I'll let you guys in on a little secret.

At the genesis of First Round Bust, there were a few pithy and clever names bandied about- "Risebrough's Folly" being one- but the consensus was that the current title was appropriate, considering the dubious stretch of 2004-2006 where the 1st round pick, arguably the crown jewel of the Tommy Thompson-run Drafts, well, went *pop*. It's kind of a running joke, a sweeping generalization really, but a tragic comedy of sorts; the fact that our first pick in those drafts, really the only prospects who would be given a fighting chance to be NHLers, just plain didn't work out whether it be one reason or another while the other picks (usually 3-4 more because Doug Risebrough tended to trade them away on whims) were made more out of duty than anything else.
While the jury is still out on Colton Gillies (more on that later, even though he can be seen in the banner,) we drafted Tyler Cuma in 2008. Cuma was highly thought of- at one point I saw a scout remarked that his NHL team had him in their top 10- and we traded up to grab him. At the time we were looking at a kid, who was very mobile, played with sandpaper, and while there was some talk of untouched offensive upside, Cuma liked to shut the opposition down. I even remember a time where the fanbase had illusions and delusions that the kid would be able to step into the lineup at 19, considering the poise he had.
I watched Tyler Cuma get stretchered off the ice today at The X during the Houston/Peoria tilt. I cannot help but feel terrible for the kid, who has done nothing but battle injuries since the second he stepped up on the stage at the 2008 Draft with the previous regime. Cuma has suffered a litany of maladies, which have hampered his development, and caused an unfortunate slide down the depth chart- there is a tragic element when a guy with so much promise is passed up by players with lower ceilings. I'm sure he's feeling terrible, another "why me" moment; as we are too, as fans, and as human beings.
So then there is Me, Nate, and the boys. The group of guys who use the term First Round Bust as a snarky soapbox, a way of using a professional failure of a young man as a clever way to express our uninformed insight, misguided snark, and pithy nonsense. This is different though, a possible outcome that isn't worth jest; a First Round Bust of the wrong kind.

- I don't know what the hell it was, maybe Ms. Conduct knows if its the regular Aeros goal song, but after Cody Almond scored today, the X played the most ridiculous techno version of "Seven Nation Army". It made me laugh it was so ridiculous.
- There wasn't any way that today's game was an indicator of the AHL level, or of the Houston Aeros, but it was an ugly game today. Not a lot of good things happening on the ice. In fact the most emotion I felt all afternoon was when I kicked over my full beer in the second period.
- Chad Rau needs to work on his stride.
- Just me, but I like Carson MacMillan as a pro better than Colton Gillies, despite Gillies tossing pucks into the crowd during warm ups. MacMillan reminds me of Eric Nystrom. In a good way folks, not the snake bitten one goal-on-an-empty-net way. I do like Gillies speed, but I was wondering what he's thinking when he gets the puck.
- Max Noreau has an absolute cannon from the point. There has to be some sort of extenuating circumstance because when Marek Zidlicky went out- arguably our PP triggerman- Noreau didn't get a sniff. I hope his 7 minutes of NHL time didn't entirely remove him from the picture because he can do some nice things.
- The Aeros PP ran through Patrick O'Sullivan, for better or for worse. For better in that you put the puck on arguably the most talented offensive player's stick, for worse in that there were too many times where the other four Aeros stood (literally STOOD) in the offensive zone waiting for O'Sullivan to do something with the biscuit.
- Man...what the hell happened to Justin Falk?
- Finally...regardless of the quality of the game, it is nice for a Wild fan like myself and others to be able to see the Aeros from the comfort of our home arena. Thanks to all involved to made it happen.