The Trade Winds, They Are A Blowin’

Well, the first move of the trade season has been made.  According to TSN:

The Calgary Flames have traded defenceman Dion Phaneuf, forwardFredrik Sjostrom, and prospect defenceman Keith Aulie to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for forwards Matt StajanNiklas Hagman,Jamal Mayers and defenceman Ian White.

Personally, I don’t like this trade.  The Leafs have gotten a greatly overrated defenseman in exchange for two of their better offensive talents — something that the team is greatly lacking at the moment.

This trade could end up being one of a player who just needed a change of scenery, but right now I’d have to give the edge to Calgary on this one, as they unloaded Phaneuf’s monster salary and they also picked up two players who can contribute on the offensive side of the puck in Stajan and Hagman.

Here’s what Brian Burke had to say:

Columbus Sends Chimera to Washington

As the scuttlebutt has been all day, the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets finally made a trade.

Some anticipated that it might involve Karl Alzner and Nikita Filatov (to those of you who are sitting at your computer screens snickering…I had the same reaction) while others didn’t speculate and just reported what they knew.

In the end, it ended up being a little less dramatic, but still a good trade for both sides.

Washington Gets:
LW – Jason Chimera

Columbus Gets:
RW – Chris Clark
D – Milan Jurcina

Let’s be honest. Anytime a team trades it’s captain (Clark), it’s going to be scrutinized to the nth degree.

But let’s look at this for a second. The Caps just signed Alexander Semin to a one-year, $6 million extension. Clark is scheduled to make $2.5 million next season, with a $2.633 cap hit, while Chimera is scheduled to make $1.875 million both in reality and against the cap.

It’s not much, but every little bit counts.

Not only that, but this paves the way for Alex Ovechkin to take over the role that he has been groomed for as the team’s captain.

Meanwhile, for Columbus, it gives them two things.

One, a natural born leader in Chris Clark. There is no doubt that the Blue Jackets lack in the leadership department right now and Clark will provide just that.

Second, it gives them a much needed defenseman with both Marc Methot and Rostislav Klesla on the shelf.

It’s very rare in the cap-era of the NHL that you see a win-win trade for both sides, but this truly is one. The Caps are in first place and, though Clark was playing decent hockey for them, Chimera gives them the same qualities—just cheaper.

UPDATED: Wild Equipment Bus Catches Fire

We at Wild Nation all knew that the Wild were on fire.  Just not how much. 

According to the sketchy reports thus far, somewhere between their practice at the Kanata Rec Center and the short drive back to Scotiabank Place, their equipment simply caught fire. 

Firefighters were called to put out the blaze, but much of the team’s equipment (including all of goalie Niklas Backstrom’s gear) was destroyed. 

Obviously, the team is in complete scramble mode trying to find new equipment and trying to find out what happened. 

According to Wild.com, Equipment Manager Brent Proulx (who travels with the team on the road) will be boarding a plane back to the Twin Cities tonight where he will gather replacement equipment along with Assistant Equipment Manager Matt Benz and Chris Pietrzak-Wagner and will board a plane bound for Ottawa at 5:30 AM tomorrow morning. 

New is still sketchy, but a couple enterprising tweeters took pictures with their cell phones. 

As you can see from the link, more than a little of the equipment was destroyed.  There’s no question that this will likely greatly affect the team, but they have been in contact with the league as to what exactly will happen. 

No word on the league’s response has come as of yet. 

No one was injured in the fire.

UPDATE: According to Mike Russo, the Wild will be having a team meeting at 6 PM EST.  Russo reports that there is a lot of concern amongst the players about playing in new equipment and that it’s not just a “feel” thing.  Players are concerned about safety as well.  Braces and other safety equipment were destroyed in the fire.  As Russo said, “How do you just throw a new knee brace on a player without making sure it fits properly?”

UPDATE #2: Russo has just spoken with Andrew Brunette following the team’s meeting.  Brunette’s response?  “Looks like we’re going to try to play, I guess.”  This certainly isn’t shaping up nicely for the Wild tomorrow night.  Either way, how the Wild responds to this adversity could very well define their team and their season.

More as it comes.

Madsen Out

Wild’s 2007 fourth round draft pick Morten Madsen has called it quits and headed for Sweden for the remainder of the final year of his 3 year entry level contract with the Wild.

My colleague, Andrew Ferraro, over at The Third Intermission provided some analysis this morning.

Madsen had been a scratch in most, if not all, of regular season play thus far, so I suppose my spidey-sense should have tingled that something was up. As Andrew alluded, it’s not entirely a surprise.

He was pretty slick in the shootout though, so that part of his game will certainly be missed, as I suspect this Aeros team is going to be participating in their fair share of them this year.

Wild Signs Defenseman to Entry Level Contract

Per Mike Russo, 

The Wild also just announced it’s signed defenseman Bjorn Krupp to an entry-level deal. Krupp, 18, in on a tryout, will play this season for OHL Belleville.

As Russo mentioned, Krupp was here on a tryout and, quite honestly, I haven’t seen him play at all but, in the interest of fairness…Here are his stats according to the wonderful Internet Hockey Database.

I honestly don’t really have an opinion on this signing.  It seems like it’s just a youngster being given a chance with the organization and, honestly, could turn out to be a low-risk, high-reward venture. 

More than likely, Fletcher just saw something in the youngster that he liked.

Wild Sign Sykora

So the worst kept secret in the NHL (or at least one of them this pre-season) has come to pass.

The Wild signed right wing Petr Sykora to a one-year, $1.6M contract today effectively ending his tryout the day after it began.

Sykora takes the ice for the first time for the Wild in practice.

Sykora takes the ice for the first time for the Wild in practice.

“I’m shocked,” Sykora sarcastically told reporters.  “I guess my practice yesterday made them sign me.”

All joking aside, this is a fantastic move for the Wild and one that gives them a legitimate second-line scoring threat.  No offense to Cal Clutterbuck or Antti Miettinen, but Sykora has proven season after season (10-straight, in fact) that he is a capable 20 goal scorer.  You’ve got to expect that Sykora will play on the second line centered by playmaker extraordinaire, Pierre-Marc Bouchard.

Sykora’s signing brings up a couple questions now, though.

First, where do the fringe players fit in?

The Wild had a few players that they were giving nice, long looks to in camp to try to win their way on the squad and Sykora has now effectively taken one of the few spots available.  This means that the jobs of Andy Hilbert (who was at camp on a tryout), Colton Gillies, Danny Irmen and Petr Kalus just got a lot more difficult.

Essentially, the signing leaves the team with approximately $800k remaining in cap room and GM Cliff Fletcher wanting to leave more room than that for call ups due to injuries.  What this adds up to is either a) players who otherwise might have made the squad now won’t or b) there’s going to be some trading going on in the weeks leading up to the season.

If the case is option B, who are the most likely casualties?

Immediately, you’d have to look to Eric Belanger.  The Wild now have the luxury of having too many centers (what a difference a year makes) and, ultimately, Belanger doesn’t really seem like he fits into the current team’s plans.  While Belanger is no stranger to these rumors, he has fit in quite well on the Wild and I, for one, would be sad to see him go.  He’s a solid checking line center that works hard each and every night and takes extreme pride in what he does.

Finally, who moves off the second line?

Initially, in practice this season, the team’s second line has been Miettinen, Clutterbuck and Bouchard.  Bouchard is set at center from the looks of things, so that leaves it between the two wings — Miettinen and Clutterbuck. 

Personally, I think that Miettinen makes more sense to have on the second line.  I think that Clutterbuck could benefit greatly from being Owen Nolan’s linemate for a season and Miettinen has a little bit more refined of an offensive game than Clutterbuck does at this point in his career.

It’s obviously a conundrum for coach Todd Richards to sort out but, quite honestly, it’s one that the Wild should be happy to have.

That’s it for today, but tomorrow is game two of the pre-season, so keep your eyes peeled for another gameday thread!

Wild Re-Sign Harding

Per Mark Wolleman of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

Goaltender Josh Harding and the Wild have agreed to terms on a one-year contract, eliminating the need for today’s arbitration hearing in Toronto.Harding, 25, appeared in 19 games with the Wild last season and was 3-9-1 with a 2.21 GAA and .929 saves percentage. Harding has appeared in 58 NHL games making 43 starts for Minnesota in parts of four seasons. Russo reports the contract will pay Harding $1.1 million next season.

The bottom line is that the Wild could to a lot worse than having Harding as their back up.  This is a great deal for Minnesota, as it buys them time to shop Harding who, honestly, should be a number one goaltender somewhere in the league.  It also affords the Wild the ability to ease Niklas Backstrom into the season after his off-season surgery — essentially, to make sure that he is good to go for certain.

What this deal also does is gives Harding’s deal flexibility enough to have him moved.  A long-term deal on a player assumed to be good enough for a starting role would be much more difficult to move than a one-year deal and my guess is that Fletcher is quite aware of that.  Flexibility is the buzzword of the year for all NHL teams and taking on a one-year contract is a lot more do-able for teams than, say, a three-year deal.

The bottom line is that this is a good deal for the Wild regardless of whether or not they opt to trade Harding this season.

Wild Sign Brodziak

The Wild have avoided arbitration with recently acquired forward Kyle Brodziak by signing the youngster to a three-year deal worth $3.45M.

Brodziak, 25, was acquired by the Wild from the Edmonton Oilers at this year’s NHL Entry Draft.  In 175 games, all with the Oilers, Brodziak has posted 26 goals and 59 points, as well as a -6 rating.  He was acquired to give the team depth at the center position, as well as because of his ties to new coach Todd Richards, who Brodziak posted a 24 goal, 56 point season for in the AHL in ’06-’07.

The signing of Brodziak leaves Josh Harding as the only remaining Restricted Free Agent for the Wild to sign.  His arbitration hearing is scheduled for July 29.

Wild Schedule Released

For a complete version, click here.

The NHL has released the schedules for the upcoming season today.  Here are some of the highlights for the Wild. 

  • The Wild’s season opener will be on October 3, against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
  • Their home opener will be against one of Chuck Fletcher’s former teams, the Anaheim Ducks, on October 6.
  • The team starts the year with a very road-heavy schedule, playing nine of their first fourteen games on the road.
  • The Wild play fifteen sets of back-to-back games.  In other words, 37% of their games are back-to-back sets.
  • Marian Gaborik returns to Minnesota on October 30, while Jacques Lemaire returns on January 2.
  • The team will play home-and-home series against Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Carolina.
  • Three of the team’s last five games are on the road against Division Rivals.
  • Todd Richards will return to San Jose on October 10, Martin Havlat will return to Chicago on October 26 and Chuck Fletcher will return to Pittsburgh on October 31.
  • Training camp will open on September 13 and pre-season games will be announced at a later date.

Report: Havlat and Wild Close – UPDATED

UPDATE – It’s official.  Havlat to the Wild for 6 years, $30M total.  Also sounds like Chicago didn’t do themselves any favors bringing in Hossa.  Havlat’s tweets don’t sound happy towards Chicago’s management.

Per Mike Russo,

The Martin Havlat race is down to one team — the Minnesota Wild.  The Wild and Havlat’s agent have reportedly been working on the contract for hours now and it sounds like the contract, as it stands, is 6 years for $30M total.  If this is true, this is one heck of a negotiating job by Chuck Fletcher, because the Wild will have addressed two of their four needs, while spending under $7M.  In other words, leaving plenty of room to sign a second-line center AND another defenseman before the season starts.

While there are issues regarding Havlat’s durability, he played in 81 games last season and was an absolute revelation in the playoffs — at least until he ran into the shoulder of Niklas Kronwall.

I’m extremely excited about this, as I’ve always like Havlat and I hope that he finally has turned the corner in his injury issues and is ready to play in the State of Hockey!

Also, Russo reports that the Wild are pushing hard for Saku Koivu — No big surprise here, and I would expect the brothers to be playing together next season.

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