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!

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