Posts Tagged ‘Martin Havlat’
Earlier today, Mike Russo of the Star-Tribune posted what will be the Wild’s depth chart if it starts the season with the way the roster is now:
Kim Johnsson-Brent Burns
Nick Schultz-Marek Zidlicky
Greg Zanon-Shane Hnidy
John Scott-Jaime Sifers
Tyler Cuma-Justin Falk
Clayton Stoner-Jamie Fraser
Marco Scandella-Maxim Noreau
Andrew Brunette-Mikko Koivu-Martin Havlat
Owen Nolan-James Sheppard-Pierre-Marc Bouchard (RW until training camp)
Antti Miettinen-Eric Belanger-Cal Clutterbuck
Colton Gillies-Kyle Brodziak-Derek Boogaard
Petr Kalus-Benoit Pouliot-Craig Weller
Robbie Earl-Morten Madsen-Danny Irmen
Matt Kassian-Cody Almond-Carson McMillan
First of all, if you haven’t checked out Mike Russo’s blog and you’re a Wild fan, shame on you. It’s one of the best resources for all things Wild out there. Click here to go there. Bookmark it, scour it daily and above all thank him for his amazing coverage of the Wild!
Anyway, off my soapbox for the moment.
Looking at this depth chart, the thing that immediately jumps out at me is not the center position. A lot has been made of our depth (or lack thereof) down the middle. In looking at the team, however, we’ve got five potential pivots on our roster, and that’s not including Colton Gillies, Owen Nolan or Benoit Pouliot. Throw those two into the mix and we could have as many as eight players on the opening day that could be capable of anchoring a line in the middle.
The thing that really jumps out at me is our lack of depth at left wing. After Nolan, Andrew Brunette and Antti Miettinen, the talent level really drops off. This isn’t a knock on Gillies; however, we have a serious lack of skill and depth on the left side and, honestly, on the wing in general.
To no one’s surprise, I’m sure, is our talent on defense and in nets. Our top-six defensemen could be the best top-six that the team has had. The additions of Zanon and Hnidy give the team two reliable, physical anchors on the blueline and will force opposing teams to keep their heads up. Meanwhile, expect Scott and Sifers to compete for the seventh spot in camp, most likely with Scott winning the battle. That’s not to say, however, that our youth could not come in and surprise. With Cuma, Falk, Stoner and Scandella in the wings, there is a good chance that Scott and Sifers may not be foregone conclusions at the 7 and 8 slot. It will take a lot for any of these four to make the squad, however. Of the four, Stoner probably has the best shot as this could be his make it or break it year, but make no mistake — the Wild’s top 7 are pretty much set.
Olvecky Signs in Nashville
Joel Ward, Ryan Jones and now Olvecky? Those Tennessee boys sure do like Wild prospects.
In all honesty, I think that Olvecky has a fantastic chance to make the Nashville squad next season right out of camp. Olvecky is a big body with a lot of untapped talent to boot, and he performed admirably for the Wild in a limited role with the team in the handful of games he played for us last season.
He really started to come into his own last season and seems like he could be the type of player that Barry Trotz will really love. For $600K and a two-way contract, I’d take Olvecky any day of the week. A good depth pick up by the Preds.
Qualifying Offers Signed
The Wild had a few players of their own signed as well.
Restricted free agents Benoit Pouliot, Clayton Stoner, Danny Irmen and Robbie Earl all signed their qualifying offers and it seems as if the lot of them (with the exception of Pouliot) could see another year playing in the minors. Earl and Irmen both have too many players in front of them to have a shot at making the squad (that is, barring a spectacular camp from either) and Stoner will have to do some serious damage in camp to work his way up the depth chart.
Injuries do happen, though, and we could very easily see one of them get a cup of coffee in the NHL and do what Cal Clutterbuck did last season and not let go.
In addition, Russo reports that the Wild could be close to signing Duncan Milroy and Joe DiSalvatore to plug some holes in their minor league system.
Fletcher Working Trade Market
There are a lot of people who are getting scared by the Wild’s seeming lack of movement this off season.
Those fans are the Chicken Littles of the fanbase.
While there are some quality players out there, there really aren’t any players that would meet any immediate needs for us. I mentioned Mats Sundin, Robert Lang and Mike Comrie previously, but Sundin likely doesn’t have much more tread on his tires, Lang is rumored (or already has) to jump ship to the KHL and Comrie, well, let’s just say I don’t want to sign a player for his girlfriend. In addition to those players, there are players such as Alex Tanguay and Petr Sykora left over. Undoubtedly, these players could make an impact on the Wild roster, but would they really fit?
In the case of Tanguay, he’s a tremendous talent, but he’s also been pigeonholed as a playmaker — of which, the Wild have many. Sykora would be a cheap, effective sniper, but do the Wild want to sink the money it would take to get him on an aging player?
Bottom line is that the best route for the team to improve, at this point, is the route that Fletcher is taking — trades.
There are many top flight forwards that have been presumed available via trade. Phil Kessel of the Boston Bruins, Dany Heatley of the Ottawa Senators, Jonathan Cheechoo of the San Jose Sharks, even Chicago’s Patrick Sharp, Dustin Byfuglien and Patrick Kane have always been rumored to be available.
To be honest, the names remaining in free agency don’t even hold a candle to a lot of these names. I’d much rather have a Kessel, Heatley, Sharp or Kane over any of those available — regardless of the assets we have to give up for them.
The bottom line is that the Wild are far from done, in my opinion. But Fletcher has said all along that he’s not afraid to go late into the summer with a less than full roster to give himself the flexibility that he needs to get the players it takes to make this a winning team.
Fear not Chicken Little. The sky is not falling. With a little patience, we could have a playoff team yet.
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.
By all accounts, the Wild may very well be done in free agency after missing out on coveted free agent center, Saku Koivu.
Koivu’s spurning of the Wild screamed with a “big brother looking out for little brother” vibe and, honestly, it’s very hard to begrudge the elder Koivu brother for his reasoning. But, missing out on the elder Koivu has left us with a very gaping hole in the middle of our line up that the Wild may now be filling from within. Wild General Manager, Chuck Fletcher, has repeatedly stated that he would look within the organization to fill the second line center spot if Koivu was not landed, and he likely will. You can hardly blame him for doing so either, as the remainder of the free agent crop down the middle is fairly thin.
First, you’ve got the NHL’s answer to Brett Favre in Mats Sundin. Yes, he showed up looking more like Kyle Wellwood than his former self when he played with Vancouver, but once he got his legs under him, he was very silently effective. The problem is, that I think he’s still on the phone with Domino’s trying to figure out what toppings he wants on his pizza for dinner last week. Sundin’s best days are easily behind him and there’s no reason for the Wild to be barking up this tree. Next, you’ve got the ageless Robert Lang who was quietly having a solid season for Montreal last season when his achilles tendon got sliced up by a skate blade. Again, there’s no reason to take a waiver on a player who is coming off of an injury that could easily be a career altering injury for a player in his early 20’s, let alone late 30’s. Following Lang is the enigmatic Mike Duff…I mean, Comrie. Don’t get me wrong. I would love to have Hillary Duff present for 41 Wild home games a year…But it’s just not going to happen. No way, no how. Fletch has already stated that Comrie wasn’t an option and, honestly, I don’t see the benefit of paying a guy upwards of $3M per year just because he’s got some nice arm candy coming along with him.
That leaves the Wild fairly scant for options on their second line. Barring a trade, the Wild look more and more like they’re going to be content to go with the cards that they’ve been dealt. That means one of the following for their second line center.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard – Bouchard will likely get another look at the pivot in Richards’ system. It likely won’t be nearly as physically demanding as Lemaire’s center position was, so it could be a good fit for Butch. The problem I have with this is that I very much enjoyed seeing Butch setting up on the sideboards as opposed to down low. As a center, he would have to play down low much more and, despite having some of the best puck control in the game, I don’t think he’s got the physicality in his game to do so.
James Sheppard – Oh how I would love for this to actually be a working solution. Of all our first round prospects, Sheppard has flashed the most potential. Every once in a while, he would forget himself over the last couple seasons and attempt something absolutely brilliant with the puck. Then, right in the middle of it, he would come to his senses and not finish the move. Yes…That is a very great deal of snark coming from my direction, but it is well deserved. Sheppard has the most untapped potential of any player on the Wild’s roster. You can see that he’s got the talent — he’s just been afraid to use it. This season could easily be a break out season for Shep and, if that happens, he’ll be squarely in the middle of the second line for us.
Owen Nolan – This one may be thinking outside of the box just a little, but Nolan was one of our most reliable in the face off circle last season. Not only that…But, come on…He’s Owen Nolan for crying out loud! If he wants to play center, he’ll play center. All kidding aside, Nolan brings a lot of things to the ice that other people, quite simply, don’t. Apart from the amazing amount of talent that he has, his intangibles are absolutely invaluable. The Wild could certainly do a lot worse than having him anchoring our second line. Besides…I hear that every night before he goes to bed, the boogyman checks his closet for Owen Nolan.
Kyle Brodziak – This could be a bit of a stretch, but if Brodziak has the upside that Fletcher and Richards seem to think he does, he could turn into a plesant surprise. Fletcher said in acquiring him that he had an offensive upside, so if he gets with the right people, he could really flourish.
Benoit Pouliot – Good old Benny Poo. To be honest, I was surprised that the Wild qualified him — but, I suppose he might warrent a chance in a system that allows him to use all of his offensive creativity. If the Wild signs him to anymore than a 1-year deal, I’ll be very surprised, as it is most definitely put up or shut up time for Pouliot this season. A solid performance could see him move steadily up the depth chart, while more invisible performances could see him sink slowly into obscurity
Okay. Let’s get one thing out here, right off the bat. I’m glad that Marian Gaborik has taken his services to the Rangers. I am very much looking forward to not seeing him in Iron Range Red again. There was no doubt that the team was better with him on the ice than off — but the biggest problem remained that he was rarely on the ice over the past few seasons and, when he was, it was a crapshoot as to whether we’d get the 5-goal game Marian Gaborik or, as some Wild faithful have taken to calling him, Gho$t.
So the current drama of Gaborik (yes, we still are entrenched in drama surrounding him even though he’s gone) is that the Wild never offered him a contract. Really? Fans are really upset that Gaborik’s paper towel groin is heading to some of the worst ice in the NHL for 41 games a season? The bottom line is this: the Wild had holes to fill and Gaborik would have had to take a paycut for them to do so. That wasn’t going to happen. Not with Ronnie $alcer running things and certainly not with Marian Gaborik’s inflated sense of self worth pedigree.
The most important thing in the NHL right now is cap flexibility. The Wild will have that. Martin Havlat signed with us for less than he was being offered elsewhere. That is the type of player we want — one who wants to be here. Not a player who we have to trade away a top prospect and draft pick for his “best friend” to play here. Not a player who won’t budge on his contract demands, despite claiming he wants to remain here. That’s what’s important.
Havlat’s statement on his Twitter account that he won’t let Minnesota fans down is a statement that we as fans aren’t used to hearing from our superstars…And it’s about time the State of Hockey gets a superstar befitting of the State. It wasn’t Marian Gaborik — but we’ll see if it will be Martin Havlat.
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.
Where’s Jim Mora when you need him?
Okay, okay, so the reference has probably been beaten to death every single season for every sport since Mora’s famous outburst. The fact remains, however, that the playoffs are bearing down upon us. While the field has yet to be set, we do have a pretty good idea of who is going to be in the big show. We’ll be rating the potential playoff match ups on our newly patented Mora-Meter. One Mora would be the equivalent of watching the World Series of Gin Rummy played on ESPN (my guess as to what the next program to move into the Worldwide Leader instead of hockey) while five Mora’s would be a series that would lead to so much excitement that it would drive Jim Mora into a frenzy that would leave him frothing at the mouth.
So here you have it. The playoff match ups, if the playoffs started today, complete with the new and improved Mora-Meter!
#1 San Jose Sharks v. #8 Nashville Predators
Analysis: The Nashville Predators are like that kid in high school that you never wanted to hang out with, but always somehow ended up getting invited wherever you went. Over the last few seasons the Preds have been the whipping boy of the NHL, more specifically from Canadian fans, about how southern expansion just flat out doesn’t work. The bottom line is, however, that the Preds continue to put a good package on the ice and continue to make the playoffs no matter what. In this series, they’d be running up against a Sharks team that will be hellbent to prove that they can perform in the playoffs. I don’t envy anyone in the position that the Preds are in, but if anyone can pull off a first round upset, it’s them. This could be an intriguing series; however, it could just as easily be a case of the Sharks doing their thing and the Predators hanging on for dear life.
#2 Detroit Red Wings v. #7 Anaheim Ducks
Analysis: The last time these two teams met in the playoffs, the Ducks bounced the Wings en route to a Stanley Cup Championship. Can anyone think of anything more intriguing than the last two Stanley Cup Champions facing off and in the first round no less? The biggest swing in this match up is that the Ducks still play like they’re the class bully, while the Red Wings bully teams by skating circles around them. What makes this series even more interesting is the fact that the Wings and the Ducks quite simply don’t like each other. Lest we forget Chris Pronger attempting to remove Tomas Holmstrom’s head from his body, amongst other things transpiring between the two teams that cultivated the bad blood in their last post season meeting. The Red Wings always seem to be a step ahead of the NHL; however, this season, their goaltending could be their Achillies Heel and with a potent Ducks powerplay, it would make for some great playoff hockey.
#3 Vancouver Canucks v. #6 Columbus Blue Jackets
Analysis: Is it bad that there’s a large part of me that really wants Vancouver to slide down so that Calgary takes this spot? I mean, let’s be honest. I’m a Wild fan. I have no vested interest in the playoffs to mention at the moment (maybe by the last game of the season…A guy can dream, right?) so I don’t really care who wins the division, other than the fact that I just want to watch an entertaining playoff series. To me, there would be no more interesting series than a Flames/Jackets and Canucks/’Hawks series, because the teams just don’t like each other. But I digress. In this one, honestly, there’s not really any appreciable storylines to speak of, nor do either of the teams play extremely exciting hockey. On one side, the Blue Jackets are almost 100% playoff un-tested (save for a few players), while the ‘Nucks have some star players with a propensity to do a disappearing act in the playoffs. All of this adds up to a series that could prove to be pretty uneventful; though worth watching to watch how the Jackets respond to playoff hockey.
#4 Chicago Blackhawks v. #5 Calgary Flames
Analysis: As much as I would love to watch the ‘Hawks fight play the ‘Nucks, I think this series would be extremely entertaining to watch. First, you have a rematch in net of the ’03-’04 Cup Finals (Kipper v. Bulin), then you’ve got two teams with some very dynamic players (Kane, Toews and Havlat v. Iginla, Cammalleri and Jokinen) and finally you’ve got two teams with some fantastic defensemen (Seabrook and Keith v. Phaneuf and Regher). This could become the best series in the first round if it stays this way. Plus, if Phaneuf keeps playing the way he has been, you could find yourself looking at a very formidable “sloppy” second defensive pairing of Phaneuf and Leopold. Sorry. Couldn’t resist.
#1 Boston Bruins v. #8 Montreal Canadiens
Analysis: How’s this for a role reversal? The exact match up of last season’s first round, just with home ice turned around. If both teams are on their game, this could be an exciting series to watch. The problem is that both teams have battled inconsistency since the All Star Break. The biggest thing to look forward to, however, is that these two teams always get up to play one another. Look at last season’s first round. A seven-game slugfest that was probably the most entertaining series in all the playoffs. Plus, there’s also always the chance that you could hear Jack Edwards’ maniacal laugh again. That in and of itself is reason enough to watch. All of this equals one amazingly entertaining first round series.
#2 Washington Capitals v. #7 New York Rangers
Analysis: Honestly, this is another that I wish was a little different, but beggars can’t be choosers, right? This one, well, this could be interesting. On one end you’ve got the Caps’ unbelievable offens and on the other you’ve got the Rangers’ unbelievable goaltender. Coach John Tortorella has helped the Rangers find their game again; however, can he put a stop to the attack of the Capitals? On the other side of things, you’ve got the Rangers’ aneimic offense squaring off against the Caps’ inconsistent goalie. This could either be a very high scoring series or a series where you get nothing at all. Any series pitting a high powered offense against a solid goaltender, however, can prove to be a fun series to watch.
#3 New Jersey Devils v. #6 Carolina Hurricanes
Analysis: Ok. So can someone please explain to me if the Devils are just coasting to the playoffs or if something is going on and when, exactly, Lou is going to place himself behind the bench yet again? Alright. I feel better now. Now that I’ve said my piece, this could be a very one sided series if the Devils don’t right the ship and quick. The ‘Canes have had success against Newark’s finest this season, and if the Devils back into the playoffs this could get ugly quick. Looking at the potential match up, the ‘Canes match up quite nicely against the Devil and have the hot hand. Both teams have a solid defense and an under rated offense. There should be some very tightly contested games in this series and some good, physical play.
#4 Philadelphia Flyers v. #5 Pittsburgh Penguins
Analysis: The Broadstreet Bullies against the NHL’s wunderkid. I don’t see how it could get much better than this; a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference Finals. The Flyers were ran out of town by the Pens in the ECF last season, but this is also a Flyers team that has gained a lot more character since then, not in turnover of players but just in experience. The big question mark for both teams is definitely in net and, in all honesty, that could lead to a very entertaining series. These two teams are also division rivals and flat out don’t like each other. That’s good enough in my book!
So there you have it. My thoughts on the current playoff picture.
Also, coming next week will be the first intrim show of Wild Nation. Join myself and Nick in New York next week as we talk about all things Wild! We will have a time and date set for our first show sometime this weekend.