Kukla's Korner Hockey
via the Minnesota Wild,
Minnesota Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher today announced the National Hockey League (NHL) club has re-signed restricted free agent Jason Zucker pronounced (ZOOK-ER) to a two-year, $4 million contract worth $2 million in both 2016-17 and 2017-18.
Zucker, 24 (1/16/92), tallied 23 points (13-10=23) in 71 games with Minnesota last season and set career highs in games played, assists, penalty minutes (20), shots (158), hits (83), takeaways (40), blocked shots (33) and TOI/game (15:35). The 5-foot-11, 185-pound native of Newport Beach, Calif., ranked second on the team in takeaways and sixth in shots. Zucker added two assists in six playoff contests. He owns 61 points (42-19=61) in 169 career NHL games in parts of five seasons with the Wild. Zucker was originally selected by Minnesota in the second round (59th overall) of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
from Michael Russo of the StarTribune,
The Wild has had trade talks with the Edmonton Oilers about center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, although all Oilers skilled forwards not named Connor McDavid are also said to be in play. The Oilers appear to want right-shot Matt Dumba and other pieces, including next year’s second-rounder. The problem is the Wild no longer owns that pick.
Fletcher, after trading scores of second-round picks since 2013 and seeing second-rounders Brett Bulmer and Raphael Bussieres flame out, is hesitant to mortgage the future further anyway.
“I can understand the fans’ frustration, but you have to make the right deal,” said Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli, Fletcher’s former Harvard pal, referring to his fan base and not talking about the Wild specifically. “I’m having lots of discussions. It’s hard to get a No. 1 defenseman. … As I’ve said, I’d prefer a right-shot defenseman. That’s what I’m focusing on....
It’s also believed the Wild has talked to the Rangers about center Derek Stepan and the Arizona Coyotes about veteran center Martin Hanzal and prospect Christian Dvorak.
But with Saturday’s start to the free-agent courting period, Fletcher has begun contacting agents to gauge interest. Free agency opens Friday.
Part of Fletcher would prefer that path because it makes him sick to have to trade a Dumba or Jonas Brodin. But the other part of Fletcher knows that he has gotten into trouble signing free agents in the past.
from Michael Russo of the Star Tribune,
The Wild has about $9 million of salary cap space with only 15 players signed. If the Wild needs more space, which is very likely, a league source said Thursday that Fletcher has informed veteran Thomas Vanek’s agent that he may need to buy out the final year of Vanek’s contract by Thursday’s deadline.
That would free up $5 million.
“There’s been no final decision, but it’s certainly under consideration,” the source said. Fletcher, too, admitted that earlier this week.
There’s no doubt the Wild’s looking for a forward, preferably a center. The cost could be a young defenseman like Jonas Brodin or Marco Scandella, who are signed to lucrative long-term deals, or restricted free agent Matt Dumba.
“This is something that could linger through the summer or even into the fall. I think there’s going to be other opportunities this year for different reasons to make changes at a later date,” said Fletcher, referring to teams either eclipsing the cap ceiling this summer and having to later get compliant or having to set the table for next summer’s expansion draft.
from the Minnesota Wild,
The Minnesota Wild has named Scott Stevens an Assistant Coach.
Stevens most recently served as an analyst for NHL Network. He returns to coaching after being named a co-coach for the New Jersey Devils on Dec. 27, 2014, and serving two seasons (2012-14) as an assistant coach for the Devils. The defenseman spent 13 of his 22 NHL seasons with New Jersey and captained the team to three Stanley Cup Championships (1995, 2000, and 2003). The Kitchener, Ont., native was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Nov. 12, 2007.
from Michael Russo of the Star Tribune,
Bruce Boudreau's career returned to the exact spot it started.
The new Wild coach arrived at Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday for his introductory news conference and sat at center ice in the building that replaced the old St. Paul Civic Center, where he made his professional debut for the Minnesota Fighting Saints in 1975.
One week after first interviewing for the job, Boudreau signed a four-year, $10.5 million contract (plus playoff bonuses). He got a first glimpse at his new office, toured his new locker room and met his new trainers and staffers. Wild players Erik Haula, Mike Reilly and Justin Fontaine attended the news conference and already, Boudreau joked, began campaigning for ice time. And Boudreau reunited and posed for pictures with former teammates Henry Boucha, Pat Westrum and Ted Hampson while holding a royal blue, white and gold Fighting Saints jersey.
"I told my wife [Crystal], 'This is the last place I'm going,'" said the 61-year-old Boudreau, who coached the Washington Capitals and Anaheim Ducks to eight division titles in nine years and is the fastest coach in NHL history to eclipse 400 wins. "I told my wife I'm going to stay here for as long as they want me, and I hope it's a long time.
"Hopefully I can help in some form bring a Stanley Cup to this state and to this city, or these two cities."
Bruce Boudreau explains to the HC at Noon crew why he chose the Minnesota Wild head coaching gig over the Ottawa Senators, and why family ties made that such a tough decision.
from Michael Russo of the Star Tribune,
Boudreau felt comfortable with Minnesota. He loves the fact it’s a hockey hotbed and knows the area a little bit from when he started his professional playing career with the old World Hockey Association’s Minnesota Fighting Saints in 1975.
“I just thought it would be a place that we could win. I know the team is good already,” Boudreau said.
Most of Boudreau’s talks with Fletcher revolved around the two getting to know each other. They talked mostly philosophy, playing style and if their visions align.
Boudreau asked very little about the team.
“My biggest question was, ‘Is Zach going to be OK?’ ” Boudreau said, referring to Zach Parise’s season-ending back injury that’s currently being rehabbed without surgery. “When that came back affirmative, I was thrilled because I’ve admired him for 10 years now as a player.
“But I know they’ve got good individuals there. Their top, top players are really good, and now it’s a matter of being a really good team.”
added 8:51pm, via the Minnesota Wild,
from Michael Russo of Russo's Rants,
For the first time, Zach Parise confirmed the Star Tribune’s report before the playoffs that he has a herniated disc pinching on his nerve. He had been playing with the injury since January and received the maximum three cortisone injections before he couldn’t play anymore.
“Rehab is going really well,” he said. “I’ve got to continue doing the rehab for a little bit and go from there. But it’s progressing really well.”
Asked if he’ll need surgery, Parise said, “It’s too early to tell, but I’m optimistic that therapy and the rehab is working really well that we’re going to be able to avoid that.”
With the amount of time it’ll take to rehab from surgery, Parise said that decision needs to come pretty soon....
Broken and displaced ribs ended his season prematurely, he said. He said with time, it’ll heal.
Asked if he hopes he’s back, “I hope so. I signed here not because this is where I live. I signed here because I truly love it here and I want to win here. That would be a dream come true.”
Asked if he’s worried he may be bought out of the final year of his deal, Vanek said, “I don’t know. You can ask Chuck that question. I do understand the business side of it. again, I’m not happy with my year, but at the same time, I truly still believe that I’m a 30-goal scorer in this league. I’ll worry about myself, have a good summer and be ready to go.”
more on each plus other players...
from Tom Powers of the Pioneer Press,
It’s simply confounding.
The Wild are great, good, bad and awful – all in one series. All in one game! Devan Dubnyk is terrific. Devan Dubnyk is terrible. The team is in good shape. The team is a mess.
Where is this franchise, anyway? One thing we know for sure is that the Wild are tremendous at lowering expectations. For 82 regular season games they hammer at our sensibilities. Every season is supposed to be the one in which they take the next step. Every season they squeak into the playoffs. And then folks around here get chills when they sneak in.
Sunday was a perfect example of how the Wild operate. After falling behind 4-0, they staged a stirring comeback in the third period only to lose 5-4. They received a huge ovation as the buzzer sounded. People were tickled. Great effort, great comeback. And everyone conveniently forgets that they fell behind 4-0 to begin with.
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