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CROSS RIVER… It has been a Wild week, no pun intended, for our Minnesota Wild. The National Hockey League has held it’s annual awards show, and it was maybe the best and came off as the smoothest production yet. We have witnessed the drama attached to the Devan Dubnyk (The new 2015 Masterton Award winner!) pending free agency and whether he would get re-signed or not, and then finally, the leagues entry draft took place Friday evening and Saturday morning and that was that. A lot of excitement packed into a brief timeframe. First things first.
I stated in last weeks edition of the World Wide Duluth Reader Weekly that fans should not be surprised if the team cannot strike up a new agreement with Dubnyk. Up until Friday morning all I knew was that Duby and his agent Mike Liut of Octagon were asking for $5mil per season. I would find out that morning that the term they were seeking was over an 8 year period. That’s a $40mil contract for a guy who at the end of last year had just finished up with his 3rd club of the season. I don’t believe that’s all based on the quality of Duby’s play. I do believe that he needed to find a way to upgrade his game, and he did.
He played on an Edmonton team that was average at best and usually not even average in his time with the Oiler’s. So he posted some average numbers. In the 2013-14 season he went 11-17-2 with a GAA over 3 goals per and a save percentage at .894, pushing perhaps the lowliest team in the league to move him out. He had 2 more stops that season ending it in the AHL. Over the summer Duby wasn’t sure where his career was headed until he got a lucky break to go to the Arizona Coyotes and a chance to work with one of the best goalie coaches in the show in Sean Burke. Working with Burke and changing his focus along with a couple of technical parts of his game helped out and soon Duby was outplaying the teams number one net minder Mike Smith.
The Coyotes season was headed down a difficult path, but then so was the Wild’s. Nick Backstrom wasn’t totally healthy and after a real hot start, the young and somewhat inexperienced Darcy Kuemper’s game was cooling off. You know the rest of the story. Duby put up some uncanny numbers, the team got back on track and made it into the Stanley Cup playoff, winning one series before bowing out to the eventual winner Chicago Blackhawk’s. To be sure, Duby’s playoff was not stellar. Especially versus the Hawks. But I maintain that the team still had it’s chances. It wasn’t to be.
The new contract calls for Duby to get $26mil on a 6 year deal. That’s a $4.33mil annual cap hit. The sides got together to come up with a deal that worked for both parties. Of course there are fans and media that aren’t happy with the contract or that Duby is returning, but seriously, I believe this was GM Chuck Fletchers most promising avenue to hold the teams goaltending together. In my opinion Duby was the best option available and Fletcher made it happen. Duby is as good or better as any other pro goalie available to the club at the time. I am glad Fletcher got this done….
THE NHL ENTRY DRAFT kicked off last Friday night and it was a good event. It was basically no secret who the first two picks were going to be and that’s exactly the way it went down. For the Wild, well, I’m not quite sure how to analyze some of the teams drafting. They have made some superb choices over the years, some middle of the road, and a few busts. But that’s no surprise, there exists no perfect formula in this process, only some educated guesses perhaps. I have the team at 7 wins and 8 losses in their first 15 first round picks over the years.
The challenge for the Wild with the entry draft in their young history is that they have never had a season so bad that they were propelled to a real high draft choice and they have never been so good that they were in the last position to pick. For this year they had a full 7 picks but were picking 20th, 50th, 111th, 135th, 171st, 201st and 204th. Needless to say there is not one of their picks that can help the club next year, or maybe for 2 to 4 years. However, the team likes the lineup they have now and believes they are in a window close to the top.
In fact Vegas odds makers have installed them as the 8th likeliest club to win the Cup in the 2016 tourney at 14-1 odds. We will have to see where that goes. Also on Friday news got out that the team was going to be the one selected by All American U of Minnesota defenseman Mike Reilly to sign with as a free agent. He had been previously drafted by the Columbus Bluejackets but his time to have done a deal with them had expired turning him into a free agent. I have seen the better part of this players collegiate career and he has got the tools to make it at the next level and his foundation for that in my opinion begins with superb skating ability. The Free Agent signing period begins on July 1.
Without much cap room to work with I don’t see the Wild as a participant this summer other then to attempt to get new contracts into the hands of their own players they want to return, that and a couple of extensions that Fletcher is at work on. There are still a couple of trade rumors out there regarding the Wild, but nothing of note took place at the draft and who knows, with free agency kicking off on Wednesday the club may find a couple of dance partners. Jared Spurgeon’s name is still coming up in trade rumors in a deal sending him to his hometown of Edmonton in return for former overall number one Nail Yakupov. The “Spurg” though has turned out to be quite a find, I would rethink that one if it was getting any traction. Wednesday promises to be interesting… PEACE