Not a good month for the Minnesota Wid's Kobe Bryant. Uh... Cam Barker.
I think most of us are used to the usual lack of activity by teams during the playoffs. We don't think much about it any more, at least real hockey fans don't. Well, the Stanley Cup finals have already started, and we are three weeks away from the Draft. The Wild are getting ready to start their off season work at full pace.
Here is a link to a great summary article by Russo which covers a bunch of topics about the off season in a conversation with Chuck Fletcher. Some of the things mentioned are the new coach search, new coach's input into the off season, player trades, and a possible buyout of Cam Barker. Take a look at Russo's article, and I'll break some of the stuff down.
Editor's note: We will have more on the coaching search starting today.
Make the jump and discuss the potential Barker buy out, and the coaching search.
Chuck Fletcher's first stated comment was that he wanted a new coach in place so that that coach could have time to weigh in with opinions about the current players on the Wild (and probably Aeros) roster, and the draft prospects. It seems like Craig McTavish has already had several conversations with Fletcher. We know that Fletch wants to talk with Yeo once the AHL playoffs are over, which could be as early as this weekend to as late as later next week. Regardless, we are probably looking a at coaching hire sometime in the next two weeks, not before Fletcher at least gets a chance to talk with Yeo, but at least a few days prior to the draft.
The coaching decision will play in to the next comment by Fletcher. He is looking to reshape this team. His statement is that he is willing to trade any player with the exception of Mikko Koivu. Now, there are several players with either a full or limited no trade, but the idea remains the same. (Guys with full or limited NTs: Mikko Koivu, Martin Havlat, Niklas Backstrom, Matt Cullen, & Marek Zidlicky.) With all the GMs in Toronto for the combine right now, the groundwork for trade talks are being laid. Fletcher will want to hear from his new coach before pulling the trigger on any significant trade. Fletcher's quote here is rather telling:
"I'm open-minded to anything. We have to get better, and we're looking aggressively to do that."
This comment leads to the discussion of Brent Burns and Cam Barker. Fletcher is trying to decide whether or not to buy out Cam Barker. The revelation by Russo that players younger than 25 can be bought out for 1/3 of their contract was interesting. A two year cap hit of $375,000 and $541,000 is not that bad for a player that isn't in the plans of the organization. I would not be surprised if Fletcher pulls the trigger on this one. The window for this move, according to Russo, is 48 hours after the playoffs end, or June 15, through June 30.
Fletcher is saying the appropriate things about Brent Burns. He wants the new coach to have a say in any personnel moves. The Wild are looking to get 'top young talent' to the team, and he considers Burns to be one of the 'top young defensemen in the game'. He plans to talk with Burns' agent and see where both sides are sitting on a contract. Fletcher also adds, "...he [Burns] is regarded very highly by a lot of people outside our organization."
Outside a chance that Fletcher hires a coach that is absolutely sold on keeping Burns on the team, and Burns having a reasonable contract expectation, I fully expect Fletcher to trade Burns for the maximum package he can get in return. I wouldn't be surprised if those contract talks with Burns' agent weren't also intended to get a good idea of what Burns would sign for as it will play a big role in trade negotiations with other teams.
There is also the issue of offers for RFAs and possibly any of the Wild's UFAs. Those offers also need to come in June. A lot of this approach is waiting to be finalized with the hiring of a new coach. The next few weeks are going to be very busy for the Wild, and we just might get the first glimpses of a new direction for the team.
So, who would you like to see as the new coach of the Wild? Should the Wild trade Burns for the best offer or sign him long term? Should the Wild buyout Barker? Besides Burns, who do you think is a likely candidate for a trade? Or, do you believe the Wild will sit mostly pat over the summer, either because there just aren't trade partners like last summer, or because the team decides to stick with what they have?