The Minnesota Wild made a big move with youngster forward James Sheppard. The Wild signed Sheppard to a three-year, $2.29 million deal ($1.4 million will go against the salary cap). The entry level contract will allow Sheppard to remain with the Wild for the 2007-08 season. Sheppard, 19, would have had to return to the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League if he did not sign a contract.
"This was the situation that was best for me," said Sheppard from his hotel room in downtown St. Paul. "Doug talked to me and said that I'm not here to sit on the bench. I may be playing less, but even when I'm not playing, I'll be practicing with the team which will help me progress enough to get better."
Lemaire said recently that for a young hockey player to develop, he'd rather work with the kid himself than rely on another coach in another city. Lemaire will now get that chance with Sheppard even though I don’t see Sheppard as a first option at the center position. The Wild still have Mikko Koivu, Eric Belanger, Wes Walz and Dominic Moore on the bench, but the fact that playing time will be a daily battle did not deter the youngster's excitement.
"This is still sinking in," Sheppard said. "I finally get to play in the NHL. It's always been my dream. It's so cool to get the chance and to tell my family. They were pretty teary when I told them."
I am sure Sheppard’s mom will be happy to hear that he will be staying with a host family that will help him with meals and laundry. James Sheppard is living every young hockey players dream – he’s going from a junior player getting less than $100 a week to an NHL rookie with a pretty nice bank account. This MN Wild Freak will definitely be keeping an eye on young Sheppard – Let’s go Wild!