Russo hosted a live chat yesterday. For those of you that were unable to watch it, we at Hockey Wilderness just want you to have all the information possible. While I will not post all of the questions, there is a considerable amount of information, so make the jump. Some good insight, don't miss this.
(All information with "Q" and "A" in front of them are direct quotes. Where I feel the need to comment, I added my thoughts in italics. Please, go buy a Star Trib today, will you?)
Q: Any info on any trade for the Wild.? With the Wild keeping Robbie Earl up, I keep waiting for news of a deal. Possibly including Sheppard.
A: You're right. The Wild has too many players and before putting any player on waivers -- specifically Earl or Stoner or Scott -- the Wild would likely first try to move them or somebody else. As for Sheppard, the trade value is not nearly what it was a year or so ago.
Understatement of the century on Shep. He has no trade value.
Q: Will we see a rotation of Stoner, Scott & Hnidy in the 6th D spot the rest of the year?
A: When Burns comes back, there will have to be big decisions made, and so far, Richards has been comfortable with Hnidy. So if everyone's healthy, it'll likely be a decision at seventh D between Stoner and Scott.
Q: Do you see the Wild as being "sellers" at the deadline? If so, who would you speculate as being trade bait?
A: I think with as many unrestricted free agents as they have, they'll be looking to move some. As I've mentioned, Nolan is the stereotypical trade deadline type player. Playoff teams look for experienced "warriors" at that time, and I think he's primed to be moved. If the Wild are still fighting for a playoff spot then, they will have to decide whether they move guys for picks and young players or actual players who can be inserted into the lineup to help now.
Agreed 100% with this. Nolan is gone at the deadline for a young prospect or a mid round pick. Playoff push or not, Fletcher wants picks.
Q: Have you figured out why Havlat wasn't in the shootout?
A: Yes. One day maybe it'll be printed :)
Damn you, Russo...
Q: Will PMB play this year? How unusual is this length of concussion symptoms?
A: Very doubtful. He's not even exercising, which means he's just out of game shape. I would be shocked if he plays this year.
Brutal. It would be really interesting to see what PMB could do on this team.
Q: Will Brent Burns when he returns have to work his way back into a line up that is getting it done without him?
A: No, when he's ready to play, he'll play. His ice time might be lower than normal at the start, but this won't be like Sykora. Burns is a lock in the lineup.
Q: Do you think Sykora will pack it in and go back to Czechland? How would that affect the cap?
A: No, I doubt he'll just leave unless all of a sudden the Wild throw him on waivers, he clears and is told he's going to the minors or something. But he moved his entire family here, so I really doubt he just packs it up and leaves. I'd say that Sykora will undoubtedly try to move him by the deadline, and teams in need of scorers may have interest in a career 20-goal guy who's got a history of going to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Sykora is gone at the deadline as well. Not to add to the drama, but he isn't happy, the team doesn't need him, he's gone.
Q: Do you forsee the Wild trading Johnsson and or Zidlicky at the deadline due to their 2010 UFA status? Do you see this happening regardless if the Wild are close to a playoff spot?
A: It all has to do with how much they want. Let's be honest, Johnsson makes 5.3 mill. His cap hit is 4.85 mill. The Wild value him bigtime because of his puck-handling ability and mobility, but if he doesn't take a significant haircut, he's likely a goner. The problem if you sign both even if it's 3 to 3.5 million a year, that's 6 to 7 million on the cap. And the Wild only has about $12 million worth of cap space for next season.
During the first part of Johnsson's contract I was a strong critic of his. Now, I cannot imagine this team without him. He needs to take a discount, and Zids can take a walk.
Q: Is trading dealine before or after Olympic's? How will that effect Fletcher's decision making on several players who haven't dressed recently?
A: March 3. After Olympics. But there's a trade embargo during the Olympics that's lifted I believe midnight Feb. 28, meaning, fasten your seatbelts March 1 for all the deals ironed out during the Olympics. I think more than the deadline, what affects Fletcher is the fact that you can't just trade 9 guys on March 3. I think Fletcher if he wants to move some of these guys will have to make decisions over the next couple weeks and start sporadically moving players.
Q: There has been speculation that the Wild may open up next season in Finland. Any more word on the chances of that happening and if so when will it be formally announced by the NHL?
A: It's happening and likely announced next month.
Q: Will Harding get traded?
A: I don't see Harding getting traded before the deadline. Don't see a playoff team feeling comfortable with him just because he's been so seldomly used.
Agreed here. Harding's value is to a low-level team, but he has little value at all right now. Maybe a fourth round pick.
Q: ekland is reporting Sykora to Pens, what could we possibly even trade him for at this point? 5th or 6th round pick?
A: So Dan Bylsma, who didn't play Sykora in the playoffs, wants him back? Don't see a marriage there.
Seriously people. Eklund is a tool. Stop paying him your hard earned money. Please.
Q: Do you think [B]oogie will get traded or return for another couple season[s]?
A: Prior to the season, I thought Boogey would be a goner. But after seeing how much Richards values him and most importantly trusts him, I see him being back. However, I don't think there's a huge sense of urgency to re-sign him before the deadline. I'm sure they'll talk, but usually playoff teams aren't looking for fighters before the deadline (uh, except for the Wild and Chris Simon) and Boogey wants to return.
I think Booige will need to take a discount to stay around. At the very least, not expect a raise.
Q: Whats going on with Colton Gillies?At one point he looked like a promising power foward but now he's having trouble producing at the AHL level.
A: It's a good point, but this is a guy who has always been projected outside the organization as a quality third-line forward, not a true power forward. This is why you don't trade a second-round pick to move up one slot to take a guy who's going to play third-line. But I think he'll be OK. He's such a good character guy, and I think he'll be somebody that can contribute as a checker in this league.
"Somebody who can contribute as a checler in this league." Brutal. Nice pick, Doug.
Q: Does any part of you think the Wild need a down year to get some higher draft picks/talent in Houston?
A: I've always believed that. But I don't pay $100 a ticket. It's easy for me to say. Fans want to see a winner, and it's tough to make the decision to just stink. And the owner wants to win, which I don't behoove him. But you look at the last several opponents -- LA, Chicago, Pittsburgh. These are teams that truly stunk and built from within because of it. Of course, they've also drafted very well, too. But they were in positions to draft studs as well.
Q: Wouldn't Sheppard fit right in at Houston, or maybe in the Russian league?
A: They're not willing to risk putting Sheppard on waivers, nor should they.
I think Shep has run his course. It is time to put the past in the past and let him find a new home. Trade him for another Lats.
Q: With Nolan and Belanger also UFA's in 2010 what are the Wild's options with them?
A: I really think Belanger's somebody they might try to move. I think they believe they can replace him next summer, and he could be a classic contract year player. As for Nolan, I also think he's somebody they'd try to move, and if you really want him back and he wants to come back, you go after him this summer.
Q: Will the Wild sign Koivu to a frontloaded contract similar to the ones we have seen recently?
A: Koivu has always signed very unique deals here, and yes, I think the Wild would be smart to sign him to a cap-friendly deal like that, especially before the league gets rid of these type of deals in the next CBA war -- and folks, it will be a battle.
Make it happen, Chuck. ASAP.
Q: [H]ave you patched things up with inglewood jack? (Burns)
A: Haha. Yes, I have. We went to psychologist. It was very eye-opening. In all seriousness, yes, I believe we have.
Q: What do you think of Cody Almond and his future with the Wild?
A: I hear very good stuff about this kid from outside scouts, which is how I usually shape my opinions without knowledge from my very two eyes. Obviously, you ask internal people, and usually don't get the most honest assessments. I hear good stuff, but unfortunately, he's been delayed because of injuries this season -- knee to start, then a broken wrist.
Q: How about a little conjecture on the following: 1. who goes when pmb and burns return? Kobasew? I like our line-up alot, but there's only so many slots. 2. can you envision Fletcher letting Sykora go via waivers the way Burke did to Bryzgalov a few years back?
A: PMB is a non-issue. I don't think he's coming back. Kobasew is a non-issue. I've heard from the very start that he's likely out for the year. But we'll see when he's re-evaluated in a few weeks. As for Burns, I think Scott's on the outside looking in. As for Sykora, there's a possibility, but the way guys get hurt on this team, to just dump him now makes no sense. This guy can still perform. He scored 25 goals in like 60-something games last year. He might be unhappy now, but he's got to stay patient and hopefully the Wild can use him.
This was included for the info on Kobasew. Looks like he's gone, too. Ugh.
Q: [H]ow soon before we see Burns?
A: I think by the end of the month.
Q: Who are some possible FA centers this coming year that can fill the huge void on the second line, does it have to be someone Havlat thinks he can work with and how much will we have to to spend?
A: Really, it's pretty shallow up front. Olli Jokinen, ha. Finally they get him? After that, there's not much. Matt Cullen? I'd take him for the quote. Mike Modano just to make MKIA on Russo's Rants hush down for a few weeks until he realizes it was a big mistake.
Next year's free agent centers look weak. Jokinen's value is lower than it has ever been, as he is not having a great season. Maybe...
Q: Any word on who Thomy Thompson and the gang are really high on in the draft? Last year you you seemed to have called Nick Leddy months before the Wild were out of the playoffs, who's it looking to be this year?
A: Way too early to say. The good thing is the Wild have a lot more eyes out there now as Chuck Fletcher hired a bunch of part-time scouts and has guys like Chris Snow and Shep Harder scouting, too. There's been a lot more eyes watching U.S. college guys, and I know the Wild will pursue a couple in late March, April. As for as draft, it's too early to say. Obviously depends on where they finish.
Russo predicted Leddy when the old regime was still in place, I believe. The new guys took him, most likely on the word of the old scouts. This regime wants forwards. Count on it.
Q: Koivu is an absolute stud player both offensively and defensively. Do you think he will he ever be a candidate for the Selke trophy?
A: Yes, I think he will. Unfortunately, even though this is a big market, we seem to be in some kind of bubble from nationwide press. Hopefully hockey writers are watching.
Q: [D]o you think the Wild will sign Boogie & Clutter to extensions?
A: Clutter will be re-signed, and I think Boogey will, too.
Q: Please explain why Boogard is playing over a Sheppard or a Sykora... he is pretty much useless on the ice except when a fight is needed.
A: If you listen to Todd Richards, it's a different "element." Todd loves that word. Boogaard loves the intimidation factor Boogaard brings. And heck, useless? He sparked the comeback the other night with that sweet play before the Johnsson goal :)
Q: With Latendresse playing the way he has been lately do you see the Wild offering him a multi-year contract extension being that he can become a restricted free agent and is open to offer sheets?
A: They will re-sign him. Nobody is tendering him an offer sheet.
Q: Do the Wild have enough assets to make a deal for Kovalchuk?
A: Doubtful via trade.
Russo answered a few questions about Kovalchuk, but this was the one in regards to the Wild. Russo says Boston or LA.
Q: Johnsson must have higher trade value now that he has a few scores...don't you think given his only value to the wild is amount of minutes he seems able to play that a trade for younger fresh talent would be valuable?
A: "Only value to the Wild is the amount of minutes?" I don't even know how to respond to that. I guess having a dman that can play 30 minutes sometimes and leads team in ice time means squat. Guess he doe nothing out on the ice during those minutes. Your second statement I agree with. If he costs too much and/or can get you significant pieces, you consider it.
Johnsson has significant trade value right now, but his value to the team is higher than his trade value. He is the rock on the blue line, more so even than Nick Schultz. They need to find az way to get him back for around $3.5 million per year.
Q: Are there any talks going on about a Winter Classic at either Target Field or TCF Bank Stadium featuring the Wild?
A: It'll be at TCF, and it'll be in 2012 at the earliest I've been told.
Q: Kovolchuck..... would you want him...yay or nay? does he get traded...yay or nay? does he bolt for the khl or stay in the nhl? how low are the chances of him wearing a wild jersey this, or next year? 20% 10% 0%?
A: Want him? Yay. Does he get traded? Yay. Does he stay in the NHL? Yay? Is he on the Wild? Nay. To go after him this summer IF he's free, I'd think they'd try to do something creative, but this is a guy that can get the max 20 percent of a cap, which is 11 million. Wild has 12 million of cap room next year, not including re-signing Clutterbuck, Harding, Latendresse. So I don't see how you make it work unless it's a very creative, Hossa, Savard-like contract.
Q: Why didnt the Wild go for Maxim Afinigenov in the offseason? He would have been a good fit for this system and is having a great season at a relatively cheap price.
A: Interesting question. Hindsight, you're right, looks good, although his play could be because he's playing with some countrymen in Kovalchuk and Antropov. He's always been a guy where so much more was expected out of him because of the immense talent and speed. He was coming off a horrific year, but hindsight being 20-20, yeah, he would have looked good here.
I thought he would be a good fit back on July 1, but Russo is right. He is playing with his countrymen right now. My bet is he goes where Kovalchuk goes.
Q: Other than Robbie Earl, are there any Americans in the system that have a shot of making it up at the big club?
A: Not right now. Nick Leddy's American, but he'll be at the U at least another year and then will probably need at least a year in the minors.
Q: Pouliot for Lattendresse: Was Jacques right? Are both sides winners?
A: Right or wrong, both guys needed fresh starts.
As I said on the game thread yesterday. Best trade in team history at this point. Not saying much, but it was a dman good trade.
Q: What's up with the Marty Havlat scoring drought? Do you see improvement in the near future?
A: He obviously got off to a very slow start, but in last 15 games, he's had a six-game point streak and seven-game point streak. He and Latendresse have meshed well. He needs to shoot more. That is for sure. He's a pass-first guy, especially on the power play. But he also doesn't exactly have guys feeding him the puck. Latendresse I think has three assists this year. And Brodziak's not exactly a playmaker.
I found the timing of this question to be funny. At that point, Havlat had a seven game point streak, now at eight games.
Q: Obviously PMB's contract was a mistake the minute it was signed. With him being "damaged goods" what can the team do with him/his contract? He can't be easy to move.
A: You're right. He's impossible to move. Right now, the Wild just needs to hope he gets healthy and returns to being a productive player next season.
Q: What do you think of the "new" system? Is this going to be successful and do you think Richards will last?
A: I like the new system, and when the Wild have a chance to add more offensive player, from an aggressive, skilled and speed point of view, it'll be that much more of a successful system.
Q: If the Wild could find a really good center to put on that line with Havlat and Latendresse they could finally have two good scoring lines. Your thoughts?
A: 100 percent agree.
Gee. The Wild need a #2 center. Huh.
Q: What is your take on Zanon? Will he be the next biggest minute player on our blue line?
A: I like Zanon a lot as a player. He looks to be tired in some games lately because he's making uncharacteristic mistakes, but he was a great signing.
Q: I personally believe the trapezoid is stupid, do you dislike any post lockout rules or believe there will be new ones impossed this offseason?
A: Couldn't disagree more. I watched Brodeur enough in the East to know that certain goalies kill the game because of their puck-playing prowess, and NJ games years ago, Brodeur annihilated opposing team's anything in the offensive zone.
Q: Do you feel Fletcher over payed for Kobasew?
A: If he doesn't get the second back, definitely. If Fallstrom turns out to be the next Holmstrom definitely. I understand what he was doing at the time. The Wild was dying and he wanted to shake thing up and also add a young player with more years on his contract so the Wild only had to go after say three players this summer as opposed to nine that would fit into the new system. But it was a lot to give up, and time will tell.
Great job, as always, by Russo. Good questions, great answers.