UFA Options: Minnesota Wild

Jonathan Willis
June 13 2009 10:11AM

UFA Options is a continuing series that gives a brief run-down of the unrestricted free agent market this summer, team-by-team. Our next team for consideration is the Minnesota Wild.

A new head coach is just one of the decisions facing incoming general manager Chuck Fletcher. Marian Gaborik, the team’s franchise player since expansion is going to be entering unrestricted free agency, and he’s not alone. Three regular defensemen and depth forward Stephane Veilleux are also eligible.

Marian Gaborik

Most years, Marian Gaborik would be the best free agent LW on the market. This year, there is a variety of riches: Martin Havlat in Chicago, Daniel Sedin in Vancouver, and even Dany Heatley in Ottawa who is available via trade. And all of that assumes that Marian Hossa is going to stay put in Detroit. He’s one of the games most exciting talents and a pure goal scorer; as one example, in 2006-07 he scored 30 goals in just 48 games – in Minnesota.

The downside to Gaborik is of course that he’s brittle. Since the lockout, he’s played 207 out of 328 possible games; only one of those four seasons has been a full year (2007-08, where he played 77 games).

Stephane Veilleux

Veilleux is a relatively gritty LW with decent size and improving offensive totals. Of course, that improvement comes at a glacial pace (5-10-16-18-18-23 are his point totals by season) so he should win the Art Ross trophy some time in his 90’s. Veilleux had the worst plus/minus mark on the team, something that can in part be attributed to being repeatedly run out in the defensive zone.

He’s a relatively inexpensive third or fourth liner and he brings a fair bit to the table; somebody will make use of him next season.

Krys Kolanos

The Coyotes first-round pick back in 2000, Kolanos is an accomplished minor-league scorer who has bounced around the league; since 2005-06 he has dressed for ten different NHL, AHL and European teams. He’s a better scorer than his six points would indicate, but he’s probably not a good enough player to be anything more than a minor-league depth player at this point.

Martin Skoula

Skoula’s had an interesting career transformation since leaving the Colorado Avalanche. Once upon a time – back when Colorado was still winning or contending for the Stanley Cup – he was a bit of an offensive blue-liner, a 25-30 point guy. After 8 and 10 goal seasons during that time period, Skoula hasn’t scored more than four.

Skoula had the worst plus-minus on the team this year, although that’s a bit misleading; he’s a relatively capable positional defender (another one of those guys who doesn’t really play with an edge despite good size) whose greatest asset is his ability to make a first pass out of the defensive zone. He isn’t overly expensive and is probably a #4/#5 defenseman on a good team.

Marc-Andre Bergeron

Aside from Kurtis Foster, who only played in ten games (more on him in a moment), no member of the Minnesota Wild had a better plus/minus than Bergeron. No defenseman on the team scored more than his 14 goals, and none had a better Corsi rating than Bergeron’s +6.7/60. Don’t let any of that fool you. Of Wild defensemen, only Marek Zidlicky was as consistently run out against subpar opposition and in the offensive zone.

Bergeron remains the same flawed player that he was in Edmonton (where he was a favourite of mine) – an effective puck-mover with a great shot and the ability to throw a big hit (despite his rather smallish frame). He’s also a nightmare in his own end positionally, not strong enough to win battles with opposition forwards, and prone to bad decisions. He’s a cheap and useful player for a team in need of some offensive kick, but he needs a carefully defined role to be of use to his team.

Kurtis Foster

Every so often, the proposal gets made to bring no-touch icing to the NHL. Critics call it boring and say that the excitement of the chase for the puck is worth the risk. I’m sure Kurtis Foster would disagree. In March of 2008, Foster was involved in just such a chase with Torrey Mitchell of San Jose:

Foster’s broken leg kept him out of hockey for nearly a full year; he now has a metal rod inserted into his femur to keep it in place. He played only 16 games this season; scoring 6 points in both 6 AHL and 10 NHL contests. Right now it’s fair to ask if Foster will be able to get back on his original career trajectory. He was a late-bloomer, only establishing himself as an NHL regular at age 24, but he has intriguing potential. He has NHL size (6’5”, 230lbs), a booming slap shot, and good skating ability for such a big man – even being able to rush the puck. Weighed against that is occasionally suspect defensive play, the occasional odd decisions that seem to plague most offensive defensemen, and an inconsistent hitting game.

He’s a gamble, but a relatively cheap one and the kind that could very well pay off in a big way for any NHL GM; any team in need of a third-pairing defenseman should at least consider Foster.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 cm
June 13 2009, 10:35AM
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I would love to see the oil take a chance on foster...its one of those moves that if it doesn't work out you could bury the salary in the minors...but if it does work out it could mean a huge difference to having a Solid 5/6 paring d.

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#2 mattmarcin
June 13 2009, 10:56AM
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Foster would be great if we lost one of the D in a trade. Gilbs out Foster in. I dont mind the exchange at all if we get Heater potting ginos. Peckham is our best prospect in my mind if worse comes to worse.

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#3 Antony Ta
June 13 2009, 10:57AM
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Joffrey Lupul scored 4 in one game... in the playoffs. :P

The problem with developing Kolanos is similar to that of developing Brule: how do you transfer that minor league skill to the big leagues? I think with these junior and AHL/European skills it shows that the fundamental hockey iq is there but maybe it comes down to who can find the right role for them to start out in... before they can fill out their full potential.

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#4 mattmarcin
June 13 2009, 10:59AM
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I dont know what to think of Brule. I think his two contract screwed him. He was playing great when he was rockin the Oil silks. Due to the amount of bodies he had to go down no matter what in my mind. I think he is a surprise player coming into camp. Why not roll the dice and make him our 3rd C, put him with some big bodies and I think he can do great. Keep Brodz on the 4th.

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#5 mattmarcin
June 13 2009, 10:59AM
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I meant two way.

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#6 Jon K
June 13 2009, 11:04AM
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Foster's career will be played out in Minnesota as long as they want him. His career was in jeopardy after the injury but the team took the high road and gave him a contract regardless. He was well taken care of and now looks to be back in the NHL. I doubt very much he re-pays their loyalty by leaving. A very intriguing player nonetheless.

Gaborik remains another intriguing player. He's had corrective surgery to both hips now, apparently to repair torn labrums both times. Is it possible that his chronic injury problems might be somewhat mitigated by these surgeries ? He posted an unlikely 18 points in 11 games after returning from surgery this past season. Some of that may be attributable to being well-rested but then again he must have been out of game shape.

At this point I almost think that it is favourable for LA to land the current big ticket in Heatley so that Gaborik becomes available. His price will be lower due to injury concerns and Pat Quinn's "free-wheeling" nature may appeal to him after playing under Lemaire for so long. Combined with his asset-free price and the risk in signing him becomes a lot closer to acceptable.

Having he and Hemsky at RW on two different lines could make this team significantly above-average at even-strength.

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#7 Archaeologuy
June 13 2009, 11:11AM
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I dont know about the extent of Foster's injury but I have 2 plates and 8 screws in my left arm and the idea of having a rod in my femur and being a professional hockey player boggles my mind.

Gaborik would be a great addition to any team's rehab and training room. He would instantly be one of the best and pure talents that Ken Lowe would have the privelege of icing down next year.

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#8 misfit
June 13 2009, 11:19AM
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Veilleux is a guy I've always thought was a useful player, but not a guy I'd want playing anywhere near the top 6. A capable 3rd line winger, but an ideal 4th liner. I also think it's kinda funny that he's played 6 or 7 years in the league and nobody knows who he is. He'd be an inexpensive addition to any team, but with our current roster, he's not a player we need.

Gaborik is obviously a player of interest, but he's expensive, fragile, and probably not interested in signing here anyway. He's one of the best pure goal-scorers out there, and that's a big hole in our roster at the moment.

Foster has never been an overly durable player even before he left his leg in San Fransisco. I wouldn't be upset in the slightest if we were able to ink Foster at a reasonable price. Though I also wouldn't be shocked if he was this year's Jeff Finger that has some team throw a bunch of money at him out of nowhere.

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#9 RossCreek
June 13 2009, 11:36AM
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If given the choice between the 2, the Oilers should go for Havlat over Gaborik IMO.

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#10 Cory Dakin
June 13 2009, 12:42PM
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@ RossCreek: I'm not so sure. It would all come down to cost I would think.. Gaborik and Havlat have been in the league the same amount of time and Gaborik has actually played more games

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#11 RossCreek
June 13 2009, 12:51PM
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Like him or not, Bruce Garioch threw out a nice little tidbit today about Shane Doan. He says that if Phoenix were to end up moving to Hamilton, Doan would declare himself an unrestricted free agent because he has a no-movement clause. He figures the franchise moving would void his contract. Phoenix would be an interesting team for the Oil to trade with. Doan and Mueller would be nice.

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#12 Archaeologuy
June 13 2009, 12:56PM
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@ RossCreek: I'm pretty sure that's not how the no movement clause would work. I would need more than Bruce Garrioch's wonky interpretation of the NHL's rules to belive that would be the case.

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#13 Jon K
June 13 2009, 01:05PM
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You need to see what the exact text of the clause is, I would think. If the clause is specific to demotion, trade, or transfer between franchises then he probably doesn't have an argument. If the clause gives a more broad control over his contract it might be an interesting argument to make. I'm sure it's an unprecedented set of circumstances in professional sports so he could at least make an argument.

Hypothetically if the clause was interpreted as breached by the franchise's movement he could become an unrestricted free agent, since the club has no rights over this particular player other than what is given in the contract. If he didn't meet the criteria for being an unrestricted free agent, i.e. under 7 years service or 27 years of age (has that changed yet?), it might be different and the club might retain his rights.

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#14 RossCreek
June 13 2009, 01:12PM
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Garioch wasn't interpreting the rules the way i read it, it was Shane Doan's (or his agents) interpretation.

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#15 Jon K
June 13 2009, 01:13PM
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From Article 11.8 in the CBA:

(a) The SPC of any player who is a Group 3 Unrestricted Free Agent under Article 10.1(a) may contain a no-Trade or a no-move clause. SPCs containing a no-Trade or a no-move clause may be entered into prior to the time that the Player is a Group 3 Unrestricted Free Agent so long as the SPC containing the no-Trade or no-move clause extends through and does not become effective until the time that the player qualifies for Group 3 Unrestricted Free Agency. If the player is traded or claimed on Waivers prior to the no-Trade or no-move clause taking effect, the clause does not bind the acquiring Club. An acquiring Club may agree to continue to be bound by the no-Trade or no-move clause, which agreement shall be evidenced in writing to the Player, Central Registry and the NHLPA, in accordance with Exhibit 3 hereof.

(b) A no-move clause may prevent the involuntary relocation of a player, whether by Trade, Loan or Waiver claim. A no-move clause, however, may not restrict the Club's buy-out and termination rights as set forth in this Agreement. Prior to exercising its Ordinary Course Buy-Out rights pursuant to Paragraph 13 of the SPC hereof, the Club shall, in writing in accordance with the notice provisions in Exhibit 3 hereof, provide the Player with the option of electing to be placed on Waivers. The Player will have twenty-four (24) hours from the time he receives such notice to accept or reject that option at his sole discretion, and shall so inform the Club in writing, in accordance with the notice provisions in Exhibit 3 hereof, within such twenty-four (24) hour period. If the Player does not timely accept or reject that option, it will be deemed rejected.

By my interpretation Doan might have an argument if he can convince the decision-maker that the phrase "may prevent the involuntary relocation of a player, whether by Trade, Loan or Waiver claim" suggests that the player has sole power over any involuntary relocation, and that this power is not merely limited to the listed means of transfer.

There could be a decent argument to be made. If the purpose of the close is interpreted as giving the player the power to prevent their "involuntary relocation", then the means by which they are relocated should be irrelevant.

More NHL-based litigation on the way thanks to Balsillie and Bettman. :)

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#16 Jon K
June 13 2009, 01:14PM
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Clause not close.

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#17 West Coast Oil
June 13 2009, 01:27PM
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On the team 1040 in Vancouver they discussed Doan and they said the reaso he wouldnt be happy with a move to Hamilton is because his family is settled in Arizona and love it there. So I would doubt he would move to Edmonton more than likely to a California team at a discount

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#18 Archaeologuy
June 13 2009, 01:30PM
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Jon K wrote:

A no-move clause may prevent the involuntary relocation of a player, whether by Trade, Loan or Waiver claim

The way I read that is that the player can ONLY prevent movement via Trade, Loan, or Waiver. I would also assume that relocation is not specific to the city but the Franchise in question.

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#19 RossCreek
June 13 2009, 01:32PM
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I'd suspect that Doan would look at a select few teams/areas. Colorado, Dallas, Cali, Alberta and Nashville come to mind.

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#20 Phil
June 13 2009, 01:34PM
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Gaborik looks Bure-esque in that video, I mean he bats a couple pucks out of mid air but on that final breakaway for his 5th, that is Bure in the flesh, IMO.

If he didn't have such a horrible time with injury problems, he could easily be (well he kind of is.. but still) a top 10 player in the NHL, top 3 goalscorer, right behind AO.

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#21 West Coast Oil
June 13 2009, 01:40PM
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Im not sure how much worth Doan would have to the Oil. Gaborik too much of a risk and I can see him ending up in Montreal for some reason

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#22 RossCreek
June 13 2009, 01:49PM
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I see Gaborik in LA unless they make their moves via trade (Heatley). If Hossa decided to leave Detroit, Gaborik would be smart to slide in there on a 1 year 6 mil deal. Montreal and Vancouver seem reasonable. Depending how much salary Ottawa brings back in the Heatley trade, I could see them having significant interest in any of the upper tier scorers. If Colorado had any interest in being good (which I'm not so sure of), he'd be a nice fit alongside fellow Slovak Paul Stastny.

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#23 toprightcorner
June 13 2009, 01:52PM
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On the video it looked like Gaborik was playing mor of a RW position and Sportsnet and nhl.com have him listed as RW. We have failed miserable in the past at trying to put players in different positions, obvioulsy Gabby has far more talent and could likely survive the move, but could it reduce his scoring by 10% - 15%?

It will be interesting to see what he will do. He turned down 8 Mill from Min (I think he just wants to leave), he won't get 8 mill now, especially with his reliability risk. Does he take 1 year at 6.5 mill now in hopes to paly a full season to prove his health in hopes for a longer, richer contract? But in 2 years the cap will drop significantly and top players won't be going for 7+ mill.

So, 1 year at 6.5 in hopes for a long term $7+ mill with a dropping cap that may only allow him to get 5 mill, or take a 3 year 5.5 - 6 cap hit and hope the cap jumps to get a longer term at 7 - 8 mill but possible get less. Or does he bite the bullet and take a "Detriot" long term, front loaded 6 mill cap hit

If we could get him for a long term front load over 8 years with a 6 mill cap starting at 9 mill and ending with a few 1 mill years at the end, I would go for it. Katz has the csh to make that work.

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#24 West Coast Oil
June 13 2009, 02:19PM
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It will be interesting to see if Fletcher can resign Gaborik and what kind of interest he would have on the open market. Nows the time to sign star players as I think many would be willing to sign long term because of the economic uncertainty

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#25 Chester Copperpot
June 13 2009, 02:54PM
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I'd love to get Gaborik (or Havlat) but with the limitted sucess that Canadian teams have had attracting big named UFA, I would suggest Tambellini target Heatley because that's who's in play right now.

PS - Jonathan, nice three blog in a row hat trick.

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#26 Gary Bellman
June 15 2009, 12:07PM
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Just imagine Gaborik playing with Crosby.

Can it happen capwise for the Penguins? I'm not up on that, but...

Just imagine Gaborik playing with Crosby.

Will he stay healthy? Based on nothing but a gut feeling, I say yes. Only time will tell. But that speed and that shot and that playmaking...

Just imagine...

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