The Minnesota Wild began their foray into the depths of the NHL Free Agency period with a clear aggression to bolster depth, tenacity, and skill.
To combat the lack of “toughness” and respect given to Wild players this past season, Chuck Fletcher inked the 6’1 213 pound center Zenon Konopka to a two year deal. Konopka, an undrafted free agent originally signed by the Lightning, spent last season with the Ottawa Senators. Known as an enforcer around the league, Konopka will immediately demand and insure that the Wild’s stars are treated as such. Wild fans can also expect to see plenty of Konopka in the faceoff circle and the penalty kill, as he is surprisingly talented for an enforcer in winning draws and staying on the ice. He is set to make $950,000 per year.
To help with the speed, athleticism, and depth of the forwards on the team, former San Jose Sharks winger Torrey Mitchell signed a $5.7 million dollar , 3 year contract which will pay him $1.9 million per year. Expect to see Mitchell on the 3rd line, shifting Cal Clutterbuck to the left wing. Wild fans may be familiar with Mitchell, as he was the player who accidentally got tangled up with former Wild D Kurtis Foster that sent him head-first into the boards, breaking his leg a few years back.
Interesting to note for Wild fans clamoring over the depth chart and possible line combinations; Chuck Fletcher clearly refuses to rush the influx of incredibly young and talented forward prospects who are turning pro this coming season. This means the likes of Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker, Zach Phillips, Johan Larsson, and Brett Bulmer are by no means guaranteed a spot in the Show; on the contrary, that they will have to do nothing short of wowing the coaching staff and front office to “play their way onto the team”. Surely Fletcher has seen the damage of rushing prospects(see Colton Gillies, Benoit Pouliot).
Expect the Parise decision around noon central time tomorrow morning, with Suter’s decision right on the heels of the announcement. The Wild have gone absolutely all-in on these guys, and as even some media types have said, there wasn’t really the belief that the Wild would be in it this long. In the final 3 of both Parise and Suter, they are clearly going for broke and the scenarios previously discussed can really only amount to the following; either the Wild pull a coup and sign BOTH Parise and Suter, or they lose both guys to the prevailing train of thought that they go to Pittsburgh and Detroit respectively. Doesn’t look like I’m going to be sleeping tonight.