In Godfather Part III, there is a line that sort of resonates with me lately, “Every time I try to get out, they pull me back in.” Normally in July, we’d be far enough into the offseason for me to take it easy and I could start easing back to writing about 1 article per week. The Minnesota Wild have made that impossible, and while I am not complaining it just seems to be a busy summer (news-wise) for the franchise. So far, most of that news has been very good to both the team and most importantly its fanbase who had been showing some definite signs of frustration. However there are signs that the team’s moves are having an immediate positive impact in one area, season ticket sales. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that the team has sold more than 400 season ticket packages since the Dany Heatley trade on July 3rd. Its no small feat to get Twins-crazy Minnesotans to talk Wild hockey in July but the organization has been keeping the buzz going which should make the opening of the 2011-12 season one of the most anticipated in recent memory.
The moves just don’t seem to stop anymore. Yesterday the Wild signed 26-year old defenseman Mike Lundin (pronounced Lun-DEEN) to a 1-year deal worth $1 million. Lundin has spent the majority of the last 4 seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Apple Valley, Minnesota-native surprised many after making the Lightning after a 4-year stint with the University of Maine. The 6’1″, 195lbs defender is noted for his decent mobility, smart and safe play in his own zone and solid hockey IQ. He is not a physical defenseman but instead uses good positioning and quick feet to stay with opposing forwards and angle them towards the wall. Lundin’s age certainly fits with the ‘go younger’ ideal the team has set for itself this offseason but I can’t help but think of this moment when I think of Mike Lundin (and it bothers me).
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See what bothers me now? Tyler Seguin just flies past him and scores a huge goal, his first playoff goal of his career and I have to admit it makes me wonder if our team would be better off simply giving that last defensive spot to the host of young blueliners in the Wild’s prospect pool like Nate Prosser, Marco Scandella or Justin Falk. Obviously the organization are hoping Lundin’s experience can be the difference on what will still be a fairly young blueline for the Wild next season. Lundin is not a big offensive weapon with just a goal and 12 points in 69 games last season with the Lightning. It will be interesting to see if Lundin’s experience will make him appear that much more poised compared to those aforementioned defenseman in pre-season play as well as how long (or short) of a leash he’s given considering the number of ‘on the cusp’ guys chomping at the bit for that spot on the roster.
The team now has 21 players under contract for its 23-man roster and while that does leave open 2 possible roster spots for Prosser, Scandella, Falk or Drew Bagnall it really probably all boils down to the team’s comfort level. As Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune sees things, this is how the roster boils down at this point.
Line #1: Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley
Line #2: Guillaume Latendresse, Matt Cullen, Devin Setoguchi
Line #3: Darroll Powe, Kyle Brodziak, Cal Clutterbuck
Line #4: Colton Gillies, Eric Nystrom, Brad Staubitz
Defensive Pair #1: Nick Schultz, Marek Zidlicky
Defensive Pair #2: Greg Zanon, Mike Lundin
Defensive Pair #3: Clayton Stoner, Jared Spurgeon
Goaltender #1: Niklas Backstrom
Goaltender #2: Josh Harding
I have to admit, Russo’s roster makes complete sense and I think its more reasonable than the initial pipe-dream of having Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley on the top line centered by Mikko Koivu. Going back to our defense conundrum part of the deal may come down to development and ice time. From the outside, I would think the Wild would rather have a young defenseman with a very bright future like Marco Scandella logging big minutes with the Houston Aeros instead of waiting around for the odd opportunity to play with the Wild.
Lundin’s contract is pretty affordable and its a one-year deal so the future is not being compromised by giving the 26-year old a shot. The team still has $10.3 million in cap space which gives the team a nice cushion in case it finds itself with a crisis like it did last season when Josh Harding blew out two ligaments in his knee during pre-season action.
What do you think of these moves? Do you like the direction the Wild are taking or is it too many changes, too fast? Please leave a comment and vote in our poll as well!