Eden Prairie native Chad Rau won’t be the 13th Minnesotan to play for the Wild, yet. Rau was reassigned to Houston today as the Wild skates against the Calgary Flames tonight at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
The move frees up a roster spot, which will be filled by defenseman Justin Falk, who will return to the lineup after missing 11 games with an upper-body injury. Falk was placed on the injured reserve on November 27.
With Mikko Koivu, Devin Setoguchi, Guillaume Latendresse and Casey Wellman out of the lineup with injuries, the Wild is expected to dress seven defensemen tonight against the Flames.
After two games with the Minnesota Wild, Jeff Taffe has been reassigned to the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League.
Taffe had an assist in each game with the Wild while skating on a line with Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley. The Hastings, Minn., native was the fourth Minnesotan to skate for the Wild this season and 11th all-time.
The move likely means that Cal Clutterbuck is ready to come back to the lineup on Tuesday when the NHL-leading Wild travels to Winnipeg, and tries to extend its win-streak to eight games against the Jets.
In somewhat of a surprise move, the Minnesota Wild has placed center Eric Nystrom on waivers. Nystrom has until Friday at 11:00 a.m. to clear, and if he does, he’ll be assigned to the Houston Aeros of the AHL.
Nystrom, who is in the second year of a three-year contract with Minnesota, was slated to center the Wild’s fourth line with Brad Staubitz and Colton Gillies on the wings. But a strong camp performance by rookie Brett Bulmer coupled with the waiver pickup of Nick Johnson last week gave the Wild a pair of young and gritty wingers. The Wild was also faced with having to make a decision on Matt Kassian, who is close to coming off injured reserve. Had he been sent to Houston, Kassian also would have to clear waivers, and the Wild probably wasn’t willing to lose his toughness and size. Kassian could very well be in the season opening lineup due to the suspension of Staubitz.
In his first season with Minnesota, Nystrom picked up four goals and eight assists with a -16 rating while playing in all 82 games for the second straight year.
The news keeps on coming from the Minnesota Wild Hockey Operations department, with the latest announcement made at lunchtime Wednesday: the Wild has signed restricted free agent Colton Gillies to a two-year contract.
The 22-year-old left wing was a major factor in the Houston Aeros’ run to the Calder Cup Finals this spring. He tied the team lead with seven playoff goals and ranked third on the club with 12 points (7-5=12) in 24 playoff games. The 6-4, 208-pound winger posted 26 points (11-15=26) and 82 penalty minutes in 64 regular season games with the Aeros in 2010-11.
Gillies also played seven games with the Wild, scoring one goal, a tally in the Wild’s 5-3 win over Dallas in the season finale. For the first time in his Wild career, he has not been asked to skate in this July’s Wild Development Camp for prospects. Gillies will come into this fall’s training camp looking to stay with the big club, having previously skated 45 games with the Wild in the 2008-09 season, recording seven points (2-5=7). The native of White Rock, B.C., was Minnesota’s first-round pick (No. 16 overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
The third head coach in Minnesota Wild history will be named at an Xcel Energy Center press conference on Friday at 11:00 a.m. The announcement will be streamed live on Wild.com.
The Wild has been in the market for a head coach since Todd Richards was relieved of his duties a day after the conclusion of the 2010-2011 season. After an extensive search, General Manager Chuck Fletcher is ready to make his announcement.
The Minnesota Wild has made its first trade of the offseason. This morning, the Wild swung a deal with the New Jersey Devils, acquiring center David McIntyre in exchange for Houston Aeros defenseman Maxim Noreau.
McIntyre just finished his first professional season with the Albany River Rats, picking up 30 points on 12 goals and 18 assists in 78 games. His rookie season followed a standout four-year career at Colgate University in which he totaled 131 points (56-75=131) in 151 contests and was a finalist for the 2009 Hobey Baker Award. His college accolades also included ECAC All-Academic Team honors, an ECAC First All-Star Team and NCAA East First All-American Team selection in 2009 and an ECAC Second All-Star team selection in 2010.
McIntyre was orginally a fifth round pick of Dallas (138th overall) in 2006, but had his rights traded to Anaheim and then New Jersey.
In the deal, the Wild gives up Noreau, who was one of the American Hockey League’s most prolific offensive defensemen over the last two years. He played five NHL games for the Wild last season, but an abundance of defensive prospects put his odds of cracking the Wild’s full-time roster as minimal.
The trade bolsters the Wild’s depth at center, and puts McIntyre into the mix of competitors for an NHL roster spot with the likes of Casey Wellman and Cody Almond.
The offseason is supposed to be downtime. Not so on day one.
Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher let Head Coach Todd Richards know this morning that he would be let go.
Contrary to reports on Twitter and in the media, nobody else on the coaching staff has been terminated. The contracts of Dave Barr and P.J. Deluca expire at the end of June, but their return is largely dependent on the new coach, who will have a huge say in how his staff will be built. The current staff also includes assistants Rick Wilson and Darby Hendrickson, as well as goaltending coach Bob Mason.
During his press conference today, it was evident how tough a decision this was for Fletcher. He noted Richards’ work ethic and desire to win, while also thinking about the coach’s family. He said the results “are what they are,” and that he’ll be looking “for the right fit” and someone who can get more out of some of the players on the roster.
To see Fletcher’s press conference, click here.
The players also took it hard. In most cases, when a coach is fired, the players bear a lot of the burden and today was no different.
See what Mikko Koivu had to say to the media here, Andrew Brunette’s reaction here, Cal Clutterbuck’s thoughts here and John Madden’s reaction here.