Sunday, May 20, 2012

Forty Days and 40 Nights

'To-Do' list for Minnesota Wild is long, daunting as Granlund signing, June draft, free agency approach

As the Stanley Cup Playoffs near their end, and yet another season is finally in the record books, the Minnesota Wild turn their eyes towards the future, both in the short and long-term, as there are four major dates to consider in the next 40 days:

1. June 1st. The date by which GM Chuck Fletcher must have his prized first-round pick of 2010, Mikael Granlund, signed to an NHL contract, or he goes back into the draft pool to be chosen again. The Wild have repeatedly assured fans and media that he will sign, after Finland's final game in the IIHF World Championships. That game is being played as I write this at Helsinki's Hartwall Areena, which became a house of horrors for the Wild in October, 2010 during the NHL Premiere series vs. the Carolina Hurricanes. Hopefully this time, the Wild will actually get it right and pull out a 'W' from the granite-walled edifice, by getting Granlund in the fold, once and for all.

2. June 22 -- 23. NHL Draft, CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh. OK, most Wild fans were frustrated after last season's epic crash-and-burn. This is where they begin to make up for all that losing, all that spent angst, all the injuries and patched-up line-ups. Fletcher and the scouting staff need to score big here, to continue to upgrade an organization, which is still suffering the effects of the Doug Risebrough years, of trading away draft picks for washed-up vets, and marginal third-and-fourth-line players. (Bill Muckault, anyone?)

3. July 1. NHL Free Agency Day. The day that Fletcher really needs to be at the top of his game, as he has been given the ability to sign the two biggest names in the free agency pool -- Zach Parise and Ryan Suter -- together, which would please most Wild fans no end. But can the staff sell the potential free agents that the Wild are headed in the right direction, for the medium-and-long term? And, if either or both of those sign elsewhere, then who do you go for? Or do you sit back, play the kids next season and hope for even better players to test free agency after the 2012-13 season (if we even have one, which brings me to the next point...)

Sept. 15th. NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement expires. Without a new CBA in place, it is doubtful there will even BE a 2012-13 season, so adamant that both sides are in their positions. Negotiations have, so far, barely begun, and no official negotiating sessions have even taken place, yet all signs point to at least a delay to, if not a total cancellation of, the start of next season. The NHL owners want a 50-50 spilt of all hockey-related revenues; currently, that split is 57-43 in favor of the players. The NFL and NBA currently have similar revenue splits. After what looks to be a classic East Coast-West Coast Stanley Cup Final upcoming, to have this goodwill be crushed like this over a labor dispute is the last thing either side (owners or players) need.

Wild fans just need to wait and see how all this plays out, because for better or for worse, the fact is that for this franchise, the only game that they can play right now, is a waiting game.

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