After biggest rookie signing in team history, Wild fans now ask: What will team do for an encore?
The angst was, indeed, for naught.
The Tuesday signing of Mikael Granlund to his first NHL contract -- an event which was scheduled, announced, but still not believed by most Minnesota Wild fans until the ink was on the paper -- closed the latest chapter on GM Chuck Fletcher's master rebuilding plan, as the IIHF World Championships in Helsinki ended, and, as scheduled, Granlund didn't bail out on Minnesota. He did exactly what he had said he would do. Now, then, the next question for Wild fans:
What do the Wild do for an encore?
The NHL Draft is less than four weeks away, at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, on June 22 & 23. Will that be the next big acquisition day? Will the Draft bring another big trade, such as last season's Brent Burns - Devin Setoguchi swap, announced at Xcel Energy Center during the first round of the 2011 Draft?
Or will the trade embargo lift, 48 hours after the last game of the upcoming Devils-Kings Stanley Cup Finals, to a crescendo of trade activity which might give the Wild an inside shot at a number of players who might just help dramatically improve the roster?
Or, will we all just sit back and wait until Free Agency Day, and watch the NHL Network (who will, once again, carry the TSN feed), as player after player changes teams for greener pastures, while the Wild sit idly by, and take the best remaining leftover?
Rumors abound about a myriad of players, especially about the two biggest potential free agents -- Devils winger Zach Parise, and Predators defenseman Ryan Suter. Everything so far is just that -- a rumor -- but the fact is that these two players, and many, many more, are about to get paid, and some serious amount of coin will slide across Fletcher's table, as well as the tables of the 29 other NHL clubs. The buzz will amp up the week before, as the Wild Summer Bash road trip (also known as the start of the Anthony Lapanta as Wild play-by-play announcer sell-job) trudges across Minnesota in the height of the mosquito season. The fact that the tour ends up at the John Rose Oval in Roseville, instead of the X, is also indicative of this being less about the current Wild team than normal.
No conspiracy theories here, folks. Just some thought, that the Wild need to do a better sell job on their current ticket holders, and that this may be (or may NOT be, we'll see) a way to start the summer sales campaign off. With the Twins tanking, the Vikings stadium woes finally behind the state, and the Timberwolves doing no better than the Wild, this is the time the Wild sales staff need to step up their efforts to sell hope to the masses.
Of course, the hockey operations staff could make life a lot easier for the sales department, by signing a couple of the big name players rumored to be hitting the market, to help out the bumper crop of rookies and second-year players, who are expected to make the Wild roster on Opening Day, 2012 (whenever THAT may be), CBA negotiations not withstanding.
Oh, snap! I forgot to acknowledge the 800-pound gorilla in the room. The CBA negotiations, which have not even begun yet, between the owners and players, with the two sides gearing up to act like an episode of, 'the Bickersons', across a table in Toronto.
Maybe we don't have to worry about a season after all...