Photo - Aj Mansour (KFAN)
By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
Exactly one year after the Minnesota Wild took the NHL world by storm and signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter last Fourth of July, chuck Fletcher and the Minnesota Wild continued to be active as free agency officially opened at 11AM (cst) on Friday July 5th. The fun didn't stop there for the Wild either as Fletcher kept the phone lines active all through the long holiday weekend as he continued forming his 2013-2014 roster.
If you were like most of us, you spent this past weekend up at the lake or focused in on blowing crap up for three straight days and you may have missed the festivities throughout the State of Hockey. Fear not Rube Nation, we've got you covered. Here is the timeline of events that you may have missed during Fourth of July Weekend.
July 1st - Cal Clutterbuck traded to New York Islanders: Kicking off the week's festivities, fan favorite Cal Clutter buck was traded to the New York Islanders for 20-year-old winger Nino Niederreiter. Clutterbuck had spent his entire NHL career with the Minnesota Wild tallying 62 goals and 48 assists. But Cal was known best for his physical style of play as he regularly began to lead the league in hits. Clutterbuck dropped off a ways in both offensive production and physicality last season and was on the verge of demanding a price tag that the Wild simply could not have met. Niederreiter gives the Wild another young talented player that could continue developing into a building block for this franchise.
July 3rd - Wild offer Tom Gilbert Compliance Buyout: News broke late Wednesday night that the Minnesota Wild were expected to offer a compliance buyout to defenseman Tom Gilbert. Gilbert had an up and down season for the Wild in 2013 and was carrying a hefty price tag. By taking the option to buyout the final year in his contract (which will pay $1 Million to Gilbert over the next to seasons), the Wild shaved nearly $4 Million in cap space for the upcoming season.
July 4th - Wild announce intentions to sign defenseman Keith Ballard: The announcement came from the Wild on July 4th, but the paperwork could not be filed until the 5th, but the Wild wasted no time in replacing Gilbert as they offered a two-year deal to the Canucks' buyout defenseman, Keith Ballard. At $3 Million for the two years, Ballard is a younger and cheaper replacement that should offer just as much on-ice production as Gilbert.
July 5th - Wild express that they will be unable to retain C Matt Cullen: It was not much of a surprise, but last year's 4th of July splash (Parise/Suter) unfortunately handcuffed the Wild for this year's free agency market and ultimately priced Matt Cullen out of the Wild's budget. Cullen, who played an integral role in the team's success in 2013, ended up taking a two-year $7 Million deal to join the Nashville Predators.
July 5th - Pierre-Marc Bouchard headed to New York: Also testing the free-agent market, forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard ended up accepting a one-year $2 Million deal with the New York Islanders. Marred by injuries that never allowed PMB to return to the form that landed him a $20.4 Million deal with the Wild in 2008, Bouchard likely saw the writing on the wall. Having spent the past 11 years with the Wild organization, Pierre-Marc had some kind words to share with KFAN contributor Michael Russo in this weekends Star Tribune.
July 5th - Jared Spurgeon re-signs with Wild: Following the Keith Ballard deal earlier Friday morning, the Wild continued working on the blue-line as they signed 23-year-old restricted free-agent Jared Spurgeon to a three-year $8 Million deal. Spurgeon showed signs of life in 2013 and obviously was appealing enough for the Wild to continue on the investment they made in him three years ago.
July 5th - Devin Setoguchi traded to the Winnipeg Jets: In a deal that was thrown together early Friday evening, the Wild kicked off a two-prong move by trading Devin Setoguchi to the Jets for a 2014 second round draft choice. Originally acquired by the Wild in 2011, Setoguchi was a part of the Brent Burns trade that never really worked out. Setto came to Minnesota with high hopes of rejuvenating a career that was on the skids, however he was never able to get the engine going.
July 5th - Wild sign controversial winger Matt Cooke: Rounding out the two part deal that started with the Setoguchi trade, Chuck Fletcher abruptly signed known cheap shot artist Matt Cooke to a three-year $7.5 Million contract. The signing was predictably accompanied by loads of criticism as Wild fans and critics took to social media questioning the Wild's intention on bringing a player with Cooke's history into the fold. Having served multiple league-enforced suspensions, Cooke has legitimately earned the reputation. Still Fletcher sees Cooke as a changed player who will fill in as a third-line-winger and have an impact from opening day.
From here, it's unlikely that the Wild will make many more notable splashes. They've mixed and mangled their roster to create cap space and bring in impactful players but now that the dust has settled on the opening weekend, look for the Wild to take a back seat and work mainly on retaining a few of their own players.