The Wild made several more cuts today, dropping their roster to 27 players, with a severe catch.
Justin Falk, Jonathan Blum and Gustav Olofsson were unsurprisingly sent to Iowa, Falk and Blum, remember had been waived, earlier in the week and with Nate Prosser back in the fold, were clearly on even more borrowed time. The same could be said for Joel Rechlicz, a one-dimensional slugger who will only ever see a Wild sweater if Mike Yeo and Chuck Fletcher anticipate any more shenanigans like last night’s game in St. Louis. Brett Sutter and Curt Gogol were also cut, but were long shots at best to ever make the roster and will serve as minor league depth assuming they clear waivers tomorrow.
In terms of young players, Tyler Graovac was sent down, which had to be anticipated when he played in only two preseason games, both of which were “weak lineup” games. The same can be said for Zack Phillips (though Phillips did play Monday against Pittsburgh), whose time as even a B-level prospect has probably come to an end.
Really the only interesting cut was Michael Keranen, a player who looked good when he was in the lineup, but ultimately joined a team that already has a few of his type; small, skilled, offense-first forwards. The question now is whether he accepts his assignment or exercises his right to return to Finland. Indications from management are that he would accept an AHL post if placed there, so we can hope. He’s certainly good enough to want to hold on to.
And now for who’s left, and a discussion of that catch.
27 players left in camp, but realistically it is only 24. That figure of 27 includes Ilya Bryzgalov, who certainly won’t make the team, as both Kuemper and Backstrom have proven themselves in camp. To wit, Bryz has barely played. Speaking of goalies, that 27 also features Josh Harding, so that’s another off the list.
Joining Harding on the injury train is Justin Fontaine, who will miss the first few weeks with a lower-body injury. That leaves only 13 other forwards on the roster, obviously an ideal number, so players like Jason Zucker and Cody Almond are apparently safe for now. As with Harding, this may set up a roster conundrum in a few weeks when Fontaine returns, but that is news and debate for another day.
The Wild still do have nine defensemen, and one would think either 22 or 23 players will remain with the team, so one, maybe two cuts left. While Suter, Spurgeon, Brodin and Scandella are the core, and one has to think that Prosser and Ballard are seemingly, seemingly, safe from the axe, who knows what will happen next. Some scenarios
1. The Scenario all fans hate. Both Matt Dumba and Christian Folin are sent to Iowa to mature, leaving the Wild with a seven-man group that includes Ballard, Stu Bickel and Prosser, with the added knowledge that two of them have to play every night. Some points to help you sleep at night under this scenario: 1) no prospect has ever busted out due to too much time in developmental leagues (see Red Wings, Detroit) and 2) no roster ever looks exactly the same come playoff time as it does at the beginning of the season. This would only be temporary. At least we can all hope that.
2. Modest proposal #1. One of Dumba/Folin stays (you’re guess which one, I’m lost at this point) and Bickel gets waived/sent down. Fans get to see one of the shiny new things play, the Wild carry eight defensemen, and have virtually no one to fight back when tough teams start knocking them around.
3. Modest proposal #2. One of Dumba/Folin stays and the Wild waive Ballard or re-waive Prosser. This seems plausible, but more likely that Ballard goes at this point due to his ongoing injury problems. This would have some cap ramifications, but they would be minimal. Again, the Wild carry eight defensemen, and keep Bickel around for some muscle when needed.
4. The nuclear option. Both kids get to stay, Fletcher waives Ballard and Bickel, then keeps Prosser as a seventh defenseman. Probably what all fans want at this point, but don’t count on it.
So there you have it, expect to see all five of those guys both in the lineup tomorrow night, playing for their freedom. Should be interesting.