While the Detroit Red Wings were busy introducing Mike Modano, the Minnesota Wild were busy moving on to their Plan “B” in the hunt for an experienced centerman, signing three-time Stanley Cup winner John Madden to a one-year deal. Madden won his third Cup last season with the Chicago Blackhawks and his veteran presence will be as much of an acquisition for the Wild as having his skill set will be.
While the Wild were one of the teams pursuing Mike Modano to fill a an important depth role, it’s clear they weren’t going to let his decision dictate their plans and for their efforts they’re able to get a savvy, face off-winning, penalty killing specialist for their trouble. It’s not a bad consolation prize. Madden’s deal with the Wild, according to Michael Russo of the Star-Tribune, will be for $1 million with a chance to earn another $250,000 in bonuses, bringing the cap hit to $1.25 million, the same amount that Modano signed with Detroit for.
For the Wild, this brings their total of forwards up to 14 while they’ve got five defensemen squared away easily with jobs as well. The shuffle of how things will work at the forwards will be interesting as this now puts the pressure on Kyle Brodziak and James Sheppard to step their games up and earn the job as the team’s fourth line center. The Wild signed Matt Cullen earlier in free agency to be their second line center and with captain Mikko Koivu set as their top centerman, Madden will fit in easily as the third line pivot.
One thing working in Brodziak’s favor is that he played very well with Guillaume Latendresse and Martin Havlat on his wings. If that line remains together next season, however, I’ll be shocked because it would mean that two of the team’s better offensive weapons wouldn’t be working with any of the three better centers on the roster. For James Sheppard, he’s on perhaps his last chance to show the Wild that he’s worth the first round pick they used on him in 2006 (9th overall). Sheppard has been nothing short of a bust in his time with the Wild amassing just 11 goals in three seasons with the team. If he can’t beat out Brodziak for a job in training camp, it’s safe to say his future in Minnesota won’t be very long.