Wild owner Craig Leipold became the man of the summer when he landed top-tier free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter on Wednesday. He penned a letter to Wild fans where he called the signings a “huge step forward.”
On Thursday, Leipold seemed just as enthusiastic.
“This is a game changer,” Leipold said, according to the Washington Times. “We’re overnight changing who we are. We’re changing our identity. We’ll never get that opportunity again.”
That’s certainly a fair statement. The team sold 700 season tickets on Wednesday. Wild fans clearly seem to share Leipold’s upbeat attitude and outside of Minnesota, fans of opposing teams are looking at the Wild in a new light.
It also reinforces that in the salary cap era, sometimes the often overlooked teams can compete with franchises that have a better reputation for success.
“We didn’t think we were going to get either one,” Leipold admitted. “We heard Detroit was hot on Suter. All we know is what we’re reading. We were hearing we were up against Pittsburgh, Chicago, teams that have won in the last three or four years. These aren’t just your normal run-of-the-mill teams. They’re winning right now.”
In Minnesota, Parise and Suter were not only able to play close to home, but on a team that already had strong goaltending and a nice list of up-and-coming prospects. The Wild haven’t won a playoff series since 2003, but with this boost, they’re relevant again.
For the second time in his career, Ryan Kesler is wearing an “A.”
On Thursday, the Anaheim Ducks announced that Kesler would serve as one of the club’s alternate captains this season, taking over for Francois Beauchemin, who signed in Colorado this summer.
With the move, Kesler joins Anaheim’s existing leadership group of captain Ryan Getzlaf, and alternate Corey Perry.
“It’s an honor,” Kesler said, per the Ducks. “It’s special. I’m going to wear it with pride and lead by example.”
As mentioned earlier, Kesler has some experience as an alternate — he wore an “A” in Vancouver from 2008-13, but had it removed prior to the start of the ’13-14 campaign.
It’s not surprising Anaheim went in this direction. GM Bob Murray made a huge investment in Kesler this summer by inking the 31-year-old to a six-year, $41.25M extension.
Could Raphael Diaz be on his way back to Switzerland?
We’ll know in a month.
Diaz, who lost out on the Rangers’ final blueline spot in training camp, has reported to the club’s AHL affiliate in Hartford but doesn’t seem pleased with his current situation, per the Post:
The 29-year-old Diaz, who cleared waivers last Saturday after the Blueshirts opted to keep rookie Dylan McIlrath as the club’s seventh on the blue line, is interested in the European option if he is not in the NHL.
The Blueshirts have told Diaz they will revisit the situation at the end of October, but have not promised to release him or assign him to a European team at that point.
If Diaz, a Swiss native who represented Switzerland in the 2014 Olympics, does play in Europe during the season, he would have to go through waivers in order to return to the NHL.
Diaz’s agent, Ritch Winter, told the Post that Diaz signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Rangers “to play with the Rangers.”
And it’s understandable if Diaz — a journeyman offensive defenseman — isn’t happy with this situation.
While some believe McIlrath earned his roster spot on merit, some think it’s because of his contract status. McIlrath, who’s only 23 and a former first-round pick, would’ve needed to clear waivers to go back to Hartford, and it’s believed he would’ve been claimed by another club.