Yeo’s extension in Minnesota might prove tricky


Interesting stuff here from the Star-Tribune about contract negotiations between the Wild and head coach Mike Yeo:

Yeo, whose last contract paid him approximately $600,000 in the final year of his deal, is likely looking to double his salary. After the initial meeting [last week with GM Chuck Fletcher], Yeo left for a fishing trip and is scheduled to return Wednesday.

The two sides weren’t expected to talk during his trip, so talks should continue once he returns. Like I reported May 15-17, this was bound to take a little time.

When Yeo took the job right out of Houston in 2011, there was basically no negotiation. He has since guided the Wild into the playoffs in two consecutive years of a three-year deal and guided the Wild into the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2003. So, this contract would require an actual negotiation, and frankly, that’s the position the Wild put itself in by not giving Yeo a one-year contract extension last summer.

Given he was in the final year of his deal, it’s clear the organization took a wait-and-see approach in the playoffs before committing to an extension.

All Yeo did was raise his stock.

Despite going in as a wild card qualifier, the Wild impressed this postseason — beating Central Division champs Colorado in Round 1 before pushing the ‘Hawks to OT of Game 6 in Round 2 — and, suddenly, Yeo went from being a “guy on the fence” to a “guy the organization couldn’t lose.”

Fletcher said as much in his year-end presser, saying “Mike’s the coach of our team” and thereby giving Yeo some significant leverage in negotiations.

So, how will said leverage come into play? Consider the following:

— Yeo’s still one of the best young coaches going, even though he’s had the Wild job for three seasons. He remains the NHL’s youngest bench boss at 40, with the next oldest being 43-year-old Dan Bylsma.

— Oh yeah, Bylsma! That’s a name worth mentioning. He could very well be shown the door in Pittsburgh following Ray Shero’s dismissal and that could be a huge development for Yeo, who spent 10 years in the Pittsburgh organization (including four as an assistant coach) prior to joining the Wild’s AHL affiliate in Houston.

— How much money does Yeo want? That could be an x-factor, especially since Wild owner Craig Leopold has made no secret about how deep his pockets are, or how much he’s willing to spend to build a winner.

Of course, Minnesota has some leverage too. Yeo and his staff are under contract until June 30 so, even if he was interested in exploring other options (Vancouver, Florida and Carolina still have vacancies, remember) he’d need the club’s permission to speak with other teams.

So the signs really do point to Yeo heading back to Minnesota. It just might not happen all that quickly.

Fabbri primed to make Blues in significant role

Jason Demers, Robby Fabbri
AP Photo
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With the start of the regular season just around the corner, it looks like Robby Fabbri will not only make his NHL debut on Thursday, but also get meaningful minutes.

During Sunday’s practice the 19-year-old forward played alongside Jori Lehtera and Jaden Schwartz. Nothing is set in stone, but that combination did gel.

“I think we want to look at what the combinations look like now rather than do it at the start of the season,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We’re looking at a hard match line and we’re also looking at taking advantage of speed and skill off the rush.

“I really liked what I saw today. I really liked Lehtera’s line, they looked very dynamic off the rush.”

The top line of Alexander Steen, Paul Stastny, and Vladimir Tarasenko seems like a good bet to play together for the time being. Jori Lehtera and Jaden Schwartz will stick together on the second line while Dmitrij Jaskin and David Backes can expect to be regular partners on the third unit. The X-factors will be Fabbri and Troy Brouwer as Hitchcock has left the door open to alternating between the two of them on the second and third line depending on the opponent.

Fabbri was taken with the 21st overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and is looking to make the leap after a brief stint in the AHL last season. At the OHL level, he’s been a dominate force with the Guelph Storm, scoring 25 goals and 51 points in 30 games in 2014-15.

Panarin impresses ‘Hawks with his preseason debut

Artemi Panarin
AP Photo

Will Artem Panarin‘s overwhelming success in the KHL translate to North America? The 23-year-old forward has a lot to prove, but his first big test was a success.

Playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin made his preseason debut in Chicago’s finale on Saturday. He registered two assists while giving his teammates reason to be optimistic about him.

“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Panarin as well and liked that line as a whole.

The fact that the trio seemed to hit it off quickly has to come as a relief after an upper-body injury prevented Panarin from getting the most out of this year’s training camp. At the end of the day though, the fact that he was able to at least get in one preseason contest is a big silver lining. How smoothly his adjustment goes from here is still a big X-factor, but at least now he’s going into the regular season with a better idea of what to expect.

Panarin is attempting to establish himself in the NHL after leading the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg to a championship last year. He was the team’s scoring leader, topping ex-NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.