Chuck Fletcher

On the Wild’s financial future

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Over the last three years, few teams have been as financially aggressive as Minnesota. The team dropped a combined $196 million on Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, acquired big salaries at each of the last two trade deadlines (Matt Moulson and Jason Pominville; the latter inked a $28M extension in October) and gave Thomas Vanek a three-year, $19.5 million deal in July.

One reason GM Chuck Fletcher’s been able to spend like this is because he’s had a number of good, young contributors playing on entry-level deals: Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Jonas Brodin, Darcy Kuemper and Erik Haula, to name a few.

But things are about to get tight.

The Wild have roughly $8M this year to get deals done for RFAs Neiderreiter and Kuemper, and both figure to be signed in due time. Next year, though, is when things will get tricky — Brodin, Coyle, Granlund and Haula will all need new deals (as will fellow RFA Marco Scandella).

More, from the Minnesota Star-Tribune:

When Fletcher says spending too much money on players impacts other things, remember, the Wild next summer has Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella and Erik Haula – among others – to re-sign. Overpaying, say, Niederreiter even by a few hundred grand would have ramifications and likely cost the Wild on the others. That’s why Fletcher says he has to be mindful with his RFAs in a cap world. That’s also why Fletcher, later this summer and into the season, will look to try to extend the contracts of guys like Granlund, Coyle, Brodin and maybe others.

Fletcher will be looking to sign all his young players to contracts of two to four years. Short-term deals are easiest because it’s less likely neither side will make a mistake.

Fletcher’s biggest task might be figuring out a financial hierarchy for his prized youngsters. Brodin’s a gifted 21-year-old d-man that plays 23 minutes a night and has immense value. Granlund, 22, had 41 points in 63 games during a breakout ’13-14 campaign and showed legit star potential. Coyle is huge (6-foot-3, 222 pounds) and endeared himself to fans and the organization by playing through two separated shoulders during last year’s postseason. Haula is remarkably fast and was a vital contributor in the playoffs, scoring seven points in 13 games.

(Don’t underestimate Scandella’s worth, either — at 23, he’s an 18-minutes-a-night guy that had 17 points and a plus-10 rating last year.)

Looking ahead, the Wild only have 11 players under contract for 2015-16… for $50 million. Even with the cap projecting to rise, that’s still a lot of money dedicated to a core of players that aren’t the future of the club. Pominville turns 32 in November and is on the books ’til 2019; Vanek’s now on the wrong side of 30 and will make $6.5M annually for the next three years.

Add it all up, and next season promises to be an intriguing one in Minnesota — both on and off the ice.

Video: Rangers shut out red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

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The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.

But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.

In the process, they held a red-hot Sidney Crosby off the score sheet, which has been a difficult, sometimes impossible task for opposing teams since about the middle of December. He entered this game with a seven-game scoring streak.

(In fact, New York held No. 87 to without a shot on goal in the entire game.)

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout.

Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead in the first period, before Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast put the game away in the third.

Pittsburgh remains in the second Wild Card spot in the East. The Rangers now move three points clear of the rival Islanders for second in the Metropolitan.

Video: Wideman hearing ‘a tricky case’ as NHLPA hopes to get 20-game suspension reduced

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There is no certain timeline for when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman might rule on Dennis Wideman‘s appeal, according to a report from hockey insider Darren Dreger on NBCSN, as the Calgary Flames defenseman hopes to get his 20-game ban for hitting linesman Don Henderson reduced.

“Now, ultimately what they’re hoping from a Wideman perspective and the Players’ Association is that commissioner Gary Bettman will rule and he will reduce the number of games suspended down from 20,” said Dreger during a segment on NBCSN.

“Is he going to reduce it by three games? Five games seems a bit of a stretch. And when might he do that? There’s no timeline on this.”

Report: Coyotes shut down Vitale (concussion) for the season

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Joe Vitale will not play again this season.

The Arizona Coyotes have shut Vitale down for the remainder of the 2015-16 campaign due to “concussion-related issues,” according to a report from Sarah McLellan of azcentral sports on Wednesday.

Vitale, a 30-year-old veteran center, appeared in only one game for the Coyotes this season. That was back on Oct. 17, when he suffered a concussion and broken orbital bone in a fight with Kevan Miller of the Boston Bruins.

Sens announce Frattin, acquired in Phaneuf deal, will stick with AHL Marlies

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Matt Frattin was traded by the Leafs to Ottawa yesterday as part of the Dion Phaneuf blockbuster.

But for now, he’s staying in Toronto.

On Wednesday, Sens GM Bryan Murray announced that Frattin will remain with the Leafs’ AHL affiliate — the Toronto Marlies — on loan, but will be available for selection should Ottawa require his services down the road.

Frattin, 28, has spent all of this season with the Marlies, scoring nine goals and 22 points in 47 games. His last NHL appearance came during the ’14-15 campaign, with the Leafs.

Prior to that, the former North Dakota standout had spent time in Los Angeles and Columbus.