Bill Guerin

Dean Evason named full-time head coach of Wild

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As the Wild enters training camp, the players will know Dean Evason isn’t an interim head coach anymore.

The team announced on Monday that they are dropping the interim tag and making the 55-year-old their full-time coach. Evason also gets an extension out of the deal, with his contract running through the end of the 2021-22 NHL season.

“Dean has done a fantastic job as our interim head coach and deserves this opportunity,” said Wild general manager Bill Guerin in a statement. “I look forward to watching our team under his leadership going forward.”

[Full schedule for 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers]

Evason took over coaching duties on Feb. 14 following Bruce Boudreau’s dismissal. In 12 games he led the Wild to an 8-4-0 record. He was part of Boudreau’s staff after joining the team for the start of the 2018-19 season following six years in charge of the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals.

The Wild are set to face the Canucks in their best-of-five Stanley Cup Qualifier series beginning on Aug. 2.

MORE:
Hockey is back: NHL, NHLPA ratify CBA, return to play agreement
Salary cap to stay flat at $81.5 million

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Guerin, Wild try to stay calm despite challenges in signing Kirill Kaprizov

Wild hope to sign Kirill Kaprizov eventually Bill Guerin
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It’s rarely been simple or straightforward for the Wild to get treasured prospect Kirill Kaprizov to actually join the team. Sadly, for anxious Wild fans, it looks like the waiting game will continue. It’s also unclear how long this will feel like the neverending story.

Ideally, the Wild would be able to sign Kaprizov to a two-year entry level contract. The door would normally be open since his KHL deal expired.

The COVID-19 pause has complicated these eternally complicated matters, though. Such complications have prompted worries that the latest attempts at a Kaprizov deal might eventually fall apart.

To his credit, Wild GM Bill Guerin is trying to take the slow-and-steady approach with Kaprizov.

“I understand the anticipation of Kirill, and him getting signed, but this is just one of those things that’s gonna take a little bit of time,” Guerin told Dan Myers of the Wild website. “Would I have liked this done three weeks ago? Sure, I would have liked this done three years ago. But this is an unusual situation, and had things gone the way they normally would have, without coronavirus, things probably would have been different.”

(Wild fans nodded their heads so hard at the “three years ago” part.)

From fast forward to a pause

In previous seasons, teams have been able to sign prospects after their seasons ended at other levels, injecting talent late in a campaign, or even postseason. This sets up “everyone wins” scenarios. The teams get the boost of talent, while prospects were able to “burn” a year off their entry-level contracts despite limited games played.

Such benefits can sometimes be profoundly noticeable. Chris Kreider gave the Rangers a nice boost during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. As recently as last postseason, Cale Makar became an instant smash-success for the Avalanche.

Under normal circumstances, the Wild would be able to bring Kaprizov in the same way by signing him to a two-year deal that would run through 2020-21. Unfortunately, amid all of the COVID-19 confusion, the NHL paused teams abilities to sign Makar/Kreider-type deals. If that remains, a Kaprizov contract couldn’t kick in until 2020-21.

As the Athletic’s Michael Russo notes (sub required), there’s mild hope that people might be able to change the NHL’s mind on the matter. That hope may not be justified, however, as a source told Russo that there’s “zero chance” the NHL will change its mind.

“To be honest, I don’t know. It doesn’t really look like [he’d be eligible to play this season],” Guerin said to Myers. “But I don’t want to put words in anybody’s mouth or make a call that hasn’t been finalized. We’re just taking it day-by-day with him and wait.”

Several ways Kaprizov situation could go sour for Wild

This process has already been riddled with headaches.

Almost exactly three years ago, rumors circulated and were later confirmed that Kaprizov signed a three-year deal to stay in the KHL. While there was some hope in bringing Kaprizov to the Wild as early as 2018-19, fans were instead teased with glimpses of his brilliance.

And make no mistake about it, there’s serious evidence that the 23-year-old can live up to the hype. If big numbers in the KHL and international play won’t convince you, these highlights should drop a jaw or two.

Of course, strong work — including 33 goals and 62 points for CSKA Moscow this season — makes it even more appealing to keep Kaprizov from leaving the KHL.

If the Wild can bring Kaprizov over for whatever’s left of 2019-20, then the uncertainty surrounding 2020-21 becomes a problem. What if the league doesn’t open things up until December? That would be a long time for Kaprizov to wait around, especially in the near-certain event that a KHL team can dangle a lucrative offer for next season.

Russo listed some alternative options for Kaprizov and the Wild. Those options range from the dicey prospect of “loaning” Kaprizov to a KHL (or other league) team, just signing him to a two-year deal and getting him to the U.S., or even just waiting a year.

Russo also points out another consideration:

One wrinkle is that once Jan. 1 passes, Kaprizov will be in his 24-year-old year even though he doesn’t turn 24 until April 26. That means he would only be able to sign a one-year entry-level contract, not a two-year deal.

Sheesh, right?

Guerin seemingly handling the Kaprizov situation well for Wild

Again, one can understand if the frustration is mounting.

With that in mind, it’s probably positive that Guerin is fairly fresh to the Wild job. Much of the grumbling happened during Chuck Fletcher’s tenure as GM, so maybe the slate is cleaner now?

Guerin told Myers that he believes Kaprizov is “actually being really smart in taking his time” with this process. Beyond that, Guerin’s been in frequent contact with Kaprizov, and it’s not always been just business. Russo even noted in an April article that Guerin texted Kaprizov happy birthday in Russian when the prospect turned 23.

If it eases any tension (probably not much, but still), the Wild only used a fifth-rounder on  Kaprizov (selecting him 135th overall in 2015). So if this eventually pans out, the Wild might still get a steal.

They just needed to work hard to pull off that heist.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

PHT Morning Skate: Reviewing NHL trades; Boudreau wants another coaching gig

Boudreau wants another coaching gig; reviewing trades NHL deadline headlines
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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Bruce Boudreau admits he was blindsided by his firing, and uttered the inevitable expletives. Boudreau doesn’t believe he’s too old to keep coaching, and wants another gig. (The Athletic, sub required)

• By trading Jason Zucker and firing Boudreau when Boudreau didn’t see it coming, Wild GM Bill Guerin put his team on notice. Who might be next? (Pioneer-Press)

• Doctors haven’t cleared Nolan Patrick for contact, but he’s skating again with teammates. Patrick explains how much of a difference it makes not to be alone anymore during this process. (NBC Sports Philly)

• Canadiens coach Claude Julien received a $10K fine for his comments to officials. (Global News)

• The league added some context to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s red-hot, record-breaking 11-game winning streak. Spoiler: they haven’t trailed very often. That and more in their morning skate. (NHL)

[PHT is tracking and reviewing trades through the deadline here]

• I must confess that when I read the headline “Part of the Sedinery,” I was wondering if there might be a Sedin twins wine. Reading about their outstanding charitable efforts was even more delicious than a smooth Valpolicella. (Vancouver Province)

• Travis Yost argues that Mike Hoffman would be a perfect fit for the Oilers. Actually, Yost is making that argument again. Imagine Hoffman’s sniping with Connor McDavid‘s playmaking? Goalies everywhere grumbled. (TSN)

• Going longer-term on Edmonton, Tyler Yaremchuk discusses Ken Holland’s quest for cost certainty. Giving Zack Kassian an iffy contract certainly took away a lot of breathing room. (Oilers Nation)

• Raw Charge makes a spot-on analysis of the Blake Coleman trade from Tampa’s perspective. Coleman is indeed a great addition, but credit to New Jersey: the price was high. (Raw Charge)

• Lou Lamoriello is reviewing other options for trades after adding Andy Greene to the mix. They’ve lost some ground in playoff races, so that might be a wise strategy. (Islanders Insight)

Blake Wheeler feels “gutted” for injured Jets teammate Bryan Little. (Winnipeg Free-Press)

• The Blue Jackets have had to scratch for every win, point, and basically every goal this season. (The Score)

Logan Couture seems close to returning to practicing with the Sharks. Here’s some unsolicited advice: err on the side of safety during a lost season. (NHL/Sharks)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

PHT Face-Off: Weber can’t catch a break; Don’t sleep on Coleman

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It’s Monday, which means it’s time for the PHT Face-Off. We’ll look at some of the big topics and storylines around the NHL for the upcoming week.

• Don’t sleep on Blake Coleman:

Since the trade went down between New Jersey and Tampa last night, most of the focus has been on the return the Devils were able to get for Coleman. Obviously, they did very well in this deal. Getting prospect Nolan Foote (former first-rounder) and Vancouver’s conditional first-round pick is a nice haul.

But not enough focus was placed on what the Lightning were able to get their hands on. If you’re a casual hockey fan, you might not realize just how good Coleman’s been this year. He’s definitely a late bloomer, but he had 22 goals last season and he’s already up to 21 in just 57 games this year.

The biggest reason Tampa had to give up what they gave up for him was because of his cap hit. Yes, Coleman’s productive, but he has one year remaining on his contract at $1.8 million. The Lightning are strapped for cap space going forward, so getting someone as versatile as Coleman at that price is a bug deal for them.

Don’t be surprised if better plays fetch less of a return simply because they make more money. Most of the good teams don’t have money to blow.

Shea Weber can’t catch a break:

The last three years have been rough for the Canadiens captain. He’s missed a significant amount of time with foot and knee injuries during that time and he got some more bad news last week. Weber suffered a sprained ankle that will keep him out for anywhere between four and six weeks.

Last week, there was some speculation that the injury was much more serious than the Canadiens were leading on. Nick Kypreos suggested that it might be career-ending. Whether or not that’s true remains to be seen, but it’s tough to ignore Weber’s injury history now.

He played just 26 games in 2017-18, 58 games last season and if he doesn’t play again this year, he will have played in 55 contests.

The big problem is that he’s one of the two cornerstones of Montreal’s roster. He and Carey Price are the most important leaders in the locker room. And the Canadiens don’t have anyone on the roster or in the system that can come close to matching what Weber brings.

What if Kypreos is right? Does that change the way general manager Marc Bergevin has to look at all of this? Bergevin seems to believe that this team can be competitive next year, but that won’t be possible without Weber.

This situation could force him to go with a full rebuild.

Jordan Binnington hitting a rut

Binnington was one of the main reasons the St. Louis Blues hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2019, but things have been a little rockier for him lately. That’s not totally unexpected. Once the sample size got bigger, it was only normal that he was going to struggle at some point.

He’s won just one of his last six games and he had given up three goals or more in eight consecutive games before holding the Predators to two goals on Sunday.

If you’re a Blues fan, there’s nothing to worry about yet. He’s proven to be an effective goaltender this season, too. Will the Blues lean on Jake Allen a little bit more in the immediate future? Maybe. But they’ll clearly sink or swim with Binnington at this point. When the games matter, he’ll be the one between the pipes.

They need to make sure he finds his game as quickly as possible because they are far from locked in to that top spot in the Central Division. The Blues are first with 74 points, but Dallas (72 points) and Colorado (72 points with two games in hand).

We’ll find out if the Blues can win the division soon enough.

• Bill Guerin tearing it down

The Wild general manager made it clear that his team is open for business. They’ve traded Jason Zucker away to Pittsburgh and fired head coach Bruce Boudreau already. It seems likely that there’s more to come in the next few days/weeks.

Beat writer Michael Russo reported last week that there were multiple teams interested in defensemen Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin. Both have term left on their deal (Dumba has three years while Brodin has one year remaining). Those guys both make more than Coleman, but they’re both quality players. The return for each guy won’t be cheap.

The big question is whether or not Guerin can pull off more major moves before the Feb. 24 trade deadline. Making hockey deals isn’t easy. A lot of times these things get done at the draft or over the course of the summer.

It seems clear that no matter what happens, the Wild are beginning a painful rebuild. This is a roster filled with older players and they need to go younger. Guerin knows that.

It’ll be interesting to see just how much he can get accomplished over the course of the week.

Meanwhile, the decision to fire Boudreau wasn’t unanimous:

What’s coming up this week

• Bolts will try to match franchise record 11-game win streak: Mon. Feb. 17, 9 p.m. ET
• Sens will retire Chris Phillips’ no. 4: Tue. Feb. 18, 7:30 p.m. ET
Semyon Varlamov going back to Colorado: Wed. Feb. 19, 10 p.m. ET

NHL on NBCSN
• Capitals vs. Golden Knights, Mon. Feb. 17, 6 p.m. ET
• Maple Leafs vs. Penguins, Tue. Feb. 18, 7 p.m. ET
• Blues vs. Wild, Sun. Feb. 23, 7:30 p.m. ET

Wednesday Night Hockey
• Rangers vs. Blackhawks, Wed. Feb. 19, 8 p.m. ET

NHL on NBC
• Penguins vs. Capitals, Sun. Feb. 23, 12:30 p.m. ET

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Bruce Boudreau fired, Wild names Evason interim coach

Boudreau hot seat
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Bruce Boudreau has been fired by the Minnesota Wild with 25 games remaining and the team sitting three points out of a wild card spot.

“I would like to thank Bruce for his hard work and commitment to the Minnesota Wild during his tenure with the organization and wish him and his family the best in the future,” said Wild GM Bill Guerin in a statement.

Dean Evason, who was named an assistant in June 2018, has been named interim head coach.

Guerin made the decision Friday morning, a day after a 4-3 shootout loss to the Rangers. Despite a sluggish start to the season, they had been playing well of late going 7-3-1 in their previous 10 games. Still Boudreau being firing felt inevitable as he coached the final year of his deal.

In parts of four seasons under Boudreau, the Wild compiled a 158-110-35 record and the 12th-best points percentage since his hiring in 2016. He led the team to two playoff appearances, which both ended in five games in Round 1.

You can also point the finger at one area that ends up costing head coaches their jobs: goaltending. Since Boudreau was hired, the team’s even strength save percentage has gone from .926 and .927 in his first two years to .912 in each of the past two seasons.

Boudreau, who marks the eighth NHL coaching change this season, is an interesting free agent on the market at the moment. The Devils, Flames, Sharks, Stars all currently employ interim head coaches, while teams like the Red Wings and Sabres could potentially be seeking new bench bosses in the near future. Any one of them could benefit from hiring Boudreau, who has a track record of improving teams after coming on board.

There’s also the possible interest by the Seattle expansion franchise who will begin play with the 2021-22 NHL season. But given Boudreau’s work history, he’s not out of a coaching gig for very long. It should be interesting to see if any teams move quick to lock up his services.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.