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As a Minnesota sports fan, I am very used to hometown teams in every pro sport neglecting to go after big-name free agents.  The Twins always seem to have a "that guy is still in the league!" signing, usually a player who get released halfway through the year (i.e. Tony Batista).  The Vikings used to be this way until Wilf bought the team, and the Wild have used this Minnesota "make the playoffs but don't go any further" method as well.  With the introduction of the salary cap a few years ago, I expected the playing field in the NHL free agency market to be leveled and I thought the Wild would go after top-echelon players, seeing as how they do have one of the nicest arenas and arguably the best fans.  Since then they have made average signings, like Kim Johnsson (who still probably isn't worth $4.5 mil) and Mark Parrish (hasn't done much lately), and they traded a top prospect for Pavol Demitra, but they have yet to go for a top free agent.

This is the year the Wild will have to be active in the free agent market if they want to win soon.  I think the GM, Risebrough needs to go out and sign a top defensemen.  The only truly game-in game-out reliable defensemen on the Wild are Brent Burns and Nick Schultz.  Burns, who I think will win the Norris Trophy before he retires, is already one of the best d-men in the Western Conference and will only get better.  Schultz has been a minute-eater the last couple of years and has turned into a very strong player, always matching up against the opponent's top forward.  It ends there; the rest of the Wild's defensive unit consists of Kim Johnsson, Keith Carney, Martin Skoula,  Kurtis Foster, Petteri Nummelin, and Sean Hill.  Nummelin and Hill are now free agents and they won't be re-signed.  Foster suffered a severely broken femur at the end of this year and may not ever play again, although he is signed for next year.  Johnsson is a decent player, but often has lapses in judgment and has not been worth the money.  Carney is nothing more than a third defensive pair player.  Skoula is absolutely awful.  He is hated by fans in Minny and is the owner of a -16 +/- this year. 

Possible unrestricted free agent defensemen this summer include Wade Redden, Adam Foote, Mattias Norstrom, Brad Stuart, and Rob Blake.  Overall, this is not a great group at the top, but it has depth.  Others are Mike Commodore, Dmitri Kalinin, Jean-Michael Liles, and Andreas Lilja, among others.  It would be great if the Wild go after and sign at least one of the mentioned players, in order to shore up their blue line.  Personally, I would prefer Brad Stuart or Dmitri Kalinin, both in their late 20's, but I think that a Mike Commodore-type player would be more practical and would go along the same line as previous offseasons.  Injuries really hampered the Wild's chances of beating Colorado in the playoffs and they could have won if they had more depth at defense.  Burns and Schultz were clearly getting tired in the third period. 

 As for the Rolston or Demitra situation, I would go for Demitra first, mostly because of the chances he creates for other players such as Gaborik or, as evident in the playoffs, whoever is the third forward on their line.  He also had a much better +/- than Rolston.  Although I would rather have Demitra, it is a tough call and I speak for most Minnesota fans when I say I'll hate to see either one leave the State of Hockey.


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