Today at 11AM central time, the NHL free agency free for all begins. Unlike free agency in many sports, the NHL version comes fast and furious, with big names being signed very quickly in most years. The top prize of this year's frenzy is former Thrasher / Devils rental player, Ilya Kovalchuk. While the Wild do not have the cap room to go after such a large prize, they do have a desire to be involved today.
Michael Russo reports that Matt Cullen, a local boy, is interested in playing for the hometown team. Cullen would be an excellent addition, and would make the second line of Havlat and Latendresse (recently re-signed Latendresse) a much more lethal scoring threat.
Also in play are Olli Jokinen, who has acquired a bad reputation throughout the league, after two of his worst seasons and being traded multiple times. Labeled a locker room cancer, Jokinen is now saying all the right things in an interview with Russo. It may be an interesting fit, since Jokinen is Finnish, as is Mikko Koivu, Antti Miettinen, and Niklas Backstrom. Maybe having some countrymen to relate to would help Jokinen pull out of his two year slump. Many have called this a low risk option if he is willing to sign for a small contract. I would say this is a last option, but a serviceable one.
Finally, there is Saku Koivu, Mikko's older brother. Last year it did not work out since Saku did not want to impose on "Mikko's team." This year could be different as Saku is most definitely reaching the end of his career, and there is no word out of fellow Finn Teemu Selanne as to his future. Maybe with a year under their belts, and Mikko firmly implanted as the leader of the Wild, maybe, just maybe Saku has a change of heart. Before anyone gets too excited, this is a huge long shot. The safe bet is that he will re-sign with Anaheim, or go where Teemu goes.
Stay tuned to SBN Minnesota or Hockey Wilderness for more as free agency plays itself out today.