There's a bit of angst over at 317 Washington St. in St. Paul these days.
And it has absolutely nothing to do with the upcoming Republican National Convention, Sept. 1st-4th.
It more has to do with two matters concerning the Minnesota Wild hockey team -- and its' legion of faithful fans, including you, dear blog reader -- which has arisen as free agency wanes and the upcoming arbitration hearings for restricted free agents loom.
One matter will, of course, settle itself at 11 AM Central time Thursday when the NHL releases the 2008-09 regular season schedule. The Wild (and its' fans) will know how to plan their lives for the next nine (or more, depending on playoffs) months.
I, your Wild Road Tripper, cannot wait. The Wild are guaranteed games at Tampa Bay (please, January, please!), Boston and the Nassau County Coliseum (not in January, thanks) vs. the Islanders. This is in addition to playing every Eastern Conference team at least once during the upcoming campaign. (Let's do better against the Southeast this time, OK, boys? 2-2-1 really sucked rocks last February & March. Of course, I attribute the two wins to the presence of the Road Tripper and his faithful wife at both the St. Pete Times Forum and BankAtlantic Center last February!)
The other matter, of course, is much more distressing. LW Stephane Veilleux has been put on waivers by the Wild. Their best overall checking forward, he epitomizes what we fans thought was the Wild long-term philosophy. 'Grown-in-house' talent, who will play defense first, and if they get offense in the deal, all the better. Veilleux had to cover the likes of Vinny Lecavalier, Olli Jokinen, Alexander Ovechkin (good luck there), not to mention the Iginlas, Forsbergs, Sakics, and Jonathan Cheechoos of the NHL.
Now why, do you ask, does this occur? Let's let Gordon Gekko, from the late 1980's movie 'Wall Street', tell you...
"Greed is good. Greed works."
But now, who really IS being greedy here? Veilleux? Or Wild management?
Veilleux, acting as his own agent (a practice frowned upon by the NHLPA) , wants similar money to Aaron Voros, who left the Wild for the much greener pastures of midtown Manhattan, where Voros signed a two-year, $2 Million deal with the New York Rangers. The thing is, Veilleux wants it from the Wild, not the Broadway Blueshirts.
So what do the increasingly frugal Wild do? 'Dollar' Doug Risebrough pulls the rug out from under Veilleux by putting him on waivers.
(Geez, Dougie. Nothing quite like setting direct player-management negotiation relations back a generation in one move, eh?)
The Wild want to show Veilleux that he is not worth as much as he THINKS he is. If no one claims him, he remains Wild property and heads for an arbitration hearing late in July in Toronto. he probably will get most, if not all of what he wants, and then, guess what?
Next summer -- when he will also be trying to re-sign (unless traded) the likes of Niklas Backstrom, Mikko Koivu and Marian Gaborik -- Veilleux will become an unrestricted free agent.
(Anyone tell Dougie that if he doesn't like dealing with player agents, that maybe he should change his tune just a little bit? He'll get his fill of player agents next summer, won't he?)
Now, I've never said that the Wild should just roll over and open the vault for Stephane. (After all, he's not the offensive threat of Gaborik.) But then again, the phrase 'penny-wise and pound-foolish' really comes into vogue here. A little compromise -- on BOTH sides -- can go a long way.
Veilleux plays a dangerous game. He sticks up for his teammates, 'mans up' when necessary and will actually drop 'em once in a while, and has shut his mouth and played. And learned. He has earned the respect of Jacques Lemaire and every real Wild fan, by making the best use of what abilities he has been given to pursue a hockey career. He normally faces some of the greatest players in our time and has to defend against them.
Who woulda' thunk that the most dangerous game Veilleux would have ever played would turn out like this?