Now we can get down to business.
The Minnesota Wild re-signed Marian Gaborik to a three-year deal, and fans throughout the state can breathe easy.
Ending speculation and worry that an unsigned Gaborik could lead to contract squabbles and ill-tempers, the Wild locked up the franchise’s all-time leading scorer. Fans are now free to speculate on what the Wild’s line combinations will be.
Click here for video of an interview with Doug Risebrough
"Getting this done was an important component of putting together a team that can compete for the long run in the Western Conference," said Assistant General Manager Tom Lynn. "Marian has fit with the players we have, and the new players we’ve brought in."
The news comes just prior to the deadline of the restricted free agent having the ability to file for arbitration. Although Gaborik would have remained with the team for next season if arbitration was necessary, the contract ends any uncertainty going into what is becoming the most anticipated Wild season since 2000.
"It’s a great opportunity for a young organization when a player chooses to stay here," said Wild President and General Manager, Doug Risebrough. "That is what Marian was facing. Clearly, he is an accomplished player that would have had choices. Today, he chose us. I have no doubt that (the deal) accelerated so much in the last 24 hours because Marian wanted to stay here."
The three-year deal begins this upcoming season. Risebrough said he’s fine with the contract lasting three years, although he likely would have been happier with a longer-term deal.
"I’m not uncomfortable with it," he said. "I think it was a factor for Marian because he’s still a young player, and this means he probably has a chance to choose twice. That’s okay because, just as I was not concerned about him playing as an unrestricted free agent, I wouldn’t be concerned about him playing on a three-year contract. At the end of the day, I think when all of the things align in the right way, he’ll want to stay."
As newly-signed power forward Mark Parrish said after signing as a free agent, "(Gaborik) is the missing piece."
He now completes the puzzle that has the Wild future looking extremely bright with him playing alongside familiar faces like Brian Rolston, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Mikko Koivu as well as new faces like Parrish, Pavol Demitra and Kim Johnsson.
"These are players that he can help," said Risebrough. "It’s not just them helping him, but he can help them and he wants to be here for that."
He added, "We believe we’re going in the right direction, and we believe we’ve got the plan to help us get there. We believe we’ve added players that can help us continue to develop younger players. We’ve seen that not only in Marian’s case, but others are choosing our team."
There was much speculation that the recent acquistion of Demitra, a close friend of Gaborik’s, would expedite the process. Demitra came to Minnesota via a draft day trade in exchange for a first round selection and Patrick O’Sullivan. Risebrough acknowledged it probably didn’t hurt, but it wasn’t the only reason.
"I think it was very helpful," he said. "It was a factor, but it wasn’t the only factor. We were trying to find a center who could move the puck and bring good offense. The fact that he played with Marian was probably a plus, and something I knew he would like, but that deal was really not done until the (17th overall pick in this year’s draft) came up."
Gaborik is the club’s all-time leading scorer, and he’s coming off his most prolific NHL season despite missing 17 games early in the season due to a nagging groin injury. His 38 goals in 2005-06 were a club record in his 66-point season, and he is the only player in Wild history with at least three 30-goal seasons.
So the Wild has locked up it’s all-time leading scorer, added his friend and former All-Star, a proven power forward, an offensive, puck-rushing defenseman, and a blueline bruiser, and kept the team’s top producers from a year ago.
What does Risebrough expect from his team in the upcoming season?
"That’s a good question," said Risebrough. "It’s a team that has the offensive ability, but still has to be very effective defensively. You can never score enough goals. What we have is more dynamics because we have more players to check. It should open up a few players. It should really help the young players. We always talk about playing a team game, and I think that means collectively sharing the puck. This allows our team game to evolve offensively."