Jim Mill, the General Manager of the Houston Aeros, is still in the early stages of finding his next head coach. In the meantime, he's trying to make sure that coach is coming to a team that has some offensive clout.
Last week, the Minnesota Wild signed the Aeros' leading scorer from 2009-10, Jean-Michel Daoust to a one-year contract. Today, the club inked Houston's fourth-leading scorer, Chad Rau
, to a two-year deal.
"Chad had a successful rookie season in Houston, making the adjustment from college hockey," said Mill. "He is a skilled offensive player, but also plays a strong two-way game. He adds valuable depth to our organization.
Rau is a familiar name in these parts, having starred at Eden Prairie high school before going on to torment WCHA competition as a four-year standout at Colorado College.
Now, the talented center hopes he can one day play his home games in Minnesota again.
"It would be awesome," he said of the idea of putting on a Wild sweater. "I'm really excited to be able to stay with this organization. I really enjoyed being a part of it last year, and it's a great opportunity. Hopefully I can continue to improve, and maybe get a chance to play for the Wild. It would be unbelievable."
While unbelievable for Rau, it may not be unrealistic. Mill said that Rau continued to improve from the time he joined the team's prospects at the late summer tournament in Traverse City, to the final game in Houston.
"There's no doubt (he has more in him)," said Mill. "It's an opportunity signing for him because he's got an opportunity here (in Minnesota). We need to add depth to the organization. Any time a guy like that can improve in a rookie season, it's a good sign.
It's not a secret we need to add some depth and some talent and some youth to the organization. He does that."
Rau also hopes he's playing at the same time as his buddy, fellow Minnesotan and college teammate, Nate Prosser
On Monday, the 23-year-old had just gotten off the phone with Prosser to discuss the good news, and they're already planning their summer training together.
"He's just an awesome guy," Rau said of Prosser, who played three years with Rau in Colorado Springs. "I'm excited to have a couple more years with him, too. In our years together, he kept improving dramatically, and from what I hear, he turned it on even more his senior year."
As for Rau, he "turned it on" his entire college career. Rau put up at least 30 points in each of his four seasons as a Tiger, including his junior season when he racked up 28 goals among 42 points in 40 games. He was a First Team All-WCHA selection that year, as well as his senior season when he notched 18 goals and 19 assists in 38 games.
Last season was Rau's first as a pro after signing a minor league deal with Houston, and he admitted there were a lot of adjustments he had to make.
"It was a little different than what I've been used to in college. I wish we would have done better in the standings, but overall I thought it was a good year and a great experience.
Some of the systems we used were a lot different than what I was used to. The level of play, too, the players are obviously better. But playing three games in three nights, we didn't have much of that in college."
The 5-foot-11, 178 pounder adjusted enough to tie for the team lead with 79 games played, and registered 19 goals and 19 assists.