Free Agency 2012: Wild add depth, wait on Parise, Suter
While Zach Parise and Ryan Suter remain unsigned, the Minnesota Wild added needed depth as free agency began Sunday. Here's what fans can expect from center Zenon Konopka and right winger Torrey Mitchell.
Zenon Konopka- Konopka's role is simple: protect stars Dany Heatley and Mikko Koivu.
Via Mike Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
"Koivu is a superstar that maybe doesn’t get enough respect around the league and he should," Konopka said. "Heatley is a world-class player and we have to make sure those guys are taken care of and they feel very comfortable and nice. If they want to sit down at center ice and read the paper, they should be able to do that without anyone touching them."
Konopka will clear space for the crafty Koivu to go to work, whether that's scoring goals or reading newspapers.
More importantly, the enforcer's presence will spare Koivu the punishing hits that have shortened the Finn's seasons in the past.
The Wild star has missed 38 games over the past two years due to injury. His health remains integral to the team's success moving forward.
Although Konopka played sparingly for the Senators last season- he appeared in only 55 games- the emerging Wild will find value in the fourth line center beyond his enforcer role.
Konopka boasts an impressive career .588 faceoff win percentage, which makes him a useful penalty killer.
That is, if the pugilist isn't serving himself. Konopka's 193 penalty minutes in 2011-12 were good enough for third most in the league.
At the very least, Konopka will provide steady veteran presence who will guide and protect the future of the organization.
Torrey Mitchell- During the Kings Stanley Cup run fans took to calling the L.A. club, 'Flyers West.' The team featured three key members of the Flyers 2010 Cup squad that helped the eighth seeded Kings lift the chalice.
In a similar vain, Minnesota is becoming, 'Sharks Upper Midwest.'
Right winger Torrey Mitchell is the third Shark in two season to join the Wild, following in the skating strides of Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi.
In exchanging his teal for forest green, and the salt water of the Shark Tank for the fresh water of Minnesota's 10,000+ lakes, Mitchell hopes to become a building block in the Wild's progress towards contention.
The six year verteran was a valuable asset for perennial playoff teams in San Jose. Mitchell's speed separates him from the pack literally and figuratively. He utilized his pace to become one of the Sharks top forecheckers as well as one of its most reliable penalty killers.
He should fill a similar role with the Wild.
Although Mitchell won't fill up the stat sheet, he will contribute the kind of tenacious play that has endeared teammates Cal Clutterbuck and Darroll Powe to the Xcel Energy crowd.
Ultimately, fans will be much happier if and when the Wild sign Parise and Suter. In the mean time, General Manager Chuck Fletcher has made the Wild a more difficult team to play against.