After signing undrafted overage WHL offensive stud Brady Brassart on Saturday, the Minnesota Wild has signed the team’s 2013 third round selection, Kurtis Gabriel, to a new three-year entry level deal.
Gabriel, a hulking 6’4″ 214-pound right winger, currently has 12 goals and 30 assists for 42 points, 86 penalty minutes and a plus-4 rating in 54 games with the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack. The New Market, Ontario native is an assistant captain for the Attack, and currently ranks first in assists, third in penalty minutes and fourth in total point scoring.
“We’re very happy with Kurtis’ progress this year and look forward to him developing within our organization,” Wild Assistant GM Brent Flahr said. “He’s a hard-working kid that brings an intriguing package of size, physical competitiveness and character.”
Gabriel’s contract is set to begin starting next fall.
In other news, Wild rookie goaltender Darcy Kuemper has become the fourth Minnesota player this year to earn the NHL’s “Star of the Week” honors. In two starts last week, Kuemper posted a 2-0-0 record while collecting a 0.48 goals against average, a .981 save percentage and a shutout in back-to-back road games against Edmonton and Vancouver. After two games he’d like to forget about in the early part of the season, Kuemper has been lights out after taking the starting reins back on January 7th. Since then, the hulking young netminder has posted a 10-2-2 record, a 1.94 goals against average, a .935 save percentage and two shutouts.
Even with the exceptional play of the tremendously talented youngster, Minnesota’s goaltending situation is in a very fragile situation. Niklas Backstrom is no longer the franchise netminder of old, and his lingering abdominal strain is ensuring he won’t have the chance to return to form if nothing is done to take care of it. Josh Harding dominated the league for the first quarter of the season, but his bouts with multiple sclerosis medication issues may have his NHL career on the ropes. Fortunately for Minnesota, Kuemper has stepped up beautifully, but there’s absolutely nothing behind him should he go down as well.
That said, Minnesota is and has been in the market for a goaltender for a while. New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur, Buffalo’s Jaroslav Halak, Carolina’s Cam Ward, Justin Peters and Anton Khudobin, Florida’s Tim Thomas and Edmonton’s Ilya Bryzgalov have all been connected to the Minnesota Wild via trade rumors, and there’s no question the team has probably taken all of them into consideration.
The two goalies believe to be in the front running for Minnesota are Brodeur and Halak. While Halak’s 24-9-4 record, 2.23 goals against average, .917 save percentage and four shutouts are certainly impressive, the Wild brass appear to be questioning just why St. Louis was so quick to exchange the 28-year old netminder for an aging Ryan Miller. Though Halak has yet to see a start for Buffalo as the team actively looks to flip him (namely to Chuck Fletcher and the Wild), are the Devils giving Brodeur one last start as a sample size for potential trade partners? It certainly looks that way as he is slated to start against the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday night on the eve of the league’s trade deadline. By all accounts, it has become quite apparent Minnesota is very interested in acquiring the services of Brodeur. The presence of the team’s pro scouts in New Jersey tomorrow could speak volumes as to just how true that might be.
In the meantime, Nashville has put Devan Dubnyk on waivers today. The 14th overall pick in 2004, Dubnyk has struggled mightily between Edmonton and Nashville this season, posting an 11-18-3 record, a 3.43 goals against average, a .891 save percentage and two shutouts in 34 games. Even though acquiring him would cost Minnesota absolutely nothing, there’s no question better options are to be had via trade.
We’re at T-minus 48 hours and counting until the trade deadline. If there’s anything last year’s Jason Pominville blockbuster deal has taught us, it’s that it’s not over until it’s over. Buckle up, folks–this one’s going right down to the wire.