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Analysis: Wild fly under the radar with two smart moves

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

As is their custom, the Minnesota Wild made an understated jump into the action of the NHL’s first day of unrestricted free agency, first signing left winger Andrew Brunette to a multi-year contract, then acquiring defenseman Marek Zidlicky from Nashville in return for prospect Ryan Jones and a second round pick.

For Brunette, who potted 19 goals and 59 points in 82 games for Colorado this season, this will be his second tour of duty in Minnesota. In his first three seasons (2001-04) with the Wild, the soon-to-be 35-year-old amassed 54 goals and 164 points in 245 games. His goal-scoring ability will help make amends for the offense lost by the imminent departure of UFA center Pavol Demitra.

Meanwhile, the 31-year-old Zidlicky joins a retooled Wild defense corps that will include former Ducks blueliner Marc-Andre Bergeron and emerging star Brent Burns. Zidlicky fits into the mold of smart, if not exactly surly, D-men that coach Jacques Lemaire is enamored with.

The trade removes the two years and $7 million owed to Zidlicky from Nashville’s books, and gives them Jones, a fourth round selection in the 2004 draft who likely has a couple years of American League seasoning ahead of him before he joins the Predators’ NHL roster.

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