ST. PAUL, Minn. – New Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold held his breath while coach Jacques Lemaire weighed his hunger to return against a desire to retire.
As for Doug Risebrough? Leipold didn’t sound at all worried about losing his general manager, quashing curiosity whether Risebrough would listen if the once-proud Toronto Maple Leafs made a pitch for him to fill their GM vacancy.
Or from anybody else, for that matter.
“This is the marquee market,” Leipold said.
Leipold, who sold the Nashville Predators last year and returned to the NHL ownership ranks by buying the Wild in a US$260-million sale that closed last month, spoke proudly of the stability and success Minnesota has enjoyed since entering the league in 2000.
Referring to the rest of the league, he said, “They ought to be worried that we’re not going out and getting their coaches and general managers. This is where you want to be.”
In an interview in his office at the Wild’s headquarters in St. Paul, Leipold said he has “never” had a discussion with Risebrough about his status.
“And I don’t think there would be,” Leipold said.
After Minnesota was eliminated from the playoffs in April, Risebrough said he was excited about Leipold’s arrival and “arguably might have the best job in hockey.”
Stressing his hands-off management style and faith in the hockey operations department to handle their responsibilities, Leipold looked relaxed and expressed excitement about the direction of the team now that Lemaire has decided to return.
“I called Jacques the other day to congratulate him and thank him for coming back,” Leipold said. “I’m looking forward to being with him next year and hopefully the following year. He was so happy and happy with the decision.”
This will be a busy summer for Risebrough and the front office, with 10 unrestricted free agents due off the roster of the reigning Northwest Division champions.
Front and centre is left wing Marian Gaborik, who has one year left on his current contract, but is a candidate for either an extension or a trade.
“I’d love to have him here. Absolutely,” Leipold said. “He’s a special talent and you can see that he was really maturing this year.”
Leipold called the decision “100 per cent Doug,” but reiterated an organizational hope that the Wild’s all-time leading scorer and only player left from the original team will be a part of the long-term future.
Barely one month into his official ownership of the Wild, Leipold has made a deal.
John Arlotta, a longtime business associate and friend of Leipold who lives in Denver, signed a letter of intent to buy the Minnesota Swarm lacrosse franchise from the Wild’s parent company, Minnesota Sports and Entertainment.
Leipold called the Swarm part of the “inner prizes” of his purchase from Bob Naegele Jr., but said it wasn’t a “core” business.
Arlotta, who is taking time off as a health care executive to pursue this, asked Leipold a few months ago if he would sell him the team. He’s an ardent supporter of Notre Dame’s lacrosse programs who, according to Leipold, crisscrosses the country to watch the sport.
The takeover, pending National Lacrosse League approval, was announced Wednesday. The Swarm will continue to play at Xcel Energy Center and receive support and certain services from MSE, which bought the club in 2004. Leipold said Arlotta is committed to at least five years here.
“He loves it and this is what he wants to do, so it’s all going to work out real good,” Leipold said.