ST. PAUL, Minn. – Wes Walz is still missing from the Minnesota Wild, who officially granted an indefinite leave of absence for the veteran centre on Thursday.
The team said Walz requested the leave, but provided no further details. Wild general manager Doug Risebrough and assistant general manager Tom Lynn were unavailable for comment. Walz’s agent, Jay Grossman, didn’t return a phone call.
Walz, one of two players remaining from the team’s inaugural season in 2000-01, was initially excused on Nov. 1. Lynn has said Walz’s situation is not related to health or family.
The 37-year-old, who is in his 12th NHL season, is being paid and counts against the salary cap. He will not count, however, against the 23-man active roster during his absence.
Walz, one of Minnesota’s two alternate captains, thought about retiring last spring. Instead, he agreed to a one-year contract for this season, the fourth time he’s signed with the Wild. Though his career high is a modest 19 goals and 37 points in 2005-06 and he has missed time to several lower-body injuries, Walz has long been one of the team’s most valuable players for his speed, grit and defensive ability. He skated on the first line for the season opener with Marian Gaborik and Pavol Demitra.
In an unrelated note, Gaborik and Demitra have not practised this week due to strained groin muscles. Their status for Sunday’s game at Colorado is uncertain.