ST. PAUL, Minn. – The top priority for the Minnesota Wild is to sign forward Brian Rolston before he can become a free agent.
Wild general manager Doug Risebrough said Friday he was preparing to make his latest offer. Minnesota wants to retain the 35-year-old Rolston for a few more years after getting 96 goals and 106 assists from him over the last three seasons.
Rolston’s agent, Steve Bartlett, was out of his office when contacted late afternoon Friday and said he hadn’t seen the proposal, suggesting an accord was not imminent. But Bartlett and Rolston spoke positively about the negotiation process earlier in the week, and Risebrough made it clear this is his immediate goal. He said he’d like to finish it before the draft next Friday.
“I think the fact that we’re talking means we can get it done,” Risebrough said, “and we will make an attempt to do that.”
One of the team’s most consistent and reliable players, missing only five games over his first three seasons with the Wild, Rolston has expressed a desire to keep his wicked slap shot in Minnesota.
“I think there’s definitely a co-operative spirit,” Bartlett said this week.
Desiring flexibility under the salary cap, Risebrough said he won’t pursue both Rolston and fellow forward Pavol Demitra, who slumped last season but was still one of the team’s few true scorers.
“I can’t talk to both of them,” Risebrough said. “I guess I could do it and say, ‘Here’s the pile, guys. Somebody grab it, and whoever gets there first . . .’ But that’s not how it works.”
He added: “Both can come back. Both are not coming back.”
The Wild, who ended last season with a first-round playoff loss to the Colorado Avalanche after winning their first Northwest Division title, began with 10 unrestricted free agents. But defenceman Petteri Nummelin and forwards Branko Radivojevic and Chris Simon have signed with European teams, and defencemen Keith Carney and Sean Hill have been told they won’t be back.
That leaves forwards Todd Fedoruk, Matt Foy and Aaron Voros. Fedoruk proved to be a valuable contributor on the tough-guy line, and Voros enjoyed an early-season scoring spree. Risebrough indicated a desire to sign at least one or two of them, but declined to specify.
“I think it’s offensive enough that I’ve started with one. I don’t want to start lining them up and say, ‘Well, you’re two and you’re three.’ So I feel like there’s some more discussions to take place,” Risebrough said.
Centre Pierre-Marc Bouchard, the team’s first-round pick in 2002, is a restricted free agent. He has yet to receive a multi-year contract offer, but Risebrough said he plans to serve one after July 1.
One year away from unrestricted free agency, Bouchard could decide to go through arbitration and sign another one-year deal. Risebrough also said he plans to talk about a contract extension for star Marian Gaborik after July 1.