Losing Pavol Demitra and Brian Rolston hurt. Doug Risebrough was obviously disappointed that both chose to leave for greener pastures, after being optimistic that Rolston, or possibly both, would be back in Minnesota next year. While Demitra’s in Vancouver wondering when Mats Sundin will be his linemate and Rolston’s in Jersey wondering if he could potentially lead the team in goals (Zach Parise was the only player to top 30), Risebrough wasted no time in making sure that he wouldn’t be letting Marian Gaborik go without a fight. The oft-injured Gaborik had a career season last year, posting 42 goals and 83 points. The year before saw Gaborik post amazing point-per-game numbers, including 30 goals in 48 games, but only to be sidelined for nearly half the season. When healthy, Gaborik is as dangerous as any forward in the league with game-breaking scoring ability. The slick-skating Slovak forward will be an UFA next summer and is currently contemplating testing the free agent market.
Since the departure of his best friend Demitra, there has been numerous reports about Gaborik’s supposed disappointment in that he doesn’t play on a more offensive-minded team. Being Minnesota’s most valuable and talented player, some were suggesting that Risebrough offer the winger the max compensation of roughly $11m/year, but Risebrough has denied any intention of giving Gaborik the league maximum. However, Risebrough has expressed a strong desire to retain the forward, flying to Trencin to gauge Gaborik’s interest in staying with the Wild. Both sides have reportedly started off on a good note, and Risebrough is ready to make a long-term offer, anywhere from 4-7 years, with as much as $8.5m/year, making him one of the most highest paid forwards in the league.
I think Demitra and Rolston’s departure sparked Risebrough into early negotiations with Gaborik. He knows that he cannot lose the key piece to his offense, and he’s willing to break the bank to do so. At this point both sides are just touching bases, and despite Demitra’s departure and Gaborik’s lack of enthusiasm of the Wild’s system, I would be shocked if Gaborik doesn’t stay in Minnesota for a long time. Of course, other than the dollar numbers, I’m sure Gaborik would also be pushing for Risebrough to get some extra offensive help.