The Wild Beat
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Blogs have been light lately, but hopefully you have read the actual articles on startribune.com/wild.

I only mention that because several years back, I met a Wild fan in California who read my gamer blogs religiously. One day I mentioned the actual articles, and he looked at me like I was from outer space. He thought I only blogged after games and never knew that there were actual articles and features and news reports, which kind of miffed me because my postgame blogs, while expansive and long and analytical, are also hastily written and sometimes unclean because they’re not edited and I want so badly to get out of the pressbox after writing all day for the interweb and paper.

So you can always go back in the archives. Last week, besides the Matt Cullen returns story, there was also a Da Beauty League feature (the playoffs begin tonight at Braemar with the championship Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.) and today there’s a feature on the late Bryan Murray and what he meant to Wild GM Chuck Fletcher and Senior VP of Hockey Ops Brent Flahr. Tough article for me to write because Murray was the first GM I covered in the NHL and we remained tight throughout the years.

Just a tremendous person and hilarious. We had some battles during my time covering him in Florida, but even those always ended well after the initial, let’s call it, brashness.

I’ll be telling Bryan Murray stories ‘til the day I die. He’ll be missed greatly by many of us.

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Since Cullen’s return to the Wild, I have gotten a smattering of tweets asking for my latest depth chart.

While this is my opinion, I will divulge this an educated opinion after talking with a number of Wild folks to just gauge what they’re thinking.

Obviously everything is subject to change before and after camp begins Sept. 14 (on-ice Sept. 15)

There’s a couple of prefaces I want to make:

-- Some of these potential opening training camp lines depends on whether Nino Niederreiter plays left wing or right wing and, similarly, whether Zach Parise plays left wing or right.

-- A lot of this has to do with rookie Joel Eriksson Ek. Here’s the deal: Now that Cullen is signed, if Charlie Coyle is to remain at center, Eriksson Ek would probably have to be slotted in at fourth-line left wing. So my gut: They’re not going to want Eriksson Ek playing seven to nine minutes a night. So I bet Eriksson Ek starts off with a chance to make third-line center with Coyle moving, yes, to right wing again.

That means a really good winger would have to move to the fourth line for that to happen. That’d probably be Marcus Foligno or Tyler Ennis. If it’s Ennis, that could make for a good fourth line that could play regular minutes and have a chance to contribute.

Knowing Bruce Boudreau, if Eriksson Ek is on the third line, this would also allow the coach to move Cullen up late in tight games to play a third-line role.

Boudreau is excited about this signing because last year, quite frankly, the coach had zero trust in the fourth line on defensive-zone draws. So now if Cullen’s out there and the fourth line ices the puck, the coach will have full faith that the group will get the job done.

If Eriksson Ek was getting third-line minutes and killing penalties, that would aid his development. If Cullen had to play the fourth line and kill penalties and occasionally move up, the Wild and Cullen would love that. If Ennis had to play fourth line but got power-play time, the Wild would be OK with that at least temporarily. Remember, Ennis has missed 90 games to injury the past two years, so easing him in may be part of the plan.

There obviously will be injuries, so it’s not like any quality winger will be relegated to the fourth line permanently.

And obviously there will be training camp experiments and injuries and performance issues that’ll change things, so these lines are hardly set in stone. But I could see camp starting very close to this if not identically barring injuries.

-- I reported on Twitter a few days ago that Mikael Granlund rolled an ankle running and is on crutches, but sources say he’s expected to be training again in a few weeks. But ankles can be tricky, obviously.

-- I’ll be interested to see if Boudreau starts camp with Jared Spurgeon or Matt Dumba as Ryan Suter’s partner. I think Boudreau wouldn’t mind experimenting with a more offensive D pair and then a shutdown pair, like Jonas Brodin and Spurgeon. But we’ll see.

-- So here she goes, and as you can see, cap space is tight ($3.741M left) with Marcus Foligno needing to be re-signed (for purposes of cap space, I’m not including potential bonuses for Eriksson Ek and Cullen since the Wild can surpass the cap by 7.5 percent if they hit their bonuses (pay for it the following season’s cap).

Luckily for the Wild, it has a stretch in the first 15 days of the season with four games, so the Wild can send players to the minors during the four- and five-day breaks to save cap space. Guys like Eriksson Ek and Mike Reilly don’t require waivers. Of course, Boudreau doesn’t typically like that because he wants full practices, but cap wise, the Wild may need to carry 12 forwards initially unless a trade’s on the horizon.

Forwards
Left wing Center Right wing

Nino Niederreiter ($5.25M) Eric Staal ($3.5M) Zach Parise ($7.538+M)
Jason Zucker ($2M) Mikko Koivu ($6.75M) Mikael Granlund ($5.75M)
Marcus Foligno (RFA) Joel Eriksson Ek (894+K) Charlie Coyle ($3.2M)
Tyler Ennis ($4.6M) Matt Cullen ($1M) Chris Stewart ($1.15M)

Vying for spots: Eriksson Ek, Luke Kunin (925K), Landon Ferraro (700K), Kyle Rau, (700K), Cal O’Reilly (700K), Pat Cannone (600K), Christoph Bertschy ($775,833), Kurtis Gabriel (715K), Zack Mitchell (660K), Mario Lucia ($792,500), Sam Anas ($792,500), Justin Kloos ($792,500), Pavel Jenys ($678,833), Dante Salituro (725K), Adam Gilmour ($717,500), Chase Lang ($686,667).

Defensemen
Left Defense Right Defense

Ryan Suter ($7.538+M) Jared Spurgeon ($5.187M)
Jonas Brodin ($4.166+M) Matt Dumba ($2.55M)
Gustav Olofsson (725K) Kyle Quincey ($1.25M)
Mike Reilly (725K)

Vying for spots: Olofsson, Reilly, Ryan Murphy (700K), Alex Grant (700K), Nick Seeler ($717,500), Hunter Warner ($636,667), Carson Soucy (925K), Zach Palmquist (726K), Gustav Bouramann (720K), Dylan Labbe ($692,500).

Goalies
Devan Dubnyk (4.33M)
Alex Stalock (650K)

Vying for spots: Stalock, Niklas Svedberg (700K), Steve Michalek (715K), Adam Vay ($842,500).

Total cap hit: $71,258,591 ($75 million ceiling).
*Includes $2.5 million buyout cap hit for Thomas Vanek.
Available cap space: $3,741,409.
**Available cap space will be eaten up by roster hopefuls making the team and Marcus Foligno's re-signing.