The Wild Beat
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Good morning from the Twin Cities. Free agency officially begins Thursday, although reportedly the Flyers have been given permission to talk with Evgeni Nabokov and Marty Turco. And obviously, Pittsburgh with Dan Hamhuis after his rights were shipped from Nashville to Philly to then-state rival Pittsburgh.

Couple items:

-- I came across this really cool story in email a few weeks ago and have been meaning to mention it on here. It's about a guy named Chris Lomen from White Bear Lake.

The Saint Olaf College graduate leaves today for a 4,000-mile rollerblading trip across the United States to raise money to rebuild schools in Haiti that were destroyed in the earthquake. He hopes to raise $100,000 by the end of this year. He's being sponsored by Rollerblade and a few other companies.

For more information on Lomen and his trek on roller blades around the U.S., check out the web site at

--I woke up to some emails about what it would take to acquire Ryan Potulny's rights from Edmonton. The Wild's not trading for Potulny's rights. I'm not saying the Wild wouldn't eventually one day have interest in Potulny if he became an unrestricted free agent if not qualified today, but I can assure you that the Wild's not going to give up an asset for Potulny's rights.

-- I got some emails asking why I didn't include free-agent center Matt Lombardi in my Insider. I wrote too long and needed to trim some things, and that paragraph on Lombardi didn't make the cutting-room floor because I figured I'd mention this in another article this week. What I wrote about Lombardi is I like him as a player, but the free-agent center crop is so weak right now, I think Lombardi will get a dramatically-inflated contract and therefore I think he's too expensive for the Wild. I don't think the Wild should be giving Lombardi $4 million per.

-- I usually don't respond to the comments on the actual articles ( because that's your space to, well, comment and you're entitled to your opinion. And obviously, there's some very frustrated Wild fans. I get that wholeheartedly and respect that.

But a few inaccurate comments caught my eyes on the Insider Sunday. They were so misinformed and so prominent on the web page, I feel compelled to correct it because it seemed to begin a thread of agreement and it's just not fair that some readers/Wild fans read this stuff and then automatically believe it.

There's this fallacy out there that the Wild still spend near the cap floor like this is 2005-06. The Wild was a cap ceiling team the past two years. I don't know how many more ways I can write it clearer.

So to the people that said the owner needs to start spending and only "seven teams" in the league spent less last season, where do you get this stuff? The salary-cap was $56.8 million last season. By my count, the Wild's cap at the end of the season was roughly $56.5 million. It was impossible for owner Craig Leipold to spend any more.

The first year after the salary cap was installed, Bob Naegele spent $23 million on the roster. This is hardly the same thing.

Now, can Leipold's money be spent better? Absolutely. But Leipold isn't Jerry Jones. He's not GM/owner. He just writes the checks.

Now yes, the Wild could go over the cap like Chicago and a few other teams apparently did, but that's not free cap space. You eventually pay for that in a fairly painful way the following year. Why do you think Chicago has to trade players like Dustin Byfuglien and maybe even Kris Versteeg right now? While most teams in the league will have a $59.4 million cap next season, the Blackhawks' cap could be as much as $4 million lower (I haven't seen the exact amount officially announced yet). You go over the cap, you're charged for it the following year.

I'm not trying to be an apologist for a millionaire owner. I'm just saying get your facts straight on how much the Wild truly spends. Trust me, if the Wild filled the building every night and was close to the salary-cap floor, you'd be reading some very critical articles from me -- similar to the way I went off on the previous ownership at the end of the 05-06 season.

-- Lastly, since 2003, 120 Upper Midwest Elite League players have been drafted by NHL teams -- a record-breaking 18 this past weekend.