Parise lost feeling in leg, foot following back injury, but he’ll be ready for season

Jared Clinton
Zach Parise (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Zach Parise missed 12 games in 2015-16 and still managed to lead the Minnesota Wild with 25 goals. Considering his production, it’s hard to imagine what Parise could have accomplished had he not been dealing with a back injury so bad that he was hobbled for much of the back half of the season.

Speaking with NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti, Parise, 32, said that the injury began to flare up in January and that he played through numbness in his leg and foot until the end of the campaign. Parise told Gulitti he had been taking cortisone injections to alleviate his symptoms, but a hit from San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture with just one game left in the regular season made the injury the worst it had been to that point. So bad, in fact, that Parise lost feeling in his leg.

“It was really scary,” Parise told Gulitti. “That’s not very comfortable at all, for the longest time, having no feeling in your leg and in your foot. You are kind of wondering, ‘When is this going to go away? When is this going to go away?’ And one day I woke up and it was good, so it was good after that. But, at that time, it’s really scary not feeling anything and really struggling to get out of bed.” Read more

Matt Dumba signing gives Wild time to decide direction of defense

Jared Clinton
Matt Dumba (Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Minnesota Wild locked up their lone remaining restricted free agent Thursday evening when Matt Dumba put pen to paper on a two-year, $5.1-million deal.

For Dumba, 22, the deal is a standard bridge contract and he knows that. Dumba became an NHL regular in 2015-16, and he set career-highs with 10 goals and 26 points in 81 games, and Dumba told NHL.com’s Dan Myers that the bridge deal simply worked for him at this point.

“I just want to grow as a player,” Dumba told Myers. “Getting that opportunity to do so and prove myself over the next couple of years, I think is huge. I think I’ll be right at my peak at the end of that and hopefully then I can sign something long term.”

And while Dumba may have his sights set on a long-term, big-money deal when his bridge deal is up, getting him locked up to a short-term contract for the time being was important for the Wild and GM Chuck Fletcher. With more than $15 million locked up in defensemen 26 or younger, Dumba’s short-term deal allows Fletcher to decide which defenseman will eventually be moving on. Read more

Three playoff teams who could miss in 2016-17, and three non-playoff teams who could get in

Claude Giroux (Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

Playoff turnover is a hallmark of the NHL’s salary cap era. It’s rare to see a single franchise entrenched in a contending position for decades at a time. The Detroit Red Wings are the remarkable exception. Typically, we see plenty of playoff squads slide out of the picture from one season to the next, while several also-rans sneak back into the big dance.

Five Canadian teams qualified for the playoffs in 2014-15, and all five missed in 2015-16. The Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators and Winnipeg Jets slipped out, replaced by the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Florida Panthers and Dallas Stars. The 2015-16 playoff picture consisted of 31.25 percent “new” teams. That’s down from 43.75 percent the year prior but still constitutes significant turnover.

Chances are, it’ll happen again in 2016-17. Which recent qualifiers might slip out of the post-season and which might claw their way back in?

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Why fast-tracking might not be the best idea for Las Vegas

George McPhee (left) and Bill Foley  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

It certainly doesn’t look as though either Bill Foley or George McPhee has the patience to slowly build their expansion team into a contender. Everything both of them said when McPhee was named GM of the team pointed to transforming this franchise into a contender sooner rather than later.

McPhee will certainly have a better chance at doing that than his predecessors. The expansion draft rules will give the team a chance to ice a competitive roster in the short term. By being able to protect only seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie or eight skaters and one goalie, some of the other 30 teams in the league will be forced to expose some legitimate NHL talent. But when you’re looking at, in a best-case scenario, the No. 8 forward, the No. 4 defenseman and the No. 2 goalie on each team’s depth chart who are third-year pros, the pickings might not be quite as spectacular as you might think.

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Eric Staal signs with Minnesota, next stop Las Vegas?

Eric Staal  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

For most high profile free agents, July 1 is the day they cash in. For Eric Staal, it was a day to take an enormous haircut. It wasn’t long ago that people were talking about Staal as one of the most sought-after free agents this summer. But when the dust settled, he took a 58 percent cut in his average yearly salary on a three-year deal. A three-year deal.

If you’re looking for the newly signed free agent who has the most to prove and should be most highly motivated in 2016-17, Alexander Radulov is probably the first who comes to mind. But not far behind will be Staal, who will be on a quest to prove he’s still an elite center in the NHL. He certainly hasn’t looked like that since the lockout shortened season in 2012-13 and is coming off the most miserable season of his career.

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Rumor Roundup: All eyes on Steven Stamkos as free agency approaches

Steven Stamkos  (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

With the 2016 NHL draft now history, here’s a look at some notable speculation that emerged from the weekend.

All eyes are firmly upon the Tampa Bay Lightning and their contract talks with pending unrestricted free agent center Steven Stamkos. Since Friday evening, he and his fellow UFAs can speak to rival clubs.

It’s believed Lightning GM Steve Yzerman pitched an eight-year offer to Stamkos worth $8.5 million annually. If Stamkos feels he can do better on the open market, he won’t lack for suitors.

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports Yzerman said he’ll keep all options open regarding Stamkos. He didn’t rule out the possibility of a sign-and-trade.

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Report: Chances are ‘quite high’ Thomas Vanek is bought out by Wild

Jared Clinton
Thomas Vanek (Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

In 154 games with the Minnesota Wild, Thomas Vanek has scored 39 goals, 93 points and has logged second- and third-line minutes, but at a $6.5 million price tag, it simply hasn’t been enough.

And with the Wild entering the off-season with little more than $9 million in cap space and only eight forwards under contract, something is going to have to budge. With free agency approaching, it appears more and more likely the pieces that’s going to move is Vanek, and it doesn’t appear the 32-year-old is going to be moving on via trade.

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo, it has been indicated that Wild GM Chuck Fletcher has talked with Vanek’s agent about buying out the final season of Vanek’s three-year, $19.5-million deal. TSN’s Bob McKenzie more than backed up Russo’s report, too, saying the “probability…appears quite high” that Vanek will be bought out by Minnesota before next Thursday’s buyout deadline. Read more