ST. PAUL, Minn. - The Minnesota Wild have been searching for quality depth at the centre position for several seasons, and this might be the summer they finally found it.
The Wild announced an agreement Friday with veteran centre John Madden on a US$1-million, one-year contract, bringing a player with plenty of playoff experience and defensive prowess to a team that last month signed Matt Cullen for three years and $10.5 million and extended captain Mikko Koivu's contract by seven years and $47.25 million.
The 37-year-old Madden has won three Stanley Cup titles, including last season with Chicago. He had 10 goals and 13 assists and won 53 per cent of faceoffs in 79 regular-season games. He had two points in 22 playoff games on the fourth line for the Blackhawks, who have lost nine players from their championship team to free agency or trades.
The Wild were interested in Mike Modano, who signed with the Detroit Red Wings, but they also had Madden on their list and decided this was the time to pursue a deal. Madden won the Selke Trophy, given annually to the NHL's best defensive forward, in 2001 and finished second in the voting in 2002, 2003 and 2008.
The five-foot-11, 190-pound Madden has also played in the post-season each of his 10 full years in the NHL. He has 320 points, including 150 goals, in 791 career games—plus 43 points in 134 playoff games—with New Jersey and Chicago. He was with the Devils his whole career until signing with the Blackhawks last summer.
Madden also played on Michigan's 1996 national championship team and still holds the NCAA career record of 23 short-handed goals. He's one of several "character" players Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher has tried to add to a team that stumbled to 13th place in the Western Conference last season. Cullen, Eric Nystrom, Brad Staubitz are the others.
At centre, former first-round draft pick James Sheppard could find it harder to make the team. Kyle Brodziak and prospect Casey Wellman are also in the mix, as well as Pierre-Marc Bouchard if he's cleared from his concussion. Fletcher insisted there is room for all of them on the roster, since centres can always slide to the wing.
"There's nothing negative that I can find about having a lot of good hockey players," Fletcher said. "We're going to put the best players on the ice. That'll be up to the coaches to determine what they're looking for on each line."