Wild deal Roloson to Oilers for first-round pick
MINNEAPOLIS -- As much as coach Jacques Lemaire would have liked keeping them both, he knew the Minnesota Wild weren't going to keep two veteran goalies -- and pay them each seven-figure salaries.
After three seasons in Lemaire's job share, Manny Fernandez emerged this winter as the favorite and bumped former All-Star Dwayne Roloson to a backup role.
So, on the day before the NHL's trading deadline, Roloson was dealt Wednesday to the Edmonton Oilers for a first-round draft pick this summer and future considerations.
"We're seeing some changes around here, and I think goalie-wise everyone knew what was going to happen," said Fernandez, who signed a $13 million, three-year contract extension last week.
The Oilers have used Jussi Markkanen, Ty Conklin and Mike Morrison to mind the net this season -- and none of them have impressed. Edmonton currently has the eighth and final position in the Western Conference playoff race, seven points ahead of Minnesota.
The Wild have sputtered since the Olympic break, losing four out of five games including a 3-2 overtime decision to seventh-place Los Angeles on Tuesday night. They're 10th, four points behind Anaheim.
By 2 p.m. Thursday, it's possible more trades will be made.
"We all understand that it's something that could happen," said center Wes Walz, one of the veterans who could be moved. "I don't think anyone's untouchable in our room."
By extending Fernandez, waiving disappointing right wing Alexandre Daigle and dealing Roloson, general manager Doug Risebrough has whittled Minnesota's list of players who soon will be unrestricted free agents to six. Center Marc Chouinard, defenseman Filip Kuba, defenseman Willie Mitchell, center Randy Robitaille, defenseman Daniel Tjarnqvist and defenseman Andrei Zyuzin are among the others who could be dealt.
Risebrough is in a tough spot, trying to build the club for the future and get something back for the players the Wild won't be re-signing -- yet realizing, too, that they're not giving up on the postseason.
"The team is still competing," he said. "We're still there. The changes made have to have more of a delicate balance."
Though he enjoyed living in the Twin Cities, was active in the community and cherished the team's run through the 2003 playoffs as well as his appearance in the 2004 All-Star game at Xcel Energy Center, Roloson was happy to have some finality to his situation.
"It's nice to have it done and actually know where I'm going to play," he said as he left the Minneapolis arena where his teammates were practicing. "I'm not going to be here, unfortunately, but at the same time I'm going to a team that has a chance to make the playoffs and win the Stanley Cup."
Roloson, after stellar seasons in 2002-03 and 2003-04, has slumped to a record of 6-17 and a goals-against average of 3.00. His save percentage is .910.
It hasn't been all his fault, though. Bad bounces have haunted him all season.
"I can't say that we played superb in front of him every night," Robitaille said. "I'm sure there were a few games he'd like to have back this year, but I know in the past that he's been the man here."
Indeed, the Wild wished the 36-year-old Roloson well and remarked on his somewhat unexpected success after spending the entire 2000-01 season in the minors.
"He's been great for us," Lemaire said. "We thank him for all that he did."
To replace Roloson, the Wild recalled Josh Harding from their top minor-league team, the Houston Aeros. Harding, 21, is second in the AHL in both victories (27) and save percentage (.923). A second-round draft pick in 2002, Harding might get sent back to Houston for the playoffs. But first, Risebrough and the coaching staff must evaluate him.
"If we feel that Manny needs a rest, we'll play the kid," Lemaire said.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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