Stars running out of time

The Dallas Stars are running out of time if they want to sign Matt Watkins.

Under the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, college players become free agents if they are not signed by Aug. 15 after their senior season. So the Stars have about two weeks to ink Watkins (fifth round in 2005) or else he will become the second Sioux player to turn free agent via this CBA rule.

Two years ago, Chris Porter decided not to sign an offer from the Chicago Blackhawks and tested the waters of free agency. He ended up finding a good deal and situation with the St. Louis Blues organization. Porter also had interest from a handful of other NHL teams.

I have no idea what’s going on with Watkins’ situation, but things are certainly getting late.

In other former player news, Kyle Radke will head back to Idaho in the ECHL. Radke was with the Steelheads (Dallas Stars organization) last season, too.

Former Sioux defenseman Aaron Schneekloth also will return to the Colorado Eagles in the CHL. Schneekloth has been with the Eagles for the past three seasons, winning one CHL title.

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Wilson named associate coach at TB

The Tampa Bay Lightning have Brandon Bochenski, David Hale and Matt Smaby.

Now, they have a former Sioux coaching them, too.

Rick Wilson, who played at UND and started his coaching career in Grand Forks, too, was hired as the associate head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning today.

Wilson was most recently the associate coach with the Dallas Stars under former Sioux Dave Tippett. But Dallas’ organization was shuffled this summer and the new regime ousted Tippett and Wilson.

In Tampa, Wilson will serve under head coach Rick Tocchet.

According to the release, it sounds like the Lightning want Wilson to work with the defensemen and help control the game from the blue line. General manager Brian Lawton said:

"With 20 years of NHL coaching experience, we believe Rick is exactly what this club needs as an associate coach and we are excited that he has elected to join our staff. As our team develops, we will look to control the game from the blue line; Rick shares that philosophy, understands that concept and will teach our young defensemen to do just that. Additionally, his past relationships ensure he will fit seamlessly with head coach Rick Tocchet, assistant Wes Walz and goaltending coach Cap Raeder to give us a very cohesive staff which can lead our team to long-term success."

Regarding the hire, Wilson said:

"I am happy to be joining Rick Tocchet and the staff in Tampa because I see the makings of a pretty good team, with some good young players including (Steve) Stamkos and (Viktor) Hedman combining with Stanley Cup champions like (Vinny) Lecavalier and (Martin) St. Louis. After extensive talks with Brian (Lawton) and Rick (Tocchet), I feel we can do some good things with the defense there and I look forward to being part of building something special over time like we did in Dallas."

Tocchet also released a statement on the hire. He said:

"I am very pleased that Brian (Lawton) and Rick (Wilson) were able to work out a deal to bring Rick to Tampa Bay. His resume as a defensive coach is impeccable; he has worked for many years and coached in big games and big situations, including the Stanley Cup Finals. He makes our staff better, he will make me a better head coach and I am very excited about having him lead a group of young defensemen that we want to see grow together for the next several years."

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Hennessy to keep calling games

This year, UND is changing up how it handles broadcasting for the future, bringing everything in-house.

As far as hockey is concerned, you probably won’t notice a huge difference. KFGO is still carrying the games and the longtime Voice of the Sioux, Tim Hennessy, has been hired by UND to continue calling games on the radio.

Hennessy has been calling games since the Gino Gasparini era.

The games should still be televised on Fighting Sioux Sports Network, but no contracts have been signed yet (to my knowledge).

For old time’s sake…..

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Oshie signing autographs today

For those interested, T.J. Oshie will be at Rydell’s on south Washington signing autographs from 6:30 to 8 p.m. tonight.

Oshie is in town to participate in the golf event that’s put on by his father, Tim. The golfers will hit King’s Walk Golf Course on Thursday afternoon.

Oshie just completed his first NHL season with the St. Louis Blues and was voted the team’s most popular player. Oshie had 14 goals and 25 assists for 39 points in 57 games.

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Expect the WCHA to stay with the X

The WCHA’s agreement with the Xcel Energy Center to host the Final Five is running out (I believe after this upcoming year), but don’t look for the tournament to be moving to a new home. The league currently is looking into renewing the lease with the X.

There were a couple of other venues that were interested in becoming the home of the Final Five — the WCHA’s showcase event — but the league is looking to go back to St. Paul. The other buildings cannot guarantee as much money for the WCHA as the X.

Besides that, the X is the best spot in the league geographically. Almost all of the teams (and fan bases) in the league are within driving distance of the X. The others are a direct flight from the Twin Cities.

It’s also the nicest facility of its size in WCHA country — and possibly in the United States (according to ESPN). So plan to keep going back to the X for years to come.

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Forney: ATL gave great offer

Michael Forney said today that until real recently, he thought that he was going to end up at UND this fall.

But the Atlanta Thrashers came up with a great offer after development camp and he’s excited to take the next step in his career.

Forney said that he’s going to play in the rookie tournament in Traverse City this summer. Andrew Kozek also is expected to play in that tournament for Atlanta. After that, he’ll probably report to Chicago in the AHL. Forney’s contract is two-way with Atlanta and Chicago.

Forney wanted to thank UND fans, saying they are the best and the nicest fans anywhere and he said they are in for a treat with fellow TRF product, Zane Gothberg. Forney has been playing roller hockey with Gothberg in the summer and said he was excited when he heard Gothberg chose UND. In roller hockey, Gothberg plays forward and he’s apparently pretty darn good at that.

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Lamoureuxs setting pace in REA

The early report out of Ralph Engelstad Arena is that Monique and Jocelyne Lamoureux are setting the bar extremely high in terms of offseason workouts, training and dedication. And I’m not just talking about the women’s team.

The Lamoureuxs have been skating with the men’s players in the mornings to prepare for their Olympic tryout and several men’s players have talked about how impressed the newest additions to the women’s program. They are very much like Jean-Philippe was at UND — very dedicated to their routine and workouts. And the men’s players don’t want to get outworked by them.

The women’s team will have to spend the 2009-10 season without the twins, who should be strong candidates to centralize with the U.S. Olympic team. If their summer workouts are any indication, they should represent the Americans in Vancouver in February.

They would be the second and third Olympians ever for the Sioux women’s program. Defenseman Susanne Fellner (Germany ’06) was the program’s first Olympian. Fellner will be a senior this year.

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Forney officially signs with ATL

After going back and forth on his decision throughout the summer, Michael Forney has finally made it official: He signed with the Atlanta Thrashers today.

See the story here on the Herald site.

Forney’s career at UND was a quiet one, as his injuries — both shoulder and ankle — put him behind the eight-ball from the start. He had surgeries both years at UND. Forney (who is probably the nicest guy I’ve covered in my four years on the beat) had a great year in the USHL last season and it will be interesting to see how it translates to the pro level. It’s a big jump.

If Forney wanted to, he could have worked out a transfer this offseason. But a couple of months ago, he said that he could never see himself playing for any other college than UND. Forney is still good friends with several Sioux players, who drove down to Fargo to watch him play USHL games this season.

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Central Scouting on Gothberg, Parks

It’s rare that you can find some scouting reports on recruits this far in advance of the NHL draft, but did its own story on the USA roster for the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament.

NHL Central Scouting’s Jack Barzee picked out a handful of players on the roster who impressed him and he mentioned both goalie Zane Gothberg and forward Mike Parks, who will be heading to UND. The scouting reports aren’t real detailed, but here’s what Barzee had to say….

On Thief River Falls’ Gothberg, Barzee says: "He was outstanding. He was a pleasant surprise. He brought his ‘A’ game, he played so well."

On Parks, Barzee says: "He’s just tricky and smart, combative and a point-getter."

To read the full story, go here.


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