When last we spoke a few weeks ago, you were just starting to get into offseason mode. What’s been happening since then?
I’ve been busy. There’s a long list of players we’ve been studying. We’ve started to get a better idea from St. Louis of what players they’re going to be sending us so now we know what free agents we should target. We’re narrowing our focus and ranking players and it’s a long process but that’s how you hopefully get some good players. A lot of them are still under contract so it’s tough to make moves, but we’re scouting. I was down in Wilkes-Barre and Providence watching those playoff games and Gene Ubriaco has been in Grand Rapids looking at them and Toronto. We’ve been all over, looking at players who are still in the playoffs. If they’re at this stage the players and teams are obviously very good and we want to key on those players.
The team announced earlier this month that goaltender Matt Climie has been re-signed. How did that process go on your end?
We had been talking to Matt for a while. He wanted to be here and we wanted him here. It just came down to the dollar figure with his agent and we were able to get it done fast. I’m very happy to have him back. He’s been great for us the past two seasons, a savior even. The first year he was here, Eddie Lack was struggling and Matt carried the team. Then last year with Eddie’s injury, Matt had to carry the team again in a lot of games. Actually, he’s been No. 1 here for two years. We’re confident from the management side that he’s a leader on and off the ice and we are very happy to have him in the organization.
Are you close to signing anyone else?
Not yet. We keyed on a few guys, but we’ve hit some bumps. Brett Sterling is going to head to Sweden and we’ll miss his goal production. That’s a hole we have to fill. We’ve talked to a bunch of players but most guys are still under contract so there’s not a lot of movement. I think most teams are in the same area as us, making inquiries. There’s also the partnership with St. Louis and working with them to make lists and trade information. We make a lot of inquiries because we want to ensure players are good team guys too. There have been guys we’ve scratched off our list because of poor reports. If a player doesn’t meet the Wolves criteria as a person and a player, we don’t want to pursue that. We want winners here.
Did you talk to Brett at all before he announced his decision?
Yes, he came in and we talked about it, but it’s a family decision. He wants to try Europe before he comes back and settles down and this is the proper timing for his family. We don’t begrudge him any of that, of course. We want him to do what’s best for him.
Have discussions about next season intensified with St. Louis now that they’re out of the playoff hunt?
They’ve got some more focus now on what they’re doing as an organization up top and what their needs are up top. They’re in the midst of having meetings amongst their staff and management in terms of where they want to go with some players. They have to make decisions about what players they want to offer contracts to and where those players are going to go. We kind of got a lay of the land after that meeting and I’ll know what areas to fill in with our Wolves signings.
What’s next on the agenda?
More scouting. See more teams. Keep going over the lists. There is so much criteria, not just by position but veterans and non-veterans. We only get five vets (players who have played 261 games in their professional career) and one vet-exempt (players who have played between 261 and 320 games). A lot of it is wait-and-see. There are certain guys on our list, but they’re restricted free agents or the NHL team could make them an offer and keep them. We have more sub-lists going on and we play out the scenarios every day, from Plan A to B to C. It’s a chess match, and we’re just trying to play the game. People think in the summer that there’s not much going on but I’m actually busier now. During the winter it’s more just maintenance. I have meetings now, heading to the draft in a few weeks, going to prospect camps. It’s a grind.