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06-16-2006, 11:35 PM
  #29
The Big E
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Location: Minneapolis
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Gaborik, Wild in no hurry to begin contract discussions

From ESPN:

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Marian Gaborik and the Minnesota Wild haven't been talking about a new contract and won't do so until next month.

Marian Gaborik
Right Wing
Minnesota Wild

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2006 SEASON STATISTICS
GM G A PTS +/- PIM
65 38 28 66 6 64


The silence doesn't exactly suggest promise toward an agreement with the restricted free-agent right winger. But neither side is expressing any anxiety, either, and there is still more than a calendar year until the Slovakian star can hit the free market.

After some negotiations last month, the Wild told Gaborik's agent, Ron Salcer, that they want to wait until after July 1 to resume discussions.

"They asked to put things on hold, and that's OK with us," Salcer said.

Gaborik will file for salary arbitration next month, and hearings are held between July 20 and Aug. 4. If they can't work out a deal by then, Gaborik will take a one-year contract into the 2006-07 season.

What gives Gaborik more leverage is the new collective bargaining agreement, which next summer will allow a player with seven accrued seasons to become an unrestricted free agent. Gaborik, now 24, will be one of the youngest prolific players to gain unrestricted free agency, since the old system required longer service time and older ages to reach that status.

"There has never been such a dynamic player who has ever been an unrestricted free agent at that age," Salcer said.

The Wild have been diplomatic on the subject, at least publicly. President and general manager Doug Risebrough said the team wants to wait until more players of similar accomplishment and tenure start getting deals done, whether through multiyear contracts or arbitration awards. The league's salary cap will also be set on July 1, the day this year's free-agent signing period begins.

"We're just trying to figure out, what is that number?" Risebrough said. "Ultimately I think he's got a big decision to make. We know that. He has to be comfortable with that decision, and if that takes time we'll just wait."

Salcer's comments contradicted that.

"They are certainly aware of what it will take to make Marian Gaborik a longtime member of the Minnesota Wild," the agent said.

Though neither side divulged specifics, Gaborik, based on market values and media reports, is believed to be seeking a multiyear contract worth more than $5 million annually. He was Minnesota's highest-paid player last season at $2.679 million.

Gaborik is coming off the most productive season of his career, in which he scored 38 goals and tallied 66 points in only 65 games after missing some early time to groin and hip problems. An All-Star in 2003 and the youngest player ever to skate in that game, Gaborik had 30 goals and 65 points and helped lead the Wild to the Western Conference finals that spring.

Injuries and inconsistency, however, have kept him from reaching a higher level. Coach Jacques Lemaire has had trouble in the past getting Gaborik to play hard on both ends, and last season he remained wary of giving Gaborik too many minutes -- which Gaborik disagreed with.

There were also the contentious contract talks that prompted him to hold out for the first month of the season in 2003, dump his agents and hire Salcer instead.

Yes, there have been plenty of noteworthy moments in the career of the Wild's first draft pick and their all-time leading scorer.

The coming weeks could bring more.

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