Andrew Gregory The Hockey Writers
Minnesota Native Reilly Facing Tough Decision
The free agency buzz in Minnesota is currently centered around whether Devan Dubnyk will sign a new contract, but there is also another big free agent who is strongly considering staying in the State of Hockey.
After defenseman Mike Reilly made the decision not to sign with the Columbus Blue Jackets, who drafted him in the 4th round (98th overall) in 2011, the Wild immediately entered into discussions to gain his services. The Chanhassen native, who played three seasons at the University of Minnesota, could compete for a spot in the third defensive pairing of the Wild during training camp.
Reilly played for the Academy of Holy Angels and the Penticton Vees of the BCHL before joining the Golden Gophers. During his collegiate career, he received many honors including being named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and a First Team All-American in his sophomore and junior seasons. His junior season, his last with the Gophers, he led the team in points with 42 in 36 games, led all NCAA defensemen in points, and was named a Hobey Baker award finalist. At 6 foot 1, 183 pounds, Reilly has the size to compete in the NHL. The epitome of a two-way defenseman, he is a strong skater, a great passer, and has excellent vision. All of those attributes helped the Gophers to have the best powerplay percentage in the nation in 2014-15. You can view his collegiate stats below:
Although Reilly is a “hometown boy”, and his father is a minority holder with the team, the Wild face stiff competition to sign him. The defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, and the team who won the season before, the Los Angeles Kings, are both lobbying for the young defenseman. The Blackhawks are faced with a very tough offseason, as they have to find a way to stay under the salary cap. With veteran Johnny Oduya likely testing free agency, Reilly would have a very good chance to compete for one of the three wide open positions to fill out Chicago’s defense. The Kings on the other hand are trying to make up for the retirement of Robyn Regehr and the suspension of Slava Voynov due to legal issues. The loss of Voynov last season caused the Kings to become the fifth defending Stanley Cup championship team in the expansion era to miss the playoffs the following season.
Acquiring Reilly would force the younger defensemen in the Wild system to fight for their positions on the team and create a wide open competition for the role of 6th and 7th defenseman.
After being ousted from the playoffs by the Blackhawks in the second round for two consecutive seasons, with Mike Reilly in the mix, the Wild would look to take advantage of teams damaged by the salary cap, and take the next step in their journey for the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.
You can view some of highlights of the free agent defenseman below:
Do you think Reilly would be a good fit for the Wild? Is he NHL ready? You decide in the comment section.
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