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Wild free-agent watch: Eyes on Iginla, Vanek; Stoner exits

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NHL free agency opens at today at 11 a.m., and two goal scorers, Jarome Iginla and Thomas Vanek, are at the top of the Wild's list of free agent targets, according to the Star Tribune's Michael Russo.

Vanek met with Wild coach Mike Yeo Sunday evening and Russo said both sides were happy after the meeting. Vanek's agent, Steve Bartlett, said Vanek enjoyed listening to Yeo talk about his coaching philosophy.

Bartlett also said that Vanek has options besides the Wild. Other teams are likely to offer more money and longer deals than the Wild, which could sway Vanek's decision. Vanek scored 27 goals and had 41 assists last season while playing for three different teams, the Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders and Montreal Canadiens.

The Wild have also been aggressively pursuing Iginla. Iginla, who turns 37 today, scored 30 goals and had 31 assists for Boston last season. It is unlikely he re-signs in Boston due to the team's salary cap issues.

Iginla has made it very clear he wants to sign with a team who can win the Stanley Cup, so it is up to the Wild to convince Iginla that they have a chance to contend for the cup. The Wild made a pitch to Iginla Monday and the team expects Iginla to get back to them some time this morning.

Defenseman and UMD graduate Matt Niskanen had also been on the Wild's list of free agent targets, but the Wild have backed off Niskanen. Russo said he believes the Wild's loss in interest could be due to other teams willing to offer Niskanen a seven-year max contract.

The Wild have also shown interest in Los Angeles Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell, who played in Minnesota from 2000-2006.

Minnesota needs to fill a roster spot on the blue line because Clayton Stoner has reportedly signed a four-year, $13 million deal with the Anaheim Ducks.

The Wild has have 14 unrestricted free agents - Cody McCormick, Dany Heatley, Matt Moulson, Mike Rupp, Jake Dowell, Carson McMillan, Brad Winchester, Clayton Stoner, Nate Prosser, Kyle Medvec, Jon Landry, Steve Kampfer, Ilya Bryzgalov and John Curry - and five restricted free agents - Nino Niederreiter, Darcy Kuemper, Justin Fontaine, Jason Zucker and Jon Blum.

Be sure to check back later in the day to catch up on any potential Wild free-agent signings.

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