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Martin Havlat

Martin Havlat

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Updated: July 2, 2009, 12:54 AM ETWild replace Gaborik with HavlatComment Email Print Share By Pierre LeBrunESPN.comArchive The Minnesota Wild found a new offensive centerpiece in a matter of hours.More free agency coverage Need to keep track of NHL free agency? We've got all the tools: • Blog: Deal analysis • Free agent tracker • Rumor CentralStung by the expected departure of Marian Gaborik to the New York Rangers Wednesday evening, the Wild moved quickly to sign free agent winger Martin Havlat to a six-year, $30 million deal -- the richest in team history."We are excited to add the speed and scoring of Martin Havlat to our lineup," Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said in a statement.

"He is a terrific two-way player."Havlat will earn $4 million in 2009-10 and $5 million for the next four years.

The deal will net Havlat $6 million in 2014-15, the final year of the deal."It's been a long day, and I think everybody's excited on both sides," Havlat told the Minnesota Star Tribune during a telephone interview Wednesday.

"I've talked to [GM Chuck Fletcher] and I had a great feeling from the conversation.

From looking at the team, there's a lot of potential, a lot of great players."It's kind of a fresh start for everybody with the new GM, with the new coaches.

I think everybody's going to start as a new team right now.

It's going to be exciting."Minnesota's decision to replace the injury-prone Gaborik with Havlat is a curious one.

Havlat played in 70-plus games for the first time since the 2001-02 season last year.

The previous three years, the 28-year old had been beset by multiple injuries and missed 137 games since 2005.

Havlat also had three shoulder surgeries.However, if healthy, Havlat could thrive in a new Wild system that suits his free-wheeling talents.

He joins an offense free of Jacques Lemaire's constrictive, neutral-zone trap that the organization has played under since its inception.

Under new coach Todd Richards, the Wild will play a style similar to the champion Penguins, emphasizing puck possession, a strong forecheck and a fast pace -- certainly a more aggressive system than the trapping, disciplined style used by former coach Jacques Lemaire.

Richards said he believes it's easier to transition from a defense-driven system to an offense-oriented style."You have to give Jacques Lemaire and his staff a tremendous amount of credit," Richards said when he was hired.

"As a coach it's tough to implement the defensive style.

I shouldn't say it's tough, but it's tedious.

...

The players have a great foundation to play defensive hockey, and that's something that we can't lose.

There always has to be that responsibility."Havlat posted a career-high 77 points last year to lead the Chicago Blackhawks in scoring.

He became available when Chicago signed Marian Hossa to a 12-year deal Wednesday afternoon.ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun and The Associated Press contributed to this report.



http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/news/story?id=4301432
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