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Eric Peterson, Published June 24 2013

Minnesota Wild make stop in Moorhead

MOORHEAD – Minnesota forward Charlie Coyle would prefer to see veteran Matt Cullen in a Wild uniform next season.

“He’s awesome,” said the 21-year-old Coyle, who was in Moorhead on Monday for the Wild Road Tour. “Of course we would love to have him back, I think everyone would.”

Whether or not Coyle will get his wish is uncertain. The 36-year-old Cullen is a free agent who has been with Minnesota the past three seasons.

Finding enough salary-cap room for Cullen could be a challenge for the Wild this offseason.

“He might be up there in age, but he doesn’t look like it,” said Coyle, who was a rookie with the Wild last season. “He’s a heck of a player and we really saw that this year.”

Jason Zucker and Wes Walz joined Coyle on the Moorhead stop. Zucker, who is also 21, is another promising young Wild player. Walz, 43, is a former Wild captain who is now retired.

Walz understands the dilemma that Cullen could be put in this summer while mulling his playing options – especially if the former Moorhead High School and St. Cloud State star decides to leave the Wild.

“It’s a tough decision … his youngest kids are getting into grade school now,” Walz said. “And I’ve got my own kids and I retired when I was 38 years old. … When you’re talking about families and uprooting kids from their schools, it’s difficult.”

Cullen is coming off a solid campaign with the Wild, scoring 27 points while playing in 42 games of a strike-shortened season.

“When he was in the lineup, the Wild were a different team and it was evident when he got hurt there for a stretch,” Walz said.

Whether or not Cullen returns to the Wild next season, Zucker and Coyle are two important young pieces to the team’s future.

Minnesota made the playoffs this season for the first time since 2007-08, but lost to rival Chicago in the opening round.

“You always have to be happy with making the playoffs, that’s the goal,” said Zucker, who scored four goals in 20 games this past season. “But you’re a little bit disappointed that you didn’t win the Stanley Cup.”

The Wild made big news last offseason by signing forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter to lucrative free-agent deals.

That’s part of the reason money will be tight for the team this offseason.

Zucker thinks the Wild will only get better as their core players see more ice time together.

“You can’t expect instant results out of anything,” Zucker said. “We all got to get to know each other a lot more this year. We are going to mesh more.”

Walz feels the Wild have a bright future with young players like Coyle and Zucker mixed with star talent like Parise and Suter.

“They are some special kids,” Walz said of Coyle and Zucker. “The Wild is very fortunate to have them in the organization.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com