The ongoing dispute between Petr Sykora and the Minnesota Wild has not been pretty to watch, even from a distance. There was the concussion to start the year, and then healthy-scratching after Sykora returned from the injury. After that, there was more friction because coach Todd Richards insisted he skate warm-ups despite being a healthy scratch, despite the fact that the other scratch, James Sheppard, did not have to do warm-ups. Both beat reporter Michael Russo and Sykora’s agent Allan Walsh tweeted that the Wild were treating Sykora without respect, an argument that Russo elaborated on afterward:
But here’s the deal: Sykora had a mega-deal in Russia. He was convinced to come here on a one-year deal by Chuck Fletcher, whom Sykora immensely respects, with apparently certain promises, like ice time and linemates.
It’s obvious Sykora’s camp doesn’t feel like he’s being given a chance. He’s been scratched three times, played fourth line many nights, has averaged 12:01 of ice time.
There were rumours of trade talks that fell apart, and Sykora was put on and eventually cleared waivers. For a guy with 300 career goals and just shy of 1000 games, the treatment had to sting, but the good news is that it’s almost over. Yesterday, the Wild assigned Sykora to their AHL affiliate, the Houston Aeros. Sykora will not report to the AHL team, and according to Michael Russo, he’s on the verge of being a free agent:
However, Sykora has officially declined to report. The two sides have mutually agreed to terminate his contract, and once approved by the NHL in the next day or two, Sykora will immediately become an unrestricted free agent.
In essence, Sykora will be free to sign with any team before the March 3 trade deadline and the Wild will be free of the remaining $600,000 or so of Sykora’s contract and salary-cap hit.
Sykora hasn’t been particularly good this year, but then he hasn’t had much ice-time and he’s also had to fight back from a concussion. He was useful for Pittsburgh last year, mostly on the power play, and that’s almost certain to be the role he plays for whoever picks him up: cheap power play specialist.