Last week, it looked like the Minnesota Wild were done with free agency. They weren't finished, though, and neither is Owen Nolan.
General manager Doug Risebrough desired another veteran for the locker room and a rugged presence with a scorer's touch up front, so he offered Nolan a $5.5 million, two-year contract - $2.75 million each season - and waited to hear from the 36-year-old.
After losing Brian Rolston and choosing not to pursue Pavol Demitra, the Wild needed more scoring.
After playing last season with Calgary and previously with Phoenix and San Jose, Nolan got to know their patient, disciplined style and liked enough of what he saw to sign with the defending Northwest Division champions.
``I think I can fit in very well with that team,'' Nolan said. ``Hopefully I can rub off on some of the younger guys.''
The Wild let the scrappy Todd Fedoruk get away last week. Another physical forward who contributed his share of goals, Aaron Voros, also signed elsewhere through free agency.
Nolan isn't just another tough guy, however. He can still find his way to the net and score - notching 16 goals in each of the past two seasons after two years off because of a knee injury and the league-wide lockout.
It's been almost a decade since he scored 44 times for the Sharks, but even at his age he ought to be able to provide the Wild with a true power forward to complement Marian Gaborik, Mikko Koivu, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Andrew Brunette on the first two lines.
``This guy I think is a considerable upgrade from Fedoruk,'' Risebrough said. ``He's got a history there. What I like about him is he's all business. He's going to come in and do his thing.''
As long, of course, as he stays healthy.
``Every year I wait to see how my body feels. At some point,'' Nolan said with a laugh, ``it's going to tell me it's had enough. But I feel great right now. I have plenty of fuel.''
Born in Ireland but raised in Ontario, Canada, Nolan began his NHL career in 1990 with the Quebec Nordiques. His arrival, which gives the Wild 23 players signed to one-way NHL contracts, reduces the chance that a prospect like Cal Clutterbuck or Colton Gillies will make the team out of training camp.
``There's less of an opportunity, but again it depends on how the season translates,'' Risebrough said.
So, after turning over more than 40 percent of the roster over the past month, Risebrough said he was pleased with the result. Raises for restricted free agents Bouchard and Stephane Veilleux will push the Wild very near the salary cap.
``It's a system where you're going to lose good players,'' he said. ``If you lose a good player, you never paid enough. If he stays and doesn't do well, then people will say you overpaid him.
``It would be easy to bring back the same team and say, 'Let's do it again,' but I don't think that's prudent.''

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