Prized college free agent defenseman Mike Reilly has agreed to join the Minnesota Wild, according to Michael Russo of the Star Tribune. Reilly, originally drafted by the Blue Jackets in the fourth round of the 2011 NHL Draft, became a free agent on June 16 after he failed to reach an agreement with Columbus.
The Blackhawks were among the favorites to land the former University of Minnesota star, who is expected to sign a two-year, $1.85 million contract.
Reilly, a two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year winner, reportedly met with 10 teams at the NHL Draft combine earlier this month, but ultimately decided to stick close to home. Reilly's father, Mike, is also a minority investor with the Wild's ownership group, which may have played an important role in his decision.
The Wild are a team looking to bolster their blue line, and Reilly likely has a better chance to jump in and make an early impact than he would in Chicago. But the Blackhawks certainly have some holes to fill on their defense too, so this doesn't help their case.
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The good news is, Reilly finalized his decision before the NHL Draft, which means the Blackhawks can officially plan their approach without some uncertainty. It also assures that prospects such as Stephen Johns and Ville Pokka in Rockford will have a legitimate chance to crack the big-league roster entering 2015-16.
While general manager Stan Bowman gets ready to add more talent and depth to the Blackhawks organization over the weekend, the roster competition for next year has already begun.