Irmen follows Potulny, departs early for NHL

by Chris Lempesis

Another Wednesday, another early departure for Minnesota’s men’s hockey team.

This time it was junior forward Danny Irmen, who will forgo his senior season as he has come to terms on a two-year deal with the Minnesota Wild. Irmen’s departure comes one week after junior forward Ryan Potulny signed a two-year contract with the Philadelphia Flyers.

“It was obviously a very tough decision for me,” Irmen said in a telephone interview. “That’s why I kind of took so long on it. When it came down to it, I had to do what’s best for me and I feel that I have a great opportunity with the Wild and their organization. And the sooner I get in their organization, the better for me.”

Irmen’s agent, Wade Arnott, would not go into specifics on the terms of the deal, but he did say it is “an excellent deal for both the team and the player – you can measure it with any top prospect in their organization.”

He also said it was similar to the contract signed by Potulny, which was reported by multiple media outlets to be in the neighborhood of a two-year, $1.6 million deal.

Unlike Potulny’s deal, however, in which this season counts as the first of his two years under contract, Arnott said the first year of Irmen’s deal does not kick in until September. He will play the rest of the season on an amateur tryout document allowing a player to sign an NHL contract and to immediately begin playing in the American Hockey League.

Irmen said he will fly to Houston tomorrow to join the Houston Aeros, the Wild’s AHL affiliate. The Aeros’ first game with Irmen on the roster will be Sunday and Arnott said Irmen will play the rest of the season with Houston. His agent did say it’s been indicated Irmen will get a shot to crack the Wild’s roster next season, though.

But Irmen said he wasn’t too focused on that just yet.

“I want to have a good summer,” he said, “so that when I do go to training camp, they really do take a good look at me.”

Irmen called coach Don Lucia on Wednesday to inform him of his decision. Lucia said he anticipated it.

“Danny was certainly a great ambassador to our program,” Lucia said. “He was a valuable member of our team, just a great player and person, day in and day out and we’re going to miss Danny.”

While he is one big step closer to playing in the National Hockey League, Irmen said it hadn’t really sunk in yet.

“Maybe when I get that first paycheck or go down to Houston and start playing,” he said. “Or maybe when I don’t have class; the weird thing is not going to have to worry about tests or go to class, playing hockey is my job now. So, it’s going to be nice to be able to focus on one thing.”

And as for what he will buy with that first paycheck, Irmen said he has to be careful because someone close to him will be watching.

“My dad’s kind of watching over my shoulder to make sure I don’t buy anything too crazy,” he said with a laugh.