Jake Dowell Signs With Minnesota

Mar 31, 2012; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi (31) saves a shot in front of Dallas Stars center Jake Dowell (11) during the second period at HP Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE

Looking to add some depth down the middle of their lineup, the Minnesota Wild have signed former Wisconsin center Jake Dowell. The news was first reported by WEAU sports anchor Bob Gallaher via twitter Tuesday night.

Dowell, a 27 year old center recently wrapped up his fifth season in professional hockey. The Eau Claire native spent his first four years with the Chicago Blackhawks, winning a Stanley Cup in 2010.

Last season Dowell was a full time member of the Dallas Stars where he recorded 7 points in 52 games in the lone-star state. Used primarily in a checking line role, Dowell is a solid two-way center who plays a 200 foot game. The 6'0, 200 pound Dowell is a regular on the penalty kill, and isn't afraid to drop the gloves when his team is looking for a spark.

Of course Dowell is also a local hero to Badger fans. Back in college at the University of Wisconsin, Dowell was a key piece to the 2006 Badger club that won a national championship. Going to Minnesota, Dowell will be reunited with another prominent member of that championship team, Tom Gilbert. Former Badger Dany Heatley is also a current member of the Wild.

Dowell's signing also doesn't hurt the Wild's pursuit of another former Badger. Minnesota is one of a handful of teams believed to be in the running for superstar defenseman Ryan Suter.

Suter, who hails from Madison, left the Badgers after just one season and didn't take long to become an NHL shut-down defenseman. Signing Dowell was a very shrewd move by Wild management, as his connection to Suter could pay off for the franchise in multiple ways.

Dowell and Suter are both Wisconsin bred players and played together at the National Team Development program. After two years in Ann Arbor together, Suter and Dowell made their way to Madison to join the Badgers where they were roommates and close friends.

While their paths as teammates ended after the 2004 season in Madison, Dowell and Suter have remained close friends to this day. The Wild are hoping that connection pays off.

Ironically enough, Dowells deal was agreed upon by the Wild and Dowell's agent as both parties were flying together to Madison to meet with Suter on Tuesday afternoon. Dowell and Suter also happen to share the same agent, Neil Sheehy. Also boarded on the flight was former Wisconsin TV color commentator Tom Sagissor, who is also Suter's financial advisor.

Before the Wild's entourage arrived in Madison, the Detroit Red Wings sent a plane of their own to Dane County. A plane registered in the name of Wings owner Mike Ilitch flew into Madison Tuesday afternoon, and was said to be carrying Detroit General Manager Ken Holland and advisor Chris Chelios, who is another former Badger.

According to the Star Tribune's Michael Russo, Dowell's deal is for two years with Minnesota. The first year is a two-way contract, meaning Dowell would make one salary if he's in the AHL, and a much more lucrative salary if he's in the NHL. The second year of the contract is a one way deal, which pays you NHL money even if you're in the minors.

Suter is expected to make his decision on where he will be spending the next 10+ years of his career in the next couple of days. Various reports have contracts being presented to Suter in the 13 year, $100 million dollar range.

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For more Wisconsin hockey coverage, follow Chuck on Twitter (@UWChuckSchwartz)

Chuck can also be reached via e-mail at chuckschwartz@live.com

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