Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher held a conference call Sunday night following the acquisition from Arizona of forwards Martin Hanzal and Ryan White, who both are expected to debut Monday night against the Los Angeles Kings.
Here's a transcript of the call, so many of your questions should be answered. Basically, the hefty price in terms of draft picks was palatable because of the young core being intact on the Wild and the top prospects coming. Fletcher would much rather give up picks than maturing prospects.
If you want to hear me opine on the trade, I'll be on KFAN at 9:55 a.m. Monday and NHL Network at 5:40 p.m. CT. I'll also be on Fox Sports North during Tuesday's telecast.
Why were you able to stomach trading so many draft picks?: We were trying to accomplish a couple things at the trade deadline here. we felt we needed to add a couple forwards to our group. We were looking to add some experience, some size, some versatility to round out our roster and make us a little deeper going down the stretch and into the playoffs. And the second goal was not to give up any of our prospects. Teams have been calling on a lot of our guys for awhile. That’s been the preferred choice of payment for a lot of them. That’s a credit to [assistant GM] Brent Flahr and our scouts that we’ve been able t draft the guys we have. I’ve traded a lot of picks over the years and I think it’s tremendous the number of guys we have. So if we could acquire some assets without giving up our top prospects, we were willing to trade picks. We added two guys that we think will help our team.
Hanzal: He’s an extremely tough player to play against. I know if you speak to any of our players having to play against Arizona over the last few years, he’s a big, strong centerman, he plays a heavy game, he makes you earn every inch of the ice when you play against him. he’s a guy that can contribute offensively, he can win faceoffs, he can play both specialty teams. We thought he was the top rental forward on the market, if you will. Of all the guys with expiring contracts, we thought he, at forward, would have the biggest impact on any roster. So certainly our goal was to have him play for us and also to keep him away from other teams in the West. He’s hungry, he’s excited, he’s playing for a contract, he’s played tremendously over the last couple months.
Message to the team: They’ve sent a message to me. We’ve never reached 84 points this early in the season. There’s obviously a long way to go and a lot of obstacles that we have to face yet, but they’ve played very well. They’ve been very consistent. I think the message that they sent to me is they believe we’re a team that can compete and contend and I think this was the appropriate response from management and ownership. Craig has been tremendously supportive. You never know. You never know what the future holds. But I know our team believes that we have a chance, and hopefully this message is appropriate for how well they played this year.
Ryan White: Andrew Brunette called him a junkyard dog watching a lot of video of him the last couple months. He’s a guy that was a heck of a junior hockey player, has a good shot, was a player coming up that was an offensive player in a lot of ways. He’s morphed more into a checking, gritty type of player. He’s a player that plays in your bottom six. He competes, he shows up everyday, he’s good around the net, he can make plays, he has scored some goals in this league. He played in front of the net on the power play for Philadelphia last year. he’s been a guy that has been used in PK situations, he’s a right shot that has taken some faceoffs from time to time because he was a centerman in junior. Just the versatility, the compete, the grit, he adds some qualities that you need this time of year.
Hanzal strictly a rental: Anything’s possible. But right now we’re just putting our chips in the middle of the table for this year. We like our group and we think our players deserve the best chance possible to compete and see what we can do. Nothing’s promised. We know it will be tough. I think our thought is we may as well take a swing and see how far we can go. With respect to this summer, there’s an expansion draft, who knows where the cap will be, there’s unrestricted free agents, there’s restricted free agents, there’s a lot of things that have to be taken care of, but right now our focus is on the next stretch in the regular season and hopefully we can continue playing long into the spring.
Young core intact, prospects coming, did that make giving up picks more palatable?: It helped a lot. Brent, I can’t say enough about Brent Flahr. I’m not sure there’s a better scout in the game. I don’t know all of them, but he’s got to be right there if not at the top. We have a good staff. We have a lot of legitimate guys that are knocking on the door over the next year or two, and I think that will help a lot with our depth and also with our cap management. It’s not fun trading picks. I don’t take it lightly. But yet I would much rather keep the prospects we have than trade future picks. You can’t do this all the time. We’ll see if we can make a couple of them up. We did get a fourth-round pick back at least this year to help offset the fourth-round pick in 19. But there’s no question we paid a price. Give John Chayka credit. Arizona exacted a price from us. But we’re happy to be where we’re at and we want to see how far we can take this.
Concern over disrupting chemistry: I don't think so. You never know. From all reports, these are quality guys, character guys, and they're both extremely excited to come to Minnesota. To come and compete and play on a team that has a chance to have some success here. The fact that we didn't subtract anybody from our NHL roster I think is a statement to our group that we believe in them. I think that should help in that respect. We have a character group. They want to win. These guys will help us win so I don't anticipate any issues.
On the Staal, Koivu, Hanzal playing together: Well hopefully it poses matchup problems for opposing teams. We obviously have three big strong centermen. We have a lot of size in the middle of the ice and we have Erik Haula who has speed. You know the hallmark of our game is still our defensive identity. We need to play well in our own zone. We need to defend. We need to keep our goals against down. Our offense this year at least has usually transitioned from a strong defensive game. I hope we're a hard team to play against. We defend well and we have that depth where hopefully we at least present tough matchups for the opposing teams.
On whether they think about the Blackhawks when making trades: Obviously everyone knows Chicago has won three Stanley Cups over the last six or so years. Clearly in the West they're always the team you have to go through and you have to beat to get anywhere you want to go to. But there's a lot of other good teams too. To be honest, the focus was just on improving our depth. We thought we were just a little bit thin at forward. We have a lot of players that we think can play. It's just a little bit more unproven, the depth. If you run into injuries down the stretch here I thought that we could maybe really thin out up front. This was a way of obviously providing more depth and giving Bruce a lot of versatility with respect of what he wants to do with the lineup. We have guys that can move around, can play different positions. We have a lot of games here coming up. It's going to be tough. The difficult part of the season is just starting now. We are who we are and that's why we made these moves. To reward our players. We are going to push as hard as we can. I think we all recognize the tough part of the season starting. Anything can happen both good and bad. I think the more depth a team has it helps, reduce that uncertainty.
On looking at his past moves: Some deals work well and some don't. Believe me. I've made some deals that have helped our team and some deals that haven't helped our team. I recognize that. I just think this is a year where to me I think our players have played hard. They deserve management and ownership to step up and support them with how hard they've played. Who knows what happens down the stretch here. Anything could happen. It could be a great finish. It may not be. But there's not going to be a called third strike here. We are taking a swing. Our players deserve that. Our fans deserve that. We will see where it goes. There are no guarantees. We are adding quality people. We are adding guys that we think will help us in some areas of need and we've improved our depth and maybe as importantly we've kept our top prospects. We are satisfied with what we've been able to do today.
On the prospects: We have Alex Tuch. We have Jordan Greenway, Luke Kunin, Joel Eriksson Ek, Kaprizov up front. Then we have Olofsson and Soucy and Mike Reilly, Louis Belpedio on defense. There are a lot of good kids that we get asked about all the time. To me a prospect that is one or two years further developed is much more valuable than a draft pick. You already know that they're trending the right way and that they're still projecting to play in the NHL. With a team like ours where we're always close to the cap having players that can play on entry level deals is a critical part of future cap management and fielding a competitive roster. These guys are important to us. We'd rather give up a pick than move them. Our scouts of done a great job. I've taken a lot of picks away from them and they've continued to perform admirably.
On whether he's done: That's a great question. I'll have to get with [director of hockey administration] Shep Harder and see where we're at cap-wise. We have to make sure we have depth coming down the stretch here in case of injuries. I'm happy with where we're at. You're never perfect. You're never satisfied. Every situation you want to try to take care of. That's the nature of the system now. I'm sure every team has holes they'd like to look at. I would assume we're done. We will take a look at things tomorrow, regroup tomorrow, get with the coaches and just continue to look at everything on a day by day basis. We still have two games before the deadline. As we know things can happen. We think our depth is strong. This is certainly the best team we've had since I've been here. We are kind of anxious to see what that means.