PHILADELPHIA – Between a quick jaunt to New York City for Thursday’s Board of Governor’s meeting and prepping for the NHL draft Friday and Saturday, General Manager Chuck Fletcher has spent the majority of this week with his phone pressed to his ear.
He has talked trade with a number of teams and talked to “several agents” about pending free agents in advance of the market opening Tuesday. On the trade front, Fletcher said Thursday night nothing was imminent, but the man who has a history of draft-day dealing said that could easily change and that there were a couple of scenarios he wanted to talk to his staff about.
As for the free-agent interview period, Fletcher said: “What’s become clear to me is more players are interested in talking to us now than what would have been two or three years ago. The perception of our team has changed. People believe if they come to Minnesota they’re going to have a chance to be on a competitive team that’s trying to win a Stanley Cup.
“That’s great to hear. It shows we’re going to have opportunities every year to be a player in the free-agent market. We weren’t always that way. Where I’m going with that is I think we can look for the right fit. If it’s not there, we can be patient. If some of these guys want really long-term deals … who’s to say we can’t do something better this year via trade or next summer via free agency?”
Fletcher hasn’t talked to any pending free agents directly (he has gone through their agents), but he expects to talk to a few in person or on the phone before Tuesday. Two free agents the Wild has interest in are Minnesota residents Thomas Vanek and Matt Niskanen, sources say. If Fletcher wanted, he could meet with either Sunday or Monday. If Vanek wants to play in Minnesota, he will have to agree to a short-term deal, sources say.
“In a lot of situations, term is a big issue for us,” Fletcher said. “We have some cap space obviously, but we want to be careful with what we do with it.”
Fletcher anticipates an active trade market leaguewide this weekend. Some big names could be traded, including Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler, Ottawa’s Jason Spezza and Winnipeg’s Evander Kane. Reportedly, the Wild’s not on Kesler’s trade wish list, and it seems hard to believe the Jets would trade Kane within the division. Regardless, it would take a lot of assets and young players to acquire a big name.
“If you can sign a guy in free agency and not give up a top young player or pick and get that person for a comparable role, why wouldn’t you do that?” Fletcher said. “I’m not saying we wouldn’t trade a young player, but we’re not looking to move our young players. I’m not anticipating any big blockbuster right now.”
One player the Wild continues to shop is right-shot center Kyle Brodziak. This could explain one reason why Fletcher is still trying to re-sign right-shot center/winger Cody McCormick.
“We’ve had good conversations with his agent, and I believe we have a chance,” Fletcher said. Defenseman Clayton Stoner is expected to test the market, which is why the Wild has contacted Willie Mitchell and other rugged defensemen, sources say.
Matt Moulson, Ilya Bryzgalov, Nate Prosser, Dany Heatley and Mike Rupp aren’t expected back.