The Wild has a dozen players on its roster ages 25 and under, so it’s hard to say the team is mortgaging its future. But even General Manager Chuck Fletcher says it’s “a concern” how many second- and third-round picks he has dealt the past three years in an effort to win now.
“The next three drafts, there’s six second- and third-round picks allotted and we traded four of them,” Fletcher said.
In 2013, Fletcher felt it necessary to help end the Wild’s four-year playoff drought, so he made a rare “hockey trade” at the deadline, sending a first- and second-round pick and prospects Matt Hackett and Johan Larsson to Buffalo for Jason Pominville and a fourth-rounder.
The Sabres captain was not your typical trade-deadline rental. He was a year from free agency, led the Wild with 30 goals last season and is in the first of new a five-year contract.
Last year, with the Wild ranked 25th in goal scoring at the deadline, Fletcher sent two seconds to Buffalo as part of a package to get Matt Moulson.
This year, to try to repair the Wild’s goaltending, Fletcher sent his third-round pick in June’s draft to Arizona for Devan Dubnyk, who has saved the Wild’s season. To add depth, he sent a 2016 third-round pick to Florida for forward Sean Bergenheim and a seventh and this year’s fifth to Columbus for defenseman Jordan Leopold.
To top it off, in an effort to acquire a power forward who can add toughness and goals, Fletcher made a buzzer-beating deal for Chris Stewart, sending Buffalo a fourth second-round pick in three years, this one in 2017.
So as of now, the Wild has no third or fifth rounder this June, no second or third in 2016 and no second in 2017.
Fletcher has time to reacquire some picks, but of course, there could be incentive to trade more picks in future years. This is the price of doing business in today’s NHL when second- and third-round picks are often currency for rentals.
“Since draft picks are unknown quantities at this point, we prefer to trade the draft pick than a prospect that’s somewhat developed,” Fletcher said. “It’s a constant balance. We’re going to do whatever we can to compete in the present, but this puts an awful lot of pressure on our scouts to deliver with the limited number of picks we give them.”
The Wild has tried to make up for the lost picks by being aggressive in the college, European and major junior free-agent markets, but when Fletcher became GM in 2009, the decision was made not to, as Fletcher said, “blow it up and start over.” That meant the Wild has never been bad enough to take a franchise-changer at the top of the draft.
“We’re constantly trying to build on the fly,” Fletcher said.
In the next few drafts, Fletcher will consider trading back in an effort to gobble up extra picks. The Wild had that chance in last year’s first round, but it badly wanted power forward Alex Tuch.
“Maybe that’s something we consider in the first or second round this year,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher said the Wild doesn’t have a win-now attitude because core players Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are in their peak years. He says it’s because fans want a winner and “I believe in our team. We’ve shown in the first month this year and maybe the last close to two months that we can compete with anybody when we’re playing our best. And we have so many good kids, this team should be competitive for many, many years.”
Plus, Fletcher feels, the Wild still has several kids coming, most notably Tuch, Gustav Olofsson and Tyler Graovac.
“Believe me, I’m a huge believer in the draft,” Fletcher said, laughing. “People may laugh at that because I trade so many picks, but we do have a plan, we are trying to be careful. I believe our scouts with deliver again and we’ll just have to try to continue to strike that balance between present and future.”
NHL short takes
Bullpen goalies needed
After seeing Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya get hurt in the same game last week in Florida and position players like Scottie Upshall and Derek MacKenzie nearly having to play goal and goalie coach Rob Tallas serving backup, it’s again time the NHL figures this out.
Either every team needs to employ the equivalent of a bullpen catcher or every team needs to have a rotating pool of area emergency goalies that attend every game.
Wild goalie coach Bob Mason and its position players are safe. Wild GM Chuck Fletcher joked, “At least this shouldn’t happen to us. We always seem to carry three goalies.”
Looking to draft
As expected, the Buffalo Sabres and Arizona Coyotes were in clean-house mode at the deadline as they challenge Edmonton in the race for Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel in June’s draft.
Buffalo traded goalie Michal Neuvirth, fourth-leading scorer Chris Stewart and forwards Brian Flynn and Torrey Mitchell. Arizona traded Keith Yandle in a blockbuster and Antoine Vermette.
“We’re in 30th place,” Sabres GM Tim Murray said. “Our time is the future.”
As Wild fans know, injuries this time of year can be destructive to a team’s playoff hopes, although the Wild has impressively survived injuries to Jason Zucker, Matt Cooke and Ryan Carter and has now navigated through injuries to defensemen Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon.
The Blackhawks are doing the same with Patrick Kane. And amazingly, in his first practice with Boston, Brett Connolly, acquired from Tampa Bay instead of Chris Stewart, broke his hand.
Now Calgary is facing life without Norris Trophy contender Mark Giordano.
“We’ve got to buckle in,” Flames GM Brad Teliving said. “This is the group that got us here.”
Wild’s week ahead
Sunday: 5 p.m. vs. Colorado (FSN)
Tuesday: 7 p.m. vs. New Jersey (FSN)
Friday: 7 p.m. vs. Anaheim (FSN)
Saturday: 7 p.m. at St. Louis (FSN)
Player to watch: Ryan Getzlaf, Ducks
The Ducks’ star center is on pace to be in the top-10 in league scoring and especially enjoys feeding goal-scorer Corey Perry against the Wild.
« THIRD TIME WITH HIM. I CAN’T SHAKE HIM. »
— Chris Stewart, teammates with Jordan Leopold in Colorado and St. Louis, and now in Minnesota.