Marek Zidlicky's exit generates a wave in return

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 25, 2012 - 7:31 AM

The unhappy Wild defenseman was traded to New Jersey for familiar help and future help.


Marek Zidlicky, right, was traded Friday to New Jersey.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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DALLAS - The Marek Zidlicky soap opera in Minnesota is over.

Nine days after the disgruntled Wild defenseman made it clear he would waive his no-trade clause to go to the New Jersey Devils, Zidlicky was dealt to the Devils minutes before the Wild lost to the Dallas Stars on Friday night.

The return was sizeable considering the Wild traded away an offensive defenseman with no goals and no desire to be in Minnesota anymore.

In return, the Wild received Nick Palmieri, considered by some to be a potential top two-line winger, two familiar faces in former Wild defenseman Kurtis Foster and left winger Stephane Veilleux and Washington's second-round pick in the 2012 draft.

If the Devils make it to the conference finals, the Wild also receives a 2013 third-round pick.

"[Zidlicky] will get a fresh start, but for a lot of this year we've had a lack of depth and battled injuries, so any time you can put three players on your NHL team, it makes you better," General Manager Chuck Fletcher said. "On top of that, we were able to pick up at least one asset, if not two for the future.

"So there are elements of this trade that make us better for the long run and elements that hopefully give us a boost right now as we pursue a playoff spot."

Palmieri and Foster will play Sunday against San Jose -- the day all fans are supposed to receive a Zidlicky Trading Card. Veilleux should, too, although he was assigned to Houston until the Wild reassigns a player Saturday (likely Matt Hackett).

Word leaked moments before Friday's warmups that Zidlicky had been pulled from the lineup for Justin Falk. Fletcher only told coach Mike Yeo that Zidlicky wouldn't play to "protect the club's interests."

In New Jersey, Foster was expected to return from a back injury before being told he would take another game off to rest.

"I started to sense something was up," Foster said. "When [GM Lou Lamoriello] tapped me on the shoulder and said I was going to Minnesota, it did bring a little bit of a smile on my face inside.

"I couldn't really show it to Lou. It's somewhere I've been, I love and feel comfortable. I'll get a chance to play. I can't ask for anything more."

It was Foster's third trade in roughly a year, being shipped from Edmonton to Anaheim, then onto New Jersey on Dec. 12. The well-liked 30-year-old and close friend of Wild captain Mikko Koivu played for the Wild from 2005-09.

In 2008, he broke his femur in a game against San Jose and rehabbed for a year before returning to the lineup.

Veilleux, 30, is a 2001 Wild third-round pick. The energy bug played six years for the Wild before signing with Tampa Bay in 2009-10. Last year, he played in Finland and Switzerland before spending most of this season in Albany.

"He's a leader, he's a character guy, he's a competitor," Fletcher said. "From what I understand he's good in the room, he's a vocal guy, and we have a quiet dressing room."

Foster and Veilleux are in the last year of their contracts, so their additions could be short-term. Palmieri's shouldn't be.

A 2007 third-round pick by the Devils, the 22-year-old had a strong 2010-11 season mostly under Jacques Lemaire, getting nine goals and eight assists in 43 games. But this year he fell out of favor with Pete DeBoer and spent most his year in Albany.

"This was a guy I ... handed a top-six forward job to off the bat and he slowly worked himself out of that," DeBoer told reporters last month.

Foster calls Palmieri a "big, strong, smooth-skating right winger. He's a young kid that's learning the game, but he's got a chance to really blossom into a good young player."

Zidlicky asked to be traded Jan. 31 in the midst of being scratched in four consecutive games. His desire was to go to New Jersey, where he's buddies with Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora. Things came to a head last week when Yeo benched him two games for not wanting to be part of the team.

"I think for the most part we didn't let it be a distraction," defenseman Nick Schultz said. "Maybe it was to a certain extent. You try not to think about it. It's just tough. If a guy doesn't want to be here, and he's around, ultimately you have to move him."

By trading Zidlicky, the Wild rids itself of his $4 million contract for next year.

"This just seemed to make sense," Fletcher said in trading Zidlicky now instead of this summer. "I think this sends a message to our players that we're serious about competing, yet let's not kid ourselves, we're always trying to improve our asset base."

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