NHL Insider: Wild looking to upgrade, but won't mortgage future

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 3, 2013 - 11:56 AM

Wild GM Chuck Fletcher has indicated his blue-chip prospects — Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin, Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker and Matt Dumba — are untouchable.

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Wild GM Chuck Fletcher

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– Poor TSN.

Canada’s Sports Leader comes on the air at 7 a.m. Wednesday for wall-to-wall trade deadline coverage that will span 10 consecutive hours.

There will be nine correspondents in the field, six satellite contributors, five panelists, four Insiders, four reporters, three instant analysts, a “satirical blogger,” a live blogger, one host and a partridge in a pear tree.

That’s why when the St. Louis Blues acquired Calgary Flames iron man/minute man/defenseman Jay Bouwmeester during Monday’s game with the Wild, TSN host James Duthie tweeted, “Pray for us.”

With Jaromir Jagr, Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, Derek Roy and other notable names already traded and Ladislav Smid and Lubomir Visnovsky signed to extensions, there is the chance that TSN’s coverage leading into the 2 p.m. deadline will be must-see TV for no other reason than to watch how a 30-person team can twiddle its thumbs for hours.

You knew today was destined to be blasé when all attention focused on no-goal scorer Ryane Clowe as the guy that could be the trade deadline savior.

But then, by late afternoon Tuesday, even that went south because the San Jose Sharks power forward waived his no-trade clause to be dealt to the New York Rangers for two second-round picks (one conditional) and a third-round pick.

The Wild showed interest in Clowe, who despite having a tough year with zero goals in 28 games, has a history of effectiveness, especially in the playoffs.

If he would have been dealt to Minnesota, the logistics would have been easy. Clowe could simply have changed locker rooms at HP Pavilion and debuted Wednesday night against his former team.

General Manager Chuck Fletcher did have discussions with agent Kent Hughes and the Sharks. But Clowe apparently wanted to play in the East. Plus, the price clearly got steep, both in terms of assets the Wild would have had to give up for him and the price to eventually extend his contract.

With some luck though, there might be a few more big names moving Wednesday to keep this day from being a total dud.

The Buffalo Sabres, looking to trade anybody and everybody (from Drew Stafford to maybe even Ryan Miller), have asked captain Jason Pominville for a list of eight teams he is unwilling to be traded to. Some think Thomas Vanek could even be had, although that’d be shocking.

Defenseman Mark Streit might be available from the New York Islanders. The Toronto Maple Leafs are considering trading for goalies Miikka Kiprusoff or Roberto Luongo. The disappointing Philadelphia Flyers might reportedly trade hotshot youngster Sean Couturier. Tomas Fleischmann (Florida) and Mike Ribeiro (Washington) are on the block.

The Columbus Blue Jackets and Edmonton Oilers are suddenly buyers. The Pittsburgh Penguins, who will be without superstar Sidney Crosby (jaw) and defenseman Paul Martin (upper body) indefinitely, have $13 million to play with. The Red Wings and Kings are looking for defensemen.

As for the Wild, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, in the last year of his deal, could be had for the right price, as well as extra defensemen Justin Falk and Nate Prosser.

As for Wild additions, Fletcher is making calls. He contemplated Clowe, making it obvious he would have interest in other notable wingers (maybe Pominville?) or a top-four defenseman.

But it all comes down to price.

Fletcher has indicated his blue-chip prospects — Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin, Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker and Matt Dumba — are untouchable and, although the Wild has lots of young talent, he’s hesitant to give up significant assets if it’s merely for a rental (expiring contract).

In the past few days, the going rate for the top rentals in the NHL has been a handful of prospects and high draft picks.

“Every year, you go back and look at all the trades made at the trade deadline. A lot of teams traded prospects and picks for rental players to load up, and how many of those trades really work out?” Fletcher said Monday morning — hours before the Wild may have given him a bit of a concern by laying an egg against St. Louis.

“Like everybody, you’re always looking,” Fletcher said. “If you can find an upgrade that makes sense from an acquisition standpoint, you’ve got to consider it. But whenever you add a player, that means somebody’s coming out of the lineup.”

And that, too, concerns Fletcher. The Wild likes its team and doesn’t want to risk affecting team chemistry.

“Chemistry is a funny thing,” he said. “There’s only potentially 12 games left after this year’s trade deadline [because of the shortened season], so is that enough time to recreate chemistry?

“But our frame of mind is simple. We’re always calling around. But most of our work to improve the team happened last summer with the signings of Zach [Parise] and Ryan [Suter], Torrey [Mitchell] and [Zenon] Konopka. [Mike] Rupp’s been a big acquisition.

“If we can upgrade our team, we will. But we’re not going to force anything.”

 

Michael Russo • mrusso@startribune.com

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