SAN JOSE, CALIF – Mike Yeo was late getting on the ice Wednesday morning, and it came after assistant coach Rick Wilson tapped youngsters Johan Larsson and Matt Hackett on the shoulder to go see the Wild head coach.
When Yeo finally met with his players at center-ice, he wasn’t allowed to tell them yet that the Wild had acquired Buffalo Sabres captain Jason Pominville. The trade was not yet official.
“They were giddy, you could tell,” Yeo said. “It was guys shooting on an empty net in practice. Normally they’d be probably not thrilled with that. But they knew something good was up. It’s a huge, huge vote of confidence by [Genera Manager Chuck Fletcher] and the entire staff.
“It’s a message to this group that, ‘We believe in you.’ So now, let’s go.”
Yeo said much like the summer when owner Craig Leipold stepped up and authorized Fletcher to sign Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to 13-year contracts totaling $196 million, Wednesday’s trade for Pominville proves “this is an organization … [that is] extremely committed to winning. We’re not satisfied with being good. We want to be great. That’s an important statement.”
Yeo also is downright giddy to have so many weapons now. Pominville likely will debut Thursday against the Kings on the top line with Parise and captain Mikko Koivu. That puts three former or current captains on one line.
Yeo said Pominville brings “speed, skill, competitiveness, and as much as anything else, this is a quality person, a character guy. Much of what we’ve been trying to do around here is making sure that we not only have talented players, players that fit the way we want to play the game, but people that you want to be around and go to war with.”
Yeo said the Wild will explore the possibility of using Pominville on the point on the No. 1 power-play unit, a slot he played in Buffalo. The other option is Pominville replacing Kyle Brodziak in the slot as the net-front presence guy.
With Pominville going to the top line, rookie Charlie Coyle might move to center, at least until Matt Cullen returns from a lower-body injury. Coyle, who had been playing right wing, has played center throughout his life and took most his shifts at center in Wednesday’s game against the Sharks.
• While the Wild players on the ice were “giddy” Wednesday morning, it was a contrast to what Yeo had to do moments before stepping on the ice.
He had to inform Larsson and Hackett that they had been traded to the Sabres.
“That is always the tough part of it,” Yeo said. “It’s not an easy thing, for sure. Especially for young kids, you just don’t quite know what’s going on.”
Larsson and Hackett were to fly back to Houston to get their belongings, then report to AHL Rochester.
• With Larsson gone, defenseman Nate Prosser played wing Wednesday night. With Hackett gone, goalie Darcy Kuemper was recalled.
• The Wild also acquired Anaheim Ducks goalie Jeff Deslauriers for future considerations because it needed a goalie for Houston.
• Right winger Torrey Mitchell, a longtime Shark who signed a three-year deal with Minnesota last summer, returned to San Jose for the first time and played right wing with Koivu and Parise. Koivu, by the way, was sporting a nasty shiner and cut under his left eye from Monday’s uncalled first-period high stick from St. Louis’ Chris Stewart.
• Defenseman Brett Clark was scratched for Justin Falk.