Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher and assistant GM Brent Flahr briefed the media Monday on preparations for the NHL Draft, which starts Friday in Buffalo. Flahr went first, and when asked how much influence he has over draft-day maneuverings and related trading of picks in dealing with his boss, he quipped of Fletcher, “Well he trades them away all the time, so obviously not that much.”
It was a moment of jest, but also a moment of truth — one Fletcher widely acknowledged when it was his turn at the podium. The Wild has just four picks in this year’s draft — a first, a fourth and two seventh-rounders — after trading several picks in earlier mid-year deals.
While saying it’s not ideal overall and “disappointing for scouts” to have so few chances at landing potential impact players, Fletcher said he’s comfortable with the number of picks the organization has.
“I’d like to avoid continually trading future picks to keep kicking the can down the road,” Fletcher said. “I’d rather pay the bill this year.”
The Wild figures to get a potential difference-maker at No. 15 overall, but Fletcher did not sound overly eager to add any more picks via trades.
“I’m not sure this year’s draft is as deep as last year’s in terms of quality after the first round, so certainly we’re thrilled that last year we got a lot of good picks and had a great draft,” he said. “This year we’ll get a great player in the first round, a great prospect. After that we’ll see what happens.”
Other highlights from Fletcher’s remarks:
* He said he’s fielded trade calls for backup goalie Darcy Kuemper and said he is willing to move Kuemper — who will be an unrestricted free agent after next season — if a deal makes sense. “The net right now is Devan (Dubnyk’s). If we have an opportunity to move (Kuemper) and get a fair return, we’ll look at it,” Fletcher said. “But I don’t want to be too aggressive and leave us short in that position.”
* Fletcher added that there is “a lot of interest” from teams looking at dealing for one of the Wild’s young defensemen. Factoring into the equation, though, is the high opinion that new head coach Bruce Boudreau and assistant Scott Stevens have of that young core. “In the right scenario we would look at trading from our strength and depth to get a forward,” Fletcher said. “If it doesn’t happen, then we’re very, very content to bring that group back, and I know I would make Scott’s day if I did that.”
* If there was an overriding message from Fletcher, though, it was this one: “Everything has to be on the table coming off the season we just had.” He said that in the context of a discussion about trades, free agency and potential buyouts.