In advance of a busy stretch that includes next week’s NHL draft, Wild general manager Paul Fenton met with the local media members Friday to talk about plans for the No. 12 overall pick and other subjects.
After the group interview was over, a 1-on-1 session with Fenton revealed a few interesting nuggets about the offseason-to-date and what the organization’s strategy might be going forward. Here is a transcript of our conversation:
Q When someone has been the subject of trade rumors and trade speculation like Jason Zucker, how do you think that impacts the player and your relationship with that player?
A I think it’s part of the business. Unfortunately, it’s become public that I’ve had a couple conversations with teams. It’s unfair to the player and the organization. I don’t think that it should be out there. As far as my relationship with Jason and his agent, we have no problem with it. They understand that it’s part of the business and that the end of the day, Jason is part of the Minnesota Wild. He’s going to be part of our process going forward. Can things change? Yeah, it can change with everybody. It can change with everyone on our roster.
Q With the roster reshaping that began during last season with some pretty significant deals, is there a point where you say ‘we need to keep going that direction’ or conversely ‘let’s stop because we like the roster we have now’ – or is a constant evaluation of ways to get better?
A I don’t know that there is an ‘end of the day’ type of thing here. I’m evaluating our roster every single game as every general manager in the National Hockey League does. If you can improve your roster and you can do it in the right way, you’re going to do it. There is no stop button. It may seem like that, but there’s no stop button. I don’t stop thinking about how I’m going to improve this roster any day of the year. You go on vacation maybe for two weeks and shut it down. I don’t. My mind is going to continue to work on how to improve us here, and that’s the way it is. That’s what I signed up for.
Q Everyone wants to be in the playoffs and every team wants to win the Stanley Cup next year, but sometimes you have to take a step back before you take three steps forward. How does that notion play out with how you see this team right now?
A Well if you look at where we’re headed right now. If Kirill Kaprizov comes after next year, we’ll have six forwards under 23 that arguably can be in your top 6, 7 or 8. I think that’s pretty good as far as looking around the National Hockey League. If these guys mature together and if they do what I believe they’re going to do, then we have a pretty good core here that is going to be able to go forward with an exciting brand of hockey that’s going to concentrate on skill, speed and character. I’m excited about that. But there’s a lot of ‘ifs’ in that. That’s why you have to continue to evaluate every day.
Q It feels like next year is about finding some of those things out, for better or worse. Is that fair to say?
A What’s to say that (Ryan) Donato doesn’t come in and light things up. And (Kevin) Fiala, (Luke) Kunin, (Jordan) Greenway and (Joel Eriksson) Ek. If they are elevating their play and we continue to have the elevation we’ve had with Zach (Parise) and Mikko (Koivu) and (Eric) Staal, all the sudden we’re an offensive team that’s hard to reckon with.