During Thursday’s end-of-the-year availability, Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher was asked if he has an idea which positions Mikael Granlund and Charlie Coyle will play next season.
“They’re both [centers and wings]. I think it’s great,” Fletcher said. “It was funny. I [asked Granlund], ‘How do you like playing wing?’ He says, ‘God, it’s easy. You don’t have to play defense. All you do is have the puck, you make plays, you get points, everyone thinks you’re great.’ He was laughing.
“I was talking to [assistant GM] Brent Flahr. He said, ‘Who was the best exit interview?’ I said, ‘Granlund by far.’ I remember him when he came in with acne and he was just a young kid. He’s a man now. He’s so in tune with who he is and what he needs to do and he’s intelligent and just a really mature kid. He can play both. I think if we put him on the wing, he would score more.”
As for Coyle, Fletcher said it’s a luxury that he can play both positions.
“Both those kids are two of the reasons why I am optimistic about our group because those are two good hockey players that play 200 feet and are team oriented and care and compete and are good offensive players who haven’t come close to getting to where they’re going to get to, yet play well defensively and give you that flexibility.”
Two big decisions Fletcher will have to make this summer is whether to buy out the final year of veteran Thomas Vanek’s contract and whether to trade backup goalie Darcy Kuemper, a restricted free agent.
He said it was “way premature” to decide on Vanek.
“He’s a goal scorer, and we need to find a way to score more goals. … Whatever we need to do to improve our team, we’ll do,” Fletcher said. “But I’m probably a couple weeks away [from deciding that].”
As for Kuemper, Fletcher said, “I think it would behoove us to look around and see what value we could find in him. If there’s a deal that makes sense for us and allows him to get a better opportunity, I think that would be good for both of us. But I also have no problem bringing him back.”
Fletcher reiterated that Zach Parise’s back injury is progressing well and “the hope is to avoid surgery.”
Asked if he regrets allowing Parise to play through the injury, Fletcher said he was cleared to play and a questionable hit by San Jose’s Logan Couture “inflamed the situation.”
“I’m not sure why Logan did it, but he did,” Fletcher said. “Zach was playing very well before then, but the injury took a big turn for the worse after that hit.”
Coach comes first
Fletcher said he won’t make decisions on re-signing unrestricted free agents Chris Porter, Ryan Carter, Justin Fontaine, Jarret Stoll and David Jones until he hires a new coach.
“It’s important we have a good feel for how we’re going to play and how the coach wants to coach and then make the bottom six as strong as possible,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher wouldn’t confirm that the Wild assistant coaches are in the final year of their contracts, but he said the new coach “is going to have to have some free reign in who his staff is.”
Fletcher also said he won’t address hiring a new Iowa head coach until after deciding on Minnesota’s.
• Defenseman Marco Scandella might need sports hernia surgery, an injury that occurred in January.
“He went awkwardly into the boards and has been dealing with a hip and abdominal issue all year,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher wouldn’t disclose defenseman Jared Spurgeon’s injury, “but that kid is the toughest kid I’ve ever seen. He was probably 80 percent most of the year and played 25 minutes per night. I don’t think he’ll need surgery, but I’ll just call it upper body for now. But he’s going to need some time to get better.”
Defenseman Jonas Brodin had a foot injury, and center Erik Haula had a hip injury.
• Forwards Mikko Koivu and Granlund will play for Finland and defenseman Matt Dumba for Canada at the world championships.