NEW YORK – Between sessions of Thursday’s Board of Governors meeting, Chuck Fletcher and Dave Nonis dragged two chairs to a tiny table away from the rest of their colleagues.
There, the Wild and Toronto Maple Leafs general managers dined over cold cuts and salad for a half-hour.
With the trade season about to ramp up as Sunday’s NHL draft in Newark, N.J., approaches, there’s zero doubt they were talking shop.
“Or, I could have just been having lunch with him because he’s a friend,” Fletcher said, laughing. “We had to sit somewhere.”
After lunch, Fletcher huddled with old friend Doug Wilson, the San Jose Sharks GM with whom he made three trades two summers ago. Then, Fletcher chatted with Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli. Then Edmonton Oilers President Kevin Lowe.
“It’s that time of year,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher is trying to be active. As the roster currently stands, the Wild has about $3.6 million in salary cap space at its disposal (includes the $795,000 Buffalo is picking up from Jason Pominville’s $4.505 million cap hit). In reality, it’s less because the Wild must leave room for injury call-ups and potential in-season acquisitions.
This doesn’t leave a lot of flexibility, especially when one considers the Wild hasn’t re-signed potential unrestricted free agent Matt Cullen and potential restricted free agents Cal Clutterbuck and Jared Spurgeon.
The one player Fletcher is believed to be getting significant traction on is Clutterbuck, the hard-hitting 25-year-old winger. If the Wild doesn’t find the right deal for the fan favorite, he will be re-signed.
“There’s a lot of different options [on the team],” Fletcher said. “It’s hard to comment on [Clutterbuck] because there’s a lot of different things that can happen. The bottom line is when we come out of this weekend, we’re going to be where we need to be or close to it.
“We’ll have our team probably mostly ready to go for next year, maybe with a couple exceptions. Clearly we have to work through our cap situation. I think it’s easily resolved, but there’s work to be done.”
Fletcher is trying to trade defenseman Tom Gilbert. If he can’t, the Wild likely will use one of its two allowable compliance buyouts on the Bloomington native. Buying out Gilbert would cost the Wild $1 million in each of the next two years but clear an additional $4 million in cap space next season.
It’s believed the Wild also would be willing to trade Devin Setoguchi, who is entering the last year of his contract, for the right return, while center Zenon Konopka and defenseman Justin Falk are also on the block. Kyle Brodziak could probably be snagged, too, but it’s hard to give up Brodziak because the Wild isn’t deep at center.
The Wild will work to extend Pominville’s contract later this summer.
So does Fletcher have a clear picture yet as to what he may accomplish?
“Clear as mud,” he joked. “There just seems to be a lot of dialogue on a leaguewide basis. A lot of teams are talking, a lot of things are going on. So you’re talking to one team and they may have an idea, but they’re also trying to do something else. Everything’s kind of tied together.
“So the reality is the vast majority of these conversations lead nowhere, at least immediately. Some do and some may lay the foundation for something down the road.”
Around the league
• The big news Thursday was Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman announcing that the Lightning would buy out Vincent Lecavalier.
• The trade rumor mill was churning. There are some big defensemen potentially on the block, from Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang to San Jose’s Dan Boyle to Toronto’s Dion Phaneuf. Some forwards potentially available include Chicago’s Dave Bolland and Tampa Bay’s Ryan Malone.
• Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the NHL and International Olympic Committee will meet Monday to try to finalize the NHL’s participation in the 2014 Winter Games.
• Bettman also made clear that if the city of Glendale, Ariz., doesn’t reach an agreement with the newest ownership group assembled to buy the Phoenix Coyotes by Tuesday, “I don’t think the Coyotes will be playing there anymore.” A relocation to Seattle could be on the horizon.
• The day started on a somber tone when universally respected Winnipeg-based agent Don Baizley, who represented the Wild’s Mikko Koivu and Niklas Backstrom and such NHL greats as Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg and Teemu Selanne, succumbed to cancer at the age of 71. “I would not be where I am without him,” Backstrom said. “Just hearing his name mentioned brings a smile on my face because I remember all the great stories he had, all the advice he gave me and the way he taught me about life and hockey.”