The news in the Minnesota hockey world came nearly nonstop on Monday, with the Wild trading two players and re-signing two others, followed by the state’s soon-to-be sixth Division I college program taking another step in its transition. Here’s a look at the developments:
Wild trades Dubnyk, Donato to San Jose
General Manager Bill Guerin continued his aggressive approach at remaking the roster with these two moves. Since February, he has traded such mainstays as Jason Zucker and Eric Staal, plus declined to bring back longtime captain Mikko Koivu.
In the first of Monday’s trades, Guerin did Donato a favor by shipping the forward to the Sharks for a 2021 third-round draft pick. Acquired from Boston for Charlie Coyle by previous GM Paul Fenton, Donato never did secure a regular role in Minnesota and often was relegated to fourth-line duty.
“We had a hard time getting Ryan in [the lineup] and putting him in the positions that he needed to be in,’’ Guerin said. “He’s going to get that opportunity in San Jose.’’
While Donato will get a chance to rebuild his career in San Jose, Dubnyk will try to resurrect his.
Always one of the good guys in his six years in Minnesota, Dubnyk endured a difficult season on and off the ice in 2019-20. He eventually lost the starting job to Alex Stalock, and when Guerin bluntly said in August that the team’s goaltending had to improve, the writing was on the wall for Dubnyk.
So, who’ll start in goal for the Wild in 2021-22? That’s to be determined, and don’t be surprised if Guerin trades for a goalie during the draft on Tuesday and Wednesday or in free agency. One thing is certain: He won’t hand anyone the starting job, or even the backup role.
“This is a competition. It’s always a competition,’’ he said. “That’s the business that we’re in. … You have to try to earn your spot. That’s just the way this life is -- constant competition. No matter who you are, somebody’s gunning for you job.’’
Sturm, Soucy re-sign
Guerin locked up two players with potential by signing Sturm to a two-year, $1.45 million contract and Soucy to a three-year, $8.25 million deal. Sturm’s deal is a one-way contract, meaning he’ll receive is full salary even if he is sent to Iowa of the AHL. The Wild, of course, will try to avoid that. A center job is there for the taking for Sturm, who scored his first NHL goal in the qualifying round series against Vancouver.
Soucy received a raise from $750,000 to $2.75 million per year largely because he achieved unrestricted free agency. The price might be high for a player with 58 NHL games under his belt, but Guerin didn’t want to lose the rangy blue-liner. “We’re really happy with the deal with Carson,’’ he said.
St. Thomas men’s coach retiring after season
With the announcement that Jeff “Duke’’ Boeser will retire following the 2020-21 season, St. Thomas athletic director Phil Esten will be in the market for a men’s hockey coach as the Tommies transition to NCAA Division I to start the 2021-22 campaign.
These are the fun times for Esten, who’ll get to put his stamp on the program with the hire as Tommies transition to the CCHA. Esten doesn’t plan to name a coach until after the season, and he’ll have plenty of options from which to choose.
In an exercise of way-too-early speculation, three names I’d consider, in no particular order, are: Penn State associate head coach Keith Fisher, a Zim, Minn., native and St. Cloud State graduate; Minnesota State associate head coach Todd Knott; and former Gophers associate head coach Mike Guentzel, a scout with the Arizona Coyotes.