Gersson Rosas and Paul Fenton should meet at a bar somewhere between Minneapolis and St. Paul to grab a beer(s) and commiserate their free agency experiences.
They can swap tales of rejection over a pint in a dimly lit room.
Rosas: We even rented a helicopter for DLo!
Fenton: Oh yeah, well at least you got a visit. I couldn’t even get Joe Pavelski to meet with us in person.
Rosas: Tough break, brother. Tough break.
Welcome to Minnesota, fellas. Nobody said this would be easy.
The start of free agency for the NBA and NHL left fans of the two local teams feeling a mixture of disappointment and anger. Perhaps some resignation, too.
The Timberwolves were spurned by All-Star guard D’Angelo Russell after media reports created the perception that Minnesota was his preferred destination — the first time in history that sentiment has ever been uttered.
The Wild signed two wingers after missing out on Pavelski, who picked the Dallas Stars, presumably because he felt that team offered a better chance to contend for a championship.
A Minnesota team getting shunned in free agency should come as no surprise. The Wolves apparently made a spirited push for Russell but lost out to a model franchise with championship pedigree. There’s reason to be disappointed but certainly not shocked that Russell ultimately chose the Golden State Warriors for his sign-and-trade destination, no matter how close he is to Karl-Anthony Towns.
Reports that the Wolves’ sales pitch included a helicopter ride over Los Angeles created an easy punch line. Now close your eyes D’Angelo and pretend that the Pacific Ocean is Lake Minnetonka.
Alas, the fancy mode of transportation was merely for convenience in avoiding L.A. traffic and a meaningless footnote to the gut punch in Rosas’ first foray into free agency as the new Wolves basketball boss.
Fenton’s moves likewise had an element of weird. The second-year Wild general manager has preached the need for more youth and size in reshaping the roster. On Monday, he signed 31-year-old winger Mats Zuccarello, who is 5-8, to a five-year contract with a full no-move clause, per reports. Of course.
Zuccarello should bring some scoring punch to an anemic lineup, and he’s a beloved teammate, by all accounts. But Fenton’s master plan is hard to decipher.
A youth movement seemed to commence at the trade deadline last season as Fenton dismantled the core by noting that the Wild “had the oldest team in the National Hockey League.”
Starting over made sense. The Wild had become stuck in a rut of being good enough to make the playoffs but not good enough to be considered a serious contender. A string of early playoff flameouts necessitated a fresh approach.
But owner Craig Leipold won’t tank in order to secure a higher draft pick. He wants to remain relevant and return to the playoffs after missing last season, so this is not a classic rebuild.
But why does Fenton appear so hellbent on trading Jason Zucker? A second proposed trade of Zucker fell apart last month when 31-year-old Phil Kessel vetoed the deal.
Zuccarello turns 32 in September and now has a five-year contract. Fenton downplayed any age concerns, saying Zuccarello “doesn’t have a ton of miles on him if you really look at it.”
Fenton also addressed Zuccarello’s small stature by noting that he uses an “incredibly long stick,” comparing it to the way a lizard utilizes its tongue. Well, in that case …
Rosas and Fenton inherited some challenging contracts that complicate matters. Wolves fans are dejected but it’s unclear if Rosas really could have traded Jeff Teague and/or Andrew Wiggins in shedding salary to make room for Russell.
Fans always want their teams to make a splash in free agency. Visions of best-case scenarios become intoxicating. It’s understandable. The start of this week has provided sobering moments for both teams and their fans.