New Wild winger Marcus Foligno made his debut with the Sabres during the 2011-12 season and has been a part of six Buffalo teams — all of which missed the playoffs.
So when he was traded to the Wild along with fellow wing Tyler Ennis in a deal last month that sent Marco Scandella and Jason Pominville to Buffalo, he had plenty of mixed emotions. He was leaving the only professional organization he had ever known — one that his father, Mike, also played for — and the city in which he was born.
But Foligno was also gaining an opportunity to experience something that had been missing for the duration of his 347-game NHL career.
“It’s been a lot of emotions. At first you get traded and you have to say goodbye to Buffalo. It’s a place I’ve been a long time and I know a lot of great people there,” Foligno said. “At the same time, you’re going to a great organization in Minnesota, a great team that is obviously ready to win a Stanley cup. I think that’s the biggest thing. I’m excited to win and be a winner for a long time.”
Foligno said that Friday while standing in the Wild home dressing room for the first time. He and his wife, Natascia, are in the Twin Cities for the weekend, scouting the area for a place to live (Foligno had a lot of questions for the assembled media about Minnesota lakes and fishing). While they are here, Foligno had a chance to meet with Wild GM Chuck Fletcher and get more familiar with his new surroundings.
Foligno is a restricted free agent who still needs to be signed, but the Wild formally introducing him to the media is a pretty good indication that should happen soon.
“I think it’s been positive going back and forth with my agent and Chuck and those guys,” Foligno said. “Right now, everything has been going great, and I’m looking forward to being with the Wild for a while.”
He said it feels good to know he was coveted by another team.
“It’s great for confidence. I think that’s the biggest thing. You have to realize Buffalo traded you but you’re going to a team that really wants you and wants you to succeed. I’m put in a great position now,” he said. “I know the league better, and knowing myself as a player better — knowing what I need to do for this team — I think it’s just great timing to transition to Minnesota.”
Here are a few other highlights from Friday’s media session:
*Foligno found out about the trade during his brother-in-law’s wedding — and he was in the wedding party.
“It was a crazy day. … I was in the wedding party, taking pictures and all that, and I get a call from my GM. Obviously your mindset just switches over to another thing. You’re definitely caught by surprise, but I’m excited for this opportunity,” he said. “When it was ceremony time, I had to turn off my phone and make sure I was getting ready for the wedding.”
*Foligno, a physical forward at 6-3, 228 pounds, said he thinks he can help a Wild team that has been criticized at times for playing too much of a finesse game (particularly in the postseason, which Minnesota has reached in five consecutive seasons with only two playoff series wins to show for it).
Foligno said he and Chris Stewart — a former teammate with the Sabres who was among the first to reach out to him after the trade now that the pair will be reunited in Minnesota — can “throw our weight around and be a little more intimidating. I think that’s what I’m brought in to do, and above all that you want to contribute offensively as well. I just have to make sure I’m playing simple hockey and being a physical presence every night.”
*To that end, Foligno scored a career-high 13 goals last season and has his sights set on 20 this year. But his “Foligno Leap” — a jump-into-the-air goal celebration tradition passed on from his dad — might be a thing of the past. Foligno said he wants to “keep his knees” in good shape, adding that old instincts might take over from time to time.
Foligno’s older brother, Nick, plays for Columbus and has 154 career goals. Combined with Marcus’ 49 goals, they have 203 — and a ways to go to catch their dad. Mike scored 355 goals in a career that spanned more than 1,000 games.
“I don’t know how my dad did it for so long. I’ll save the jump,” said Foligno, who turns 26 next month. “I’ll just put the puck in the net and raise my hands. If I do that 20 times, it’s a good year.”