CHICAGO – As Bruce Boudreau sat at the draft table “bored out of his mind,” according to General Manager Chuck Fletcher, on Friday night, the Wild coach fired off a text message to someone asking, “Is no one making any moves?”
A couple of trades trickled in late, but Boudreau is a hockey nut. So he, too, had hoped to witness a couple of league-shaking trades, even from his own Wild.
But alas, none from the Wild came, even on the second day of the NHL draft that was spent Saturday with Boudreau … at the airport, then in the sky.
“Nothing’s happening,” Boudreau said, laughing, before boarding a flight to Minnesota. “You’d love it this time of year. It creates excitement for the fans, for us — me included. We all love moves. But you don’t want to cut your nose to spite your face. If it’s not there, don’t make it.”
Most anticipated that Fletcher would trade a defenseman — probably Marco Scandella — in Chicago, especially after manipulating the expansion process by persuading the Vegas Golden Knights to take center Erik Haula over any of his blue-liners by delivering them prospect Alex Tuch.
But so far Fletcher hasn’t executed a swap. Saturday, after the Wild drafted six players, Fletcher said he didn’t have as many conversations as one would think “for whatever reason” and if somebody wants to make a “hockey trade,” he’s all ears.
The Wild had a couple of chances in a defenseman trade to get a first-round pick, but Fletcher’s right-hand man, Brent Flahr, said, “We weren’t desperately just trying to move a player to get a pick. If it happened and it included a pick, that’s fine.”
If no trade comes to fruition, Fletcher said he’s perfectly content to return roughly the same group next season from the team that had the second-most points in the Western Conference last season but bowed out in five games in the first round of the playoffs.
Boudreau, however, still thinks “something’s going to happen. I just don’t know what it is. Chuck’s playing his cards close to his vest. But I’ve got to believe something will happen. Whether it happens today or in a month from now, I don’t think he’s in a hurry unless he gets what he wants to get.”
The reason many think a trade’s on the horizon is the need to re-sign Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter and still have cap space to conduct other business this offseason. The Wild is roughly $13.5 million from the cap ceiling with only 15 regulars, including rookie Joel Eriksson Ek and goalie Alex Stalock, signed.
“The one thing I know I’m not is creative,” Boudreau said. “I don’t think of things the way GMs think because they have to maneuver money around. On the surface it might look like [we have cap issues], but if we’re moving anybody, Chuck can be as creative as anybody. I mean, no one thought at the expansion draft we would have done what we did, but Chuck was thinking ahead of everybody and was being creative and we were able to keep all five defensemen … at that point.”
Fletcher said if the right deal doesn’t come, he’ll be able to re-sign Granlund and Niederreiter and navigate being tight to the cap ceiling like he has the past three seasons.
“I’m not too worried about that,” he said. “We have some young guys ready to make the team that will carry good cap hits. We need to fill a couple spots probably in free agency, but again, we’re looking more at fourth-line type players. We like our group, the defense is the strength of our team, we’ve got three lines up front that we like.
“Again we might have to look at inventing a fourth line in free agency and through our guys in the American league, so that’ll be a change. Otherwise we can start the year the way we’re at.”
Some fourth-line options include Matt Hendricks, Nate Thompson and Brian Boyle, and you can bet Boudreau would love to try to dissuade three-time Stanley Cup champ Matt Cullen from retiring. The Wild will pursue players with experience, plus depth players to put on two-way contracts.
Also, the Wild is in the market for another goalie to compete with Stalock for the backup job.
“[Stalock’s] going to have to earn it,” Fletcher said. “He put himself on the radar last year, but by the same token, we want to foster competition.”
In Fletcher’s mind, this weekend was all about the draft “and maximizing our darts” by drafting six players with skill and not worrying about things like size or development stage. That’s what happens when your first pick is in the third round.
Still, Boudreau didn’t stick around for Day 2. He saw enough Day 1, yet he isn’t worried.
“We don’t have to do much,” he said. “We were the best team in the league for two-thirds the year, so I think a little tweak here and a little tweak there is going to be what’s necessary to get over the top. But we could do something big as well. I don’t know.
“I have all the confidence that if he’s going to do something, it’ll be a good move for us.”