BUFFALO, N.Y. – With reports spreading like a wildfire during the NHL general manager’s meeting that Montreal was working to potentially trade superstar defenseman PK Subban before his no-move and no-trade clauses kick in next Friday, Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin was swarmed by press the instant those ballroom doors opened Thursday evening.
While Bergevin denied actively shopping Subban, the distraction allowed the majority of GM’s, like the Wild’s Chuck Fletcher, to slip out with hardly a notice.
Fletcher said Thursday was a relatively quiet day, especially compared to Bergevin’s, but called himself an “active listener” as he tries to improve the Wild this offseason.
But, asked if he was any closer to a significant trade, Fletcher said, “No.”
“If we can do something that makes us better, there’s no sense waiting for free agency,” he said. “But if it takes a few more days, then free agency’s another avenue we can look at.”
NHL teams can begin courting free agents Saturday. The free agent market opens next Friday.
The Wild has about $9 million of salary cap space with only 15 players signed. If the Wild needs more space, which is very likely, a league source said Thursday that Fletcher has informed veteran Thomas Vanek’s agent that he may need to buy out the final year of Vanek’s contract by Thursday’s deadline.
That would free up $5 million.
“There’s been no final decision, but it’s certainly under consideration,” the source said. Fletcher, too, admitted that earlier this week.
There’s no doubt the Wild’s looking for a forward, preferably a center. The cost could be a young defenseman like Jonas Brodin or Marco Scandella, who are signed to lucrative long-term deals, or restricted free agent Matt Dumba.
“This is something that could linger through the summer or even into the fall. I think there’s going to be other opportunities this year for different reasons to make changes at a later date,” said Fletcher, referring to teams either eclipsing the cap ceiling this summer and having to later get compliant or having to set the table for next summer’s expansion draft.
According to sources, the Buffalo Sabres called about Brodin or Scandella, but Fletcher asked for center Sam Reinhart. Sabres GM Tim Murray declined.
Fletcher said he felt a lot better about the team following the team’s pro meetings with the new coaching staff.
“The coaches like our group,” Fletcher said. “[Assistant coach] Scott Stevens would love for us to return our entire defense corps.”
Head coach Bruce Boudreau said Thursday that if the Wild doesn’t make the trade, he still believes the Wild has the makings of a “really good offensive team.”
Boudreau has delayed talking to most players until he sees what the roster looks like after the start to free agency. For instance, he doesn’t want to tell Charlie Coyle to prepare to play center until he knows more accurately where he’d play.
The same goes for Mikael Granlund, although Boudreau said after watching video, he likes the way Granlund plays with Mikko Koivu. That would lend one to believe Granlund would start at wing, although Boudreau said too that it depends “how many guys we have to play center.”
The Calgary Flames are looking for a goalie, and the Wild has one available – Darcy Kuemper.
But the Flames are clearly trying to hit a home run for a bona fide No. 1 and have set their sights on Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop.
Fletcher said he has had lots of conversations with restricted free agent Jason Zucker’s representative and hopes to make progress before Zucker can opt to file for arbitration July 5. Fletcher also said the Wild has had good talks with restricted free agent Tyler Graovac. …
The Wild will be looking to sign a goaltender with NHL experience for Iowa. Minnesota’s Alex Stalock is a potential option.