Chuck Fletcher got fans into a tizzy with a couple of roster moves that potentially set the Wild up for a trade before Monday’s deadline, but as of Saturday evening, nothing was consummated by the general manager.
With Sunday’s St. Paul visitor, the Florida Panthers, tremendously busy Saturday by completing three trades and signing a star Canadian junior player, the Wild only created flexibility in case a trade comes into fruition.
The Wild, which has lost three consecutive games despite feeling it deserved better during a 0-2 trip to Philadelphia and Washington, reassigned Jordan Schroeder to the American Hockey League’s Iowa Wild and placed winger Chris Porter on waivers. If Porter clears waivers at 11 a.m. Sunday, he won’t necessarily be assigned to Iowa, Fletcher said. In fact, with no extra forwards on the roster, he probably would play against the Panthers if no trade is made by the 2 p.m. game.
Fletcher wanted to create another roster spot and open up an extra $575,000 in salary-cap space if he needs the space to make a trade. Clearly, Fletcher had some balls in the air Saturday. As of Monday, if Porter is claimed or reassigned, the Wild theoretically could add $3.9 million worth of players without shedding salary.
“I’m not sure how it will play out,” Fletcher said.
In the meantime, the Wild, determined to leave Xcel Energy Center a victor for the first time since Dec. 28 on Sunday, had a crowded practice in Edina with injured Zach Parise, Devan Dubnyk, Jason Zucker and Jonas Brodin all taking part.
Dubnyk will at least dress against the Panthers and likely will start, while Parise will return from missing two games because of an upper-body injury. Zucker, out the past three games because of a concussion, isn’t eligible to come off injured reserve until at least Monday and said he has to clear some more “hoops” before he can return. Brodin still needs a few more practices under his belt after skating with the team for the first time since breaking a foot Feb. 6.
“With the spot we’re in this time of year, it’s not fun missing games,” Parise said. “I thought we played really well [on the road]. To me it looked like they controlled a lot of the game against Washington and frustrated them and I thought limited their chances.
“It’s tough to come home from that without getting a single point when I thought we could have at least had three. It’s too bad they didn’t get rewarded for some pretty good hockey they played.”
Parise assumed his spot on the left side of Mikko Koivu and Charlie Coyle, and Porter skated again with Thomas Vanek and Mikael Granlund as if there was nothing out of the ordinary.
But Porter knows there’s a chance Sunday he ends up on one of 29 other teams or even in Iowa.
“It’s not easy. I’ve done this quite a bit in my career, though, so you learn to cope with it a little bit,” Porter said. “But it’s nice to come out and practice with the guys and forget about it for an hour. Now it’s a waiting game to see what happens. I hope I don’t get picked up. I feel like I’ve made a home here with this team, and I’d really like to help by contributing in the playoffs.”
Fletcher has said he isn’t too fond of the rental market, so perhaps he’s looking to make an actual “hockey trade.” Some believe he has talked to Edmonton about forwards Nail Yakupov or injured Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. In January, he showed interest in Tampa Bay’s Jonathan Drouin.
“I still maintain our team is talented enough to make the playoffs whether we add a player or not,” Fletcher said Thursday, adding, “We’re not looking to sell. We expect to make the playoffs.”
A much-needed home win would be the perfect way for Koivu to commemorate becoming the most tenured player in team history. Koivu will play in his 744th game Sunday, passing close friend Nick Schultz for the most in team history.
It is an honor that had Koivu smiling Saturday.
“For sure it’s something special,’’ said Koivu, 32, who is the team’s all-time leader in assists (386) and points (543). “When you think back, and think of all the players who played with the Wild, then you realize you have the most games, it’s special.’’
Staff writer Kent Youngblood contributed to this report.