Two trade deadlines ago, the Wild was trying to end a four-year playoff drought, so General Manager Chuck Fletcher gave up four top assets for three-time 30-goal scorer Jason Pominville.
Last trade deadline, the Wild was the fifth-lowest scoring team in the NHL, so Fletcher gave up two second-round draft picks and unhappy Torrey Mitchell for three-time 30-goal scorer Matt Moulson and checker Cody McCormick.
With Monday’s 2 p.m. trade deadline finally upon us, the Wild is in a very different position with not nearly as many holes, Fletcher says.
Besides the fact that the Wild added forward depth last week by acquiring Florida’s Sean Bergenheim, the Wild is an NHL-best 15-3-2 since trading for goalie Devan Dubnyk and 13-2-1 since the All-Star break. Plus, the Wild ranks 11th in the NHL at 2.81 goals per game, on pace to be the highest-scoring team in franchise history.
So don’t expect many fireworks, if any, Monday.
“I like the team. We have a good team,” said Fletcher, in his sixth year as GM. “Last year our team was struggling scoring goals. … But this year, we’re a deeper team, I think we’re a more talented team.
“We took care of some of our needs during the summer, we’ve seen our young players continue to evolve and grow into quality NHL players. If we can add something that makes sense, we’ll look at it. But I’m very comfortable going forward with this team.”
In fact, Fletcher said Saturday morning, “I’d be surprised if we did something. You never know. I’ll make calls and I’m sure I’ll get quite a few calls, but … I don’t think there’s anywhere near the sense of urgency this year as there was the last two seasons.”
Defense might be a need
Of course, Fletcher’s comments came before defenseman Marco Scandella missed half of Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Colorado because of what coach Mike Yeo called “discomfort.” It’s not thought to be serious, but with Scandella’s second-pair defense partner Jared Spurgeon having also missed the past five games because of a concussion, this could force Fletcher into some kind of move for a defenseman.
Fletcher had been kicking tires on adding a depth defenseman even before Scandella’s injury.
Two defensemen, Tim Erixon and David Schlemko, were claimed off waivers Sunday by Toronto and Calgary, respectively. Both those teams had higher waiver priority than the Wild, so it’s unknown whether the Wild put in a claim. Fletcher has talked to Columbus about left-shot defenseman Jordan Leopold, too, and other teams about other players.
Still, Fletcher said defenseman Jon Blum has been playing better in Iowa of the AHL, and with Justin Falk and Stu Bickel both having NHL experience, “those are three guys that have played in the league. … We’ll look around, but we’re not going to add a body for the sake of adding a body.”
Yeo has been extremely pleased with the job done by defenseman Nate Prosser, a plus-11 the past 16 games, and rookie blue-liners Matt Dumba and Christian Folin.
“Prosser’s game has been very steady for a good two months right now,” Yeo said. “He’s just a real solid player for us. [Prosser, Dumba, Folin], we’re not sheltering those guys. They’re getting good matchups.”
With the Wild scorching hot, Fletcher and Yeo want to be mindful not to disrupt team chemistry.
“Just because you acquire a player doesn’t mean it’s going to make you better,” Yeo said. “If there’s a move that makes sense, I know Chuck would do it. He’s proven that in the past, but you have to make sure that you’re making a move that’s going to make you better, too.”
Forwards Jordan Schroeder, Justin Fontaine, Erik Haula and Kyle Brodziak have stepped up impressively since Jason Zucker, Matt Cooke and Ryan Carter were hurt. If the Wild keeps adding players, its lineup will have to be altered. Plus, at some point, the Wild expects all three injured forwards to return.
“And I like our lines right now, and I like our depth,” Fletcher said. “You can always improve, but sometimes you’ve got to be a little bit careful bringing people in from the outside all the time.”
Tough schedule ahead
Leading scorer Zach Parise said as a player, he never goes into the trade deadline “anticipating, hoping. Whatever happens, happens. We’ve been playing well.”
However, Parise also knows the Wild has beaten a lot of winnable teams the past six weeks. The true tests come these next six weeks. Of the 20 games left, the Wild plays five sets of back-to-backs and games against 14 teams currently in a playoff position, including three games against St. Louis, two against Nashville and one each against Anaheim, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Parise said winning in Nashville on Thursday was great, “but I think we still need to do a better job of beating those top teams. We have a lot of games against St. Louis coming up, a lot of games against Nashville coming up, L.A., Anaheim. We’ve got to beat those teams. I think we’ve been winning games we should win and we need to win, but those are the teams we have to beat on a regular basis.”