PITTSBURGH – The Wild has complicated expansion decisions, and General Manager Chuck Fletcher has made clear he’s “all ears” … so rumors are running rampant that the Wild’s working to make a significant trade.
But Fletcher’s right-hand man threw cold water on the conjecture that a big move would come in advance of each team’s protected lists being submitted to expansion Vegas at 9 a.m. June 18.
One issue? If one wants to trade a significant player off its roster, that team must find a trading partner with the ability to protect the incoming player.
“We’ve talked to other teams,” said Brent Flahr, the Wild’s senior vice president of hockey operations, on Wednesday. “If we want to move players, we can certainly move players, but at the same time, we’re hoping maybe we can get something done with Vegas. We’d obviously have to pay a price of some kind [to make a trade with Vegas], but the reality is we’re going to lose a player [to expansion]. We have to figure out what’s best for us, not only next year, but moving forward.”
Flahr guesses that it’s “doubtful” the Wild makes a big splash before expansion Vegas’ roster is announced June 21.
“People have kicked tires and thrown names out there, which are interesting,” Flahr said. “But they’re not really sure what they’re doing either. It’s a lot of moving parts.”
The Wild is expected to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie as opposed to eight skaters and one goalie. The team has undoubtedly gotten calls on defensemen Matt Dumba or Jonas Brodin.
If one presumes defensemen Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon are being protected and the Wild has to choose between protecting one of Dumba, Brodin and Marco Scandella, teams are banking on the fact that the Wild wouldn’t want to lose Dumba or Brodin for nothing.
But, Flahr said, “You’d just rather lose a player than make a bad trade.”
Suter, Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Jason Pominville must be protected because they have no-move clauses. There’s a chance the Wild asks Pominville to waive his no-move clause if it wants to protect an extra forward. Teams have until Monday at 4 p.m. to make that request. Flahr wouldn’t comment if the Wild has or will.
Barring a trade — teams have called on forwards Charlie Coyle and pending restricted free agent Nino Niederreiter — or Pominville not waiving his no-move, the Wild will likely have to choose between protecting veteran center Eric Staal and younger speedster Jason Zucker, the only Las Vegas-produced player in the NHL. Because of his age and potential, it’s believed the Wild’s leaning toward protecting Zucker, especially if it a deal’s in place with Vegas or it simply knew Vegas wouldn’t take Staal.
“I wouldn’t say we’ve made any decisions [on which players we’re protecting and exposing],” Flahr said. “There’s lots of different trade scenarios out there that could affect our list. We can just sit back and expose the players we want to expose, we can pay a price to get a certain player off a different team through [Vegas], we can pay a price to get them not to take a player. There’s lots of different variables.”
It’s believed Fletcher has talked to Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill about the No. 3 overall pick. Nill is seeking a defenseman, so if the Wild got involved in that type of trade, it could hurt in the short-term. Flahr, even though the Wild doesn’t have a first- or second-round pick, poo-pooed that type of trade becoming a reality.
At the combine, the Wild also had its first conversation with pending restricted free agent Mikael Granlund’s agent, Todd Diamond.
“I think he knows what we’re up against,” Flahr said, referring to Wild’s salary-cap issues this summer. “There’s different types of deals we can do. We plan on meeting again at the draft.”
Diamond said, “We’ve had, I wouldn’t even call it exploratory talks, but we touched base that we’d get things going in the near future. When they’re ready to get going, we’re ready to get going.”
The Wild hasn’t yet met with the agent of Niederreiter, whose name continues to swirl in trade rumors.
There is a possibility Granlund or Niederreiter — or the Wild — could file for arbitration. The player-elected arbitration deadline is July 5. Teams can elect to take a player to arbitration by June 15 or 48 hours after the Stanley Cup Final or July 6 if a player doesn’t accept his qualifying offer nor elects arbitration himself. Arbitration at least eliminates any holdout possibility and there could continue to be contract negotiations until the scheduled hearing.
The Wild’s assistant coaching search should ramp up next week. There have been several inquiries. The Wild also plans to hire a scout in Russia for the first time.