General Manager Chuck Fletcher is a bit of a divisive figure nowadays. Since inking Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, the GM has been hit and miss. The trade for Jason Pominville was a huge success.... his new contract has been not so great. The trade for Nino Niederreiter has turned out to possibly be the best deal the Wild has ever made. Fletcher’s acquisition of Sean Bergenheim (remember him?) was a complete dud.
Needing a new coach, the Wild added Bruce Boudreau, who led the team to the best regular season in franchise history before falling to a hot goalie and cold shooting against the St. Louis Blues. In addition, the Wild added Scott Stevens and John Anderson as assistant coaches. Fletcher also bought out Thomas Vanek’s remaining contract year.
Next, Chuck made what was possibly the signing of the offseason when he grabbed UFA Eric Staal on a three-year contract. Also on July 1, Fletch re-signed Chris Stewart as well as several minor-league players. He re-upped Matt Dumba as well.
On October 11, Fletcher claimed Teemu Pulkinnen off waivers, with the AHL star looking like a possible top-six winger addition for the Wild.
With expansion coming, Fletcher signed Alex Stalock to a two-year contract, for the purposes of exposing him in the expansion draft. As the season came to a close, Luke Kunin signed an entry-level contract and recalled Joel Eriksson-Ek for the final stretch.
And that’s really it. Right? Oh, I guess there was that trade...
Too Hot to Hanzal
By far the most controversial decision of Fletcher’s year was made in February of 2017. He traded the 2017 first-round draft pick, 2018 second-round pick, and a conditional 2019 draft pick to Arizona for Martin Hanzal, Ryan White, and a fourth-round pick.
Hanzal’s contract is up at the end of the year, so this was a rental... and boy do Wild fans have emotions about it. We at Hockey Wilderness were generally fans, though. After the season, both Fletcher and Wild owner Craig Leopold stated that they would make the trade again.
Center depth has been an issue for the Wild for a long time; the Hanzal trade was perhaps overpayment. With an aging corps and expansion looming, no one should fault Fletcher for making an effort to win now. You can choose to blame Hanzal for the Wild’s struggles after the trade, but correlation and causation are two different things. It’s not Hanzal’s fault Devan Dubnyk ceased being superhuman. It’s not Hanzal’s fault that the Wild hit a scoring dry-run. And it’s certainly not Hanzal’s fault Jake Allen and the Blues beat the Wild in the post-season.
Overall, Fletcher has had hits and misses. In his moves this season, though, he proved that he is a capable GM at worst. His next big test is facing the expansion draft, and I, for one, feel comfortable that he has a plan that will see the Wild come through OK.