The Minnesota Wild have been a very good team for a very long time. Six straight playoff appearances with a 247-158-53 record over that time proved it, but former GM Chuck Fletcher still received the boot last offseason because of the lack of postseason success. In those six appearances, the Wild never progressed past the second round and haven’t had a sniff of the Stanley Cup. This year, under the direction of new GM Paul Fenton, the Wild are a good team once again. With a 26-21-3 record Minnesota currently holds the third playoff spot in the Central Division and would surprise no one if they announced themselves as buyers at next month’s trade deadline. If they are buyers though, Fenton won’t be selling off the future this time around.
In a wide ranging interview with The Athletic’s Michael Russo (subscription required), Fenton explains his team’s position this season and how he simply won’t mortgage the future anymore to try and take this group to the Stanley Cup Finals. Very simply, Fenton explains that the Wild “can’t trade draft picks” given the lack of prospect development over the last few years.
Though the Wild did hold onto their first-round pick last June—selecting Filip Johansson, who continues to develop in Sweden—there’s not a ton left in the prospect cupboard for Minnesota. The team’s first selection in 2017 was 85th overall, while 2015 and 2016 produced Luke Kunin, Joel Eriksson Ek and Jordan Greenway who have all basically graduated to the NHL, regardless of what you might think of their production at this point. 2014 brought Alex Tuch, but he was lost in a Vegas Golden Knights expansion deal that sent Erik Haula to the sin city.
There are other names, including high-flying Russian star Kirill Kaprizov who may or may not ever appear in a Minnesota sweater, but for the most part the Wild’s system needs some talent injected into it from a full draft class. Even that looks impossible this year as the team still owes Arizona a fourth-round pick from the Martin Hanzal deal of two years ago and has already sent a fifth-round pick for Brad Hunt in recent days. At this point, selling off any more draft picks would make it a quiet day in June at the draft in Vancouver.
So, “hockey trades” are in order for Minnesota like the one they made earlier this month with the Carolina Hurricanes. There is work for Fenton to do on an aging roster, but he certainly doesn’t sound like he’ll be in the rental business next month, unless he’s the one selling. The team does have a huge trade chip in pending unrestricted free agent Eric Staal, but the team would likely have to fall out of the running to make a move like that, according to Russo.