If you though the changes in Minnesota were over following the big trades they made this season, you were wrong. Michael Russo of The Athletic (subscription required) reports that the team have fired former assistant general managers Andrew Brunette and Shep Harder along with lead hockey researcher Andrew C. Thomas. Russo adds that Chris O’Hearn could potentially be brought in as a replacement AGM, and Bruce Boudreau is expected to return as head coach.
All three of the people the Wild let go would’ve seen their contracts come to an end this summer, but that doesn’t change the fact that they were looking for a shakeup in the front office. After years of making the playoffs but failing to progress, the team brought in GM Paul Fenton to enact drastic change on the organization. The roster looks much different after veterans like Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund and Charlie Coyle were all sent packing, and now the front office will have several new voices as well.
Brunette especially was a well known member of the Wild, going back to his playing days with the team. The veteran of 1,110 NHL games spent several seasons in Minnesota over two stints with the team, and re-joined the organization after retirement in 2012. Harder too had been with the team for more than a decade, starting as an intern.
The Wild missed the playoffs this year for the first time since 2012, but made a commitment to get younger by acquiring pieces like Victor Rask, Ryan Donato and Kevin Fiala. The team also signed top college free agent Nico Sturm, and will have a chance tomorrow at winning the draft lottery to move up in the first round. Still, there are big decisions to be made on what direction the team takes this summer. Veteran defenseman Jared Spurgeon will be entering the final year of his current contract and is eligible for an extension on July 1st. So too is Mikko Koivu, though his future depends much more on how his 36-year old body responds to a major knee injury.
There’s also plenty of work to be done, as Sturm, Donato, Fiala, Joel Eriksson Ek, Pontus Aberg are all restricted free agents that need new contracts. If all five of those players are back with full-time roles, there may not be enough room for the rest of the veteran group including Jason Zucker, who was close to being traded to the Calgary Flames at the deadline and could be a candidate to be moved this summer.