The Minnesota Wild have fired GM Paul Fenton after just one season according to Michael Russo of The Athletic (subscription required). The move is obviously a stunning development this far into the offseason, especially after Fenton has made sweeping changes to the roster by trading players like Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund and Charlie Coyle while also committing a long-term contract to Mats Zuccarello this offseason. Russo expects assistant GM Tom Kurvers to take over in the interim as the team conducts a search for Fenton’s replacement.
Fenton’s time with Minnesota ends 14 months after it started when he was hired away from the Nashville Predators in May, 2018. The decision was made after a lengthy interview process by Wild owner Craig Leipold which included other highly touted assistants like Tom Fitzgerald and Bill Zito as well as more experienced names like John Ferguson Jr. and Dave Nonis. Fenton had been with the Predators since the beginning of their franchise, working with Leipold who was the team’s original owner. He was heralded as a solid replacement for the outgoing Chuck Fletcher, who had taken the Wild to the playoffs consistently but struggled to get them deep into the tournament.
Amazingly, the biggest free agent contract given out by Fenton was completed just a few weeks ago when he signed Zuccarello to a five-year, $30MM deal. That matched the extension he’d handed Mathew Dumba in 2018 and just eclipsed the one he signed Jason Zucker to. Less than a year after signing Zucker to that five-year extension, Fenton tried to trade the speedy winger multiple times, first to Calgary at the deadline and recently to the Pittsburgh Penguins in an eventually nixed Phil Kessel deal.
Very recently, team leader Zach Parise spoke out about how at his age he isn’t ready for a rebuild and has started to wonder about his decision all those years ago to sign with the Wild—though he stated clearly that he didn’t regret it. That kind of an interview, in which Russo also reported that Fenton had explored if teams had interest in Parise, likely only stoked the flames for Leipold, who needs to get the organization back on track. He has a huge task before him now to find the right man for the job and quickly get the Wild back to a playoff contender or commit to a rebuild.