It wasn't but 6 weeks or so ago that I had opined about how Chuck Fletcher would have a quiet trade season. Here we are, a couple days past the #tradedeadline day and I'm feeling mostly vindicated on that take. It wasn't for a lack of trying from Fletcher, but he really had no leverage against the trade market and making a couple minor league moves to give some kids a shot in a new environment was about the best I could of hoped for.
Back in January, I wasn't necessarily against the Wild making any kind of moves. That position had evolved over the course of the month which led to the firing of Mike Yeo and has Chuck Fletcher wondering when someone replaced his seat with one of those heated chairs from Sharper Image. Leading up to Monday's deadline, I wanted the Wild to just sit on their hands and stay out of the trade market all together. The lone caveat being that if they could trade for Alex Ovechkin, well you do it in a heartbeat. Since that would never be an option, you just sit still and try not to do anything stupid.
Prior to the season starting, Fletcher commented about how was happy with this team. They beat a tough St. Louis Blues team in the playoffs last year and ran into a Chicago Blackhawks squad that took no mercy. Maybe it was just posturing by Fletcher. He didn't have much cap space and his roster is littered with NMC's so what else can he say? Placing confidence in his team was really his only option at that point.
Everything was going swimmingly Monday until the unbelievable happened. The Wild actually were able to offload Niklas Backstrom (and a 2016 6th round pick) to the Calgary Flames for one David Jones. Now I'll be completely honest here, I didn't think this would ever happen. At this point, I'm not really sure if I even care that it did. What benefit does it really have for the Wild?
Well, it opens up that roster spot that Backstrom was sucking dry (more on that in a bit), so there is that I guess. Yet it cost the Wild a 6th round pick, which in the grand scheme of things isn't that much. But when your team only has 5 picks in this years draft, 3 of those in the last 2 rounds, that 6th round pick has more value on it than in a normal year.
Does this move enhance Fletcher's job security though? I wouldn't think so. Either way the Wild are getting screwed by Backstrom. He eats a roster spot, or costs a draft pick. This late in the season, and with the roster opening up post trade deadline Backstrom's spot there immediately becomes a non-issue. After the deadline, teams are allowed unlimited roster space. Salary cap rules still apply though, so "unlimited" is not much of a reality. It's also worth noting you can only have 50 contracts in the system, so unlimited in this case = 50.
Essentially, when it mattered, Backstrom ate up a roster spot. Now that it doesn't matter, we have 1 less draft pick. Thanks buddy!
That's not even the really scary part though. After all the dust settled from Monday, Fletcher made a comment about how he may not have been splashy on deadline day, but there are some things percolating for the off-season. This roller coaster isn't over yet folks.
With all the teams inquiring on Jonas Brodin, you can almost be assured he will be packing his bags this off-season. Pending RFA's Jason Zucker and Matt Dumba are probably also garnering suitors from other teams. Darcy Kuemper is up as a RFA this season as well, and could fetch some interest from teams looking for young netminders. Erik Haula, Nino Niederreiter, and Mikael Granlund all have a year left on their contracts and could be "hockey trade" bait prior to the draft.
Who knows if that means anything. To make things even scarier, Chuck Fletcher could find himself out of a job by seasons end as well, which pretty much throws all of that right out the window. Would a new GM come in here and just clean house? The prospect of that is especially scary as there isn't much in the cupboards these days to restock the big club with in the event of a fire sale.
No, Chuck Fletcher doesn't get a new lease on life as the Minnesota Wild's GM because he dumped an expiring contract and a pick for another expiring contract. Best case scenario in my opinion was Fletcher did nothing, and he almost got there. Fortunately the trade didn't cost much, but really, what more could he give up anyway?
He's boxed himself into a corner. He expected by now this team would be making some serious waves in the playoffs. That would certainly eleviate some of the pressure on him aand make the past trades not hurt so much now. Yet, in reality this team can't even be considered a contender right now. More power to them if they can prove me wrong here, but it's tough for my expectations this year to go much past a first round exit.