When longtime Minnesota Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher was relieved of his duties earlier this offseason, most fans and analysts expected it to be the first of many big changes for the team during the summer. As it turned out… the hiring of Paul Fenton as the team’s new GM was about as big as things got.
Sure, Fenton has negotiated extensions for Jason Zucker and Matt Dumba, but he’s failed to bring in any big name free agents or consummate any trades so far. The biggest offseason acquisitions for Fenton are the additions of J.T. Brown, Matt Barkowski, Greg Pateryn, Andrew Hammond, Eric Fehr, Matt Hendricks and Matt Read. Those names aren’t likely to resonate with fans looking for big changes…
Still, it’s not for a lack of trying. At least, that’s the word from Wild insider Michael Russo of The Athletic. In his latest mailbag column, Russo was asked why hasn’t Fenton made any significant changes, despite owner Craig Leipold stating that big changes needed to be made.
Check it out:
I can promise you it wasn’t for a lack of trying from what I hear around the league and from what he has indicated. As I wrote in June, somebody described it to me as many of his colleagues “circling and lowballing” trying to take advantage of the new guy they felt may be desperate to make a move because of the perception, like you had, that there was this specific edict to shake things up. To be fair, owner Craig Leipold — at least publicly — said he felt the roster needed to be tweaked, but I think most of us felt for a core that had been together for years, Leipold’s words were code for a “core-altering” change after Zucker, Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle combined for zero points in five games versus Winnipeg in the playoffs. But, as I’ve said, there’s no doubt Fenton talked to everybody about everybody, from the three I mentioned above to Eric Staal, Jared Spurgeon, Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin and I’m sure others.
In hindsight, it’s not hard to see why Fenton may have found the trade waves difficult to ride. Coyle and Niederreiter were coming off down years offensively. Zucker and Dumba were due massive raises as restricted free agent. Brodin, I bet, was deemed untradeable internally by management because of the uncertainty of Ryan Suter’s health. Koivu was given a two-year extension with a no-move and Staal, Spurgeon and Dubnyk have modified no-trade clauses (and lists, I might add, that weren’t asked to be submitted by the draft, which is the window when most significant offseason trades occur).
In other words… Fenton tried, but no one was interested. In his own defense, Fenton has been painted into a corner by some of the contracts negotiated by Fletcher. Evidently there aren’t any teams interested in taking on veteran players like Koivu, Staal or Parise due to their massive contracts. Combine that with the fact that the team’s most significant trade chips like Coyle and Niederreiter had down seasons and it’s easy to see why Fenton has elected to hold on to his cards. That is… at least for now.