ST. PAUL, Minn. – Chuck Fletcher is sick and tired of waiting.
With the NHL draft being held in his home rink on Friday night, the Minnesota Wild general manager made a big splash by trading defenceman Brent Burns to San Jose for forward Devin Setoguchi, a prospect and a first-round pick.
It represents a change of course for an organization that has traditionally stood pat at these type of events.
“For two years, we’ve been sort of stuck in the same place,” said Fletcher. “We’ll see what this year means, I’m excited about it. I see the path now and I believe our fans see the path now and we’re going down it aggressively and quickly.”
The Wild are far from alone.
Columbus and Buffalo also made moves designed to shake things up, something the Blue Jackets undeniably did by nabbing Jeff Carter from Philadelphia on Thursday. The Sabres were still in the process of acquiring Robyn Regehr from Calgary when the first round wrapped up, but the veteran defenceman’s agent J.P. Barry told The Canadian Press his client was willing to waive a no-movement clause.
Meanwhile, defenceman Brian Campbell joined Florida from Chicago in exchange for Rostislav Olesz and Ryan Smyth was on the verge of rejoining Edmonton in a trade from Los Angeles, Agent Don Meehan confirmed Smyth had waived a no-trade clause.
Pressure is building in a number of markets and teams are responding aggresively. The Sharks announced a new US$9-million, three-year contract for Setoguchi on Thursday and found themselves shipping him out of town less than 24 hours later.
“This came together very quickly,” said San Jose GM Doug Wilson. “We gave up two very good players. (Prospect) Charlie Coyle I think is going to develop into a very very good player. And Devin is a guy that—these are tough deals because he’s a great kid, he’s homegrown, but you do have to give to get. …
“We’re right in our wheelhouse, our window with our team. Bringing in a guy like (Burns), that’s this age and this type of game, just compliments where our team is at.”
Another interesting aspect of the deals is how many involved impact players in the prime of their career. A year or two ago, players like Setoguchi, Burns, Carter and Mike Richards rarely changed hands—and they did so here in Minnesota in quick succession.
In some cases, it’s just a function of the salary cap.
That certainly played in Chicago’s decision to ship Campbell to Florida and forward Troy Brouwer to Washington for a second-round pick. Finally, they have some breathing room and flexibility.
“It give us the option to do different things, whether it’s through the trade market or through free agency,” said Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman. “Certainly it’s going to be a departure from the last year when we really were in a stranglehold all year in terms of being able to do things. It’s not the worst thing in the world to go into the season with some cap room as well.
“I think there’s always opportunities throughout the year if you’ve got some space in your cap.”
There’s no reason to expect the trade market to cool off much. With a pretty weak free agent class coming on July 1, teams will likely need to make moves with each other to get better.
The Wild hope to continue being among the active teams and will be looking for the kind of fit they found with San Jose to make moves.
“They’re trying to win the Stanley Cup next year,” Fletcher said of the Sharks. “Not that we’re not, but we need assets to compete with these teams. I think it’s a classic example of two teams getting what they need.
“We’re very happy with it and we have some more work to do this summer.”