ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Wild made a minor trade on deadline day. The front office refused to flinch and do more.
The Wild traded goaltender Anton Khudobin to the Boston Bruins for two 23-year-old prospects on Monday, fetching defenceman Jeff Penner and right wing Mikko Lehtonen, but general manager Chuck Fletcher didn’t bite on any other offers that would alter the lineup even with captain and first line centre Mikko Koivu recovering from a broken finger.
“To go out and to overpay for a marginal player or a role player when our players are playing as well as they are now, that just didn’t seem to make any sense,” Fletcher said, adding: “I looked long and hard over the last week, and I couldn’t find a Mikko Koivu in the marketplace.”
The Wild fell to 12-6-1 in their past 17 games after losing 4-2 to the Chicago Blackhawks, one of their primary competitors for a playoff spot in the crowded Western Conference race. Fletcher said after working to form this team over the past year and a half, he didn’t want to alter the chemistry at such a critical point.
With so many teams in contention, there were more buyers than sellers.
“I think we have the team that can do it,” head coach Todd Richards said. “As far as the acquisitions, as an organization you’ve got to think it through and make the right choices. Without question, in talking with Chuck, we made the right choices. Again, we feel the best acquisition we were going to get is the guys we already have.”
That means Koivu, who is expected back sometime before the end of the regular season, and last season’s leading scorer Guillaume Latendresse. He experienced some soreness after his last practice, but Fletcher said Latendresse—who had 25 goals in 55 games for the Wild last season—could return in a week or two.
“We felt pretty comfortable in our room, and we like the way we’ve been playing,” defenceman Greg Zanon said. “We thought maybe a move would’ve been made, but it is what it is. This is what we’ve got, and we’ve got what we need in here.”
Khudobin went 4-1 with a 1.40 goals-against average in six starts for the Wild as an injury fill-in over the past two years. He has a .911 save percentage in 34 games for Houston in the AHL this season. Khudobin will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, so the Wild will look to develop other goalie prospects such as Dennis Endras, Matt Hackett and Darcy Kuemper instead.
Penner has five goals and 14 assists in 57 games for Providence in the AHL this season. He made an appearance with Boston last year. Lehtonen is second in the Swedish Elite League in scoring this season with 29 goals and 27 assists in 52 games. The native of Finland played the previous two years with Providence.