ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Wild emerged from the NHL trade deadline with an experienced goalie, another proven scorer and some size and grit for the fourth line.
They didn’t part with any prospects or first-round draft picks, either, which was general manager Chuck Fletcher’s prerequisite for any deals.
The day after sending a fourth-round selection to Edmonton for goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, the Wild acquired left wing Matt Moulson and centre Cody McCormick on Wednesday from Buffalo for two second-round picks (2014 and 2016) and fourth-line forward Torrey Mitchell.
“We liked our depth. But you never know what can happen in the NHL, and again this team has shown me a lot in the last month and a half,” general manager Chuck Fletcher said. “I think they deserve the opportunity to be rewarded with some additional help for the push for the next month here.”
The Wild are 14-4-2 since the new year began. They’re in seventh place in the Western Conference playoff race.
“We’re trying to get to a place where we have at least three lines that can score and play defence,” Fletcher said, adding: “We saw this a little bit in the playoffs last year: You need to have more than one line that you can rely on.”
McCormick will essentially take the place of Mitchell, who had one goal and eight assists in 58 games. McCormick, who has split this season between Buffalo and AHL Rochester, and has one goal and five points in 29 games. He’s a 10-year veteran.
The 30-year-old Moulson switched teams for the second time this season, having been sent to the Sabres in October in a trade for Thomas Vanek with the New York Islanders. In 55 games for the Sabres, Moulson had 17 goals and 21 assists.
He’s a three-time 30-goal scorer who will likely end up on the second line in Minnesota with captain and centre Mikko Koivu and perhaps veteran Dany Heatley. That would allow Charlie Coyle to centre the third line with Matt Cooke and Nino Niederreiter, a former Islanders teammate of Moulson’s. Zach Parise and Jason Pominville, acquired at the trade deadline from the Sabres last season, are skating with Mikael Granlund on the first line.
The Wild acquired Pominville with one year left on his contract, so they planned on making him a part of their future at the time of the deal. They’ve already signed him to an extension.
“I’m always open-minded. I don’t have anything set in stone for me,” Moulson said. “I’ll obviously take it day by day, but the Wild are obviously a great team and I just hope that I can be a part of this team going forward and winning a championship.”
Mitchell, who has one more year on his contract at $1.9 million, was traded to clear salary cap space for next season. So Moulson could be more than a two-month-or-so rental. But the Wild weren’t worried about that when they put this deal together.
“He’s a guy we think will thrive in the playoff drive that we’re undergoing now and if we’re able to get into the playoffs to help us there. This is a move made to help us win games right now,” Fletcher said.
Last season, the Wild were willing to part with more. They sent a first-round draft pick, a second-rounder and two prospects to the Sabres for Pominville. This time, they didn’t need as much, and they weren’t going to budge on the asking prices, either.
“Any time you’re paying second round picks for good hockey players, to me it’s a really good move,” Fletcher said. “We’re very comfortable with the gamble.”