Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin has made a big statement, acquiring goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury from Chicago in exchange for a conditional second-round pick in 2022 that can become a first-rounder if the Wild win two playoff rounds and Fleury earns at least four wins in that span.
While most attention in the Central Division has gone to Colorado (and rightly so), the Avs will still have to win their way through the playoffs and Minnesota is one of the potential hurdles.
The Wild are of course led by the offensive dynamism of Kirill Kaprizov and an overall solid lineup of big, two-way players, but goaltending had not been a strength. In terms of Goals Saved Above Expected, starter Cam Talbot has been one of the worst performers in the league this season and backup Kaapo Kahkonen (expected to be traded) was not too much better.
In Fleury, Minnesota gets a veteran goaltender who has seen it all in his career and while he too has struggled this season, we have seen the affable netminder step up time and again in the past. Fleury is a multiple Stanley Cup winner and finalist who has won as both a starter and the backup and has long been seen as an easy guy to get along with in the room.
Now, will his inclusion be enough to elevate the Wild in the post-season rankings? The acid test will come down the stretch as we see what he can do on a team with much better defense: Chicago is one of the worst possession teams in the league and only so-so when it comes to high-danger scoring chance percentage, while Minnesota ranks 11th in both categories.
The Wild also haven't made a long playoff run since that initial magical run to the conference final in 2003, their third year in existence. If Fleury can capture some magic and let the team in front of him do their thing, then Minnesota will look like a much more dangerous threat in the Central.