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Wild GM Fletcher considering options during Olympic break

Feb 8, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

2012 NHL Entry Draft - Rounds 2-7 Getty Images

The Minnesota Wild have forged into the top Wild Card position in the Western Conference standings as the Olympic break comes to the NHL.

Yet there is a sense that general manager Chuck Fletcher will try to upgrade their roster once the freeze ends on Feb. 24 and the NHL trade deadline of March 5 approaches. In conversation with the Minneapolis Star Tribune, he labelled three major areas – scoring, defense and goaltending – that could perhaps see an improvement in the weeks ahead.

It’s been an interesting season in the Minnesota crease. The Wild have used three goalies – Josh Harding, Darcy Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom – this season. Harding was having a sensational season, with a 18-7-3 record, 1.65 goals-against average and .933 save percentage, but hasn’t played since Dec. 31 because of illness.

There seems to be no indication of when Harding, who undergoes treatment for multiple sclerosis, will return, saying last month: “But there are some things that are out of my control, and I thought that we did everything in our control to get back to where we are right now.”

Kuemper has been good, with an 8-3-2 record, including three wins in his last five starts.

“We’re a team still in the bottom six offensively, yet over the last month and a half, we’re averaging three goals a game. So you want to be a little careful there and decide if you need to really go out and get scoring,” Fletcher told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

“I like the way we defend and we have decent depth, but you could always use another defenseman. We have to figure out our goaltending situation, but we like our depth there, too. So throughout our lineup, we’ve had better depth, which is why we’ve been able to overcome all our injuries.

  1. rabidbillsfan - Feb 8, 2014 at 7:05 PM

    Can somebody please explain to me, since he labeled Scoring, defense, and goal tending as areas of concern, what isn’t a concern? He pretty much summed up all 3 phases of the game that he isn’t happy with.

    • strictlythedanks - Feb 8, 2014 at 7:34 PM

      I believe it has to do with the wild having a lot of young blooming players in each facet of the game, so hes talking about why he would be skeptical of making a bold move to a team thats starting to figure it out in the 3 categories listed. Obviously Kuemper in net has been a rising star this year, along with scandella, the spurgeon general, and even prosser are developing into quality d men, and then the many young offensive players like El Nino, Coyle, Granny, Fontaine, Zucker who have yet to reach their ceilings.

      Koivu is the “wild” card in this scenario, because as much as I’d love for him to stay in MN, there might be an offer out there fletch cant refuse.

      • ray2013 - Feb 8, 2014 at 8:42 PM

        Living in Edmonton, I’ve heard too many conversations drooling over players’ potential. How about moving some of that potential for some proven experience. Not every single prospect and young player meets their projection, and franchises can’t wait forever for them to potentially develop. So move some if you can land some quality.

      • fightingwild - Feb 9, 2014 at 8:32 PM

        It doesn’t matter if Fletch can’t resist it because Koivu can. He has a no trade/movement clause. He will not be traded unless he wants to be traded pure & simple. How do people continually get this wrong? It really is not that had to figure out, hell half the team (exaggeration but not by much) have no trade/limited movement clauses.

      • clarke16 - Feb 10, 2014 at 12:03 AM

        A “no trade” clause rarely results in a player forcing their will to stay on a team that obviously no longer plans for them in their future. Nobody stays for long where they are unwanted. What it DOES do–for all practical purposes, is allow that player to be involved in CHOOSING where he goes. That, of course, may limit the options for a team in moving a player and result in less attractive trade prospects in return–but saying just because a player has a “no trade” clause that he can’t be traded unless he wants to–misses the point of why agents strive to get the clause for their clients…

      • fightingwild - Feb 10, 2014 at 9:23 AM

        Yet not one person connected to the team has ever even mentioned anything bad about Koivu, not players not coaches not management. The only people voicing displeasure with Koivu is fans. Face it folks, he is not going anywhere. I am just as frustrated with him as you all are but be realists. Hopefully (& I am certainly not confident in saying this) Yeo will make Koivu the second line center between Coyle & Nino. Leave Parise, Granlund & Pomminville intact. Koivu seems to play better with muck & grinders.

      • fightingwild - Feb 10, 2014 at 9:25 AM

        & Don’t you think that if Koivu was in play Russo from the Star Trib would have already mentioned it. He is pretty wired into the team.

      • clarke16 - Feb 10, 2014 at 1:20 PM

        There’s a lot to like about Koivu. He’s a hard-nosed, hard-working two-way player who leads by example. The problem is this: He’s being paid $6.75 large and is locked-in at that rate for the next few seasons. You can get gritty two-way 15-20 goal scorers all day long for HALF of that rate of pay and less… I like Koivu, but the reality is he’s WAY overpaid. The team did that deal when they were building from very little…and paid him like a superstar because he was about all they had and couldn’t afford to lose him–but times have changed and his upside is over.

        The smart-money fans know the time is right to move his $$$ burden from the books and score what they can at the deadline in some high-potential picks and/or a top four righty at the blue line while he still can bring some trade value to a developing team…

  2. lowenni - Feb 8, 2014 at 7:08 PM

    “Three major areas–scoring, defense, and goaltending–that could see improvement”

    So…every facet of a hockey team.

    • guitarisgood4u - Feb 8, 2014 at 7:15 PM

      Leadership, physicality, size, coaching, youth.
      Those are some other facets of a hockey team.

      • rbbbaron - Feb 8, 2014 at 7:28 PM

        Imagine a GM saying “we could improve in the area of coaching”, or “we could get a bit younger”…

    • strictlythedanks - Feb 8, 2014 at 7:22 PM

      for the record I think every team would like to improve in every phase of the game.

  3. mp1131211 - Feb 8, 2014 at 10:41 PM

    Fletcher: DO NOT trade Keumper. Don’t do it! Invest time and energy in that kid. Get a second goaltender if you need to this year. But DO NOT let him get away.

    Also, trade Koivu. Nice guy, but it’s a changing team. And he does not fit the new mold

    • fightingwild - Feb 9, 2014 at 8:34 PM

      See comment above about Koivu.

  4. straightouttavtown - Feb 8, 2014 at 11:46 PM

    Danny Heatley to the rescue. He will make the haters and doubters eat their words.

    • clarke16 - Feb 10, 2014 at 6:30 PM

      I’ve always liked Heatley. Putting the A on his sweater while Parise was out revitalized him. He understands his role now and I wish him the best of luck in his next stop. Someone will want him–he’s still got 15 goals/year in him and that’s not so bad–but he’s looking at his next contract being in the $1.5- $2M/year range for probably no more than 2 years…

  5. nicofthenorthstar - Feb 9, 2014 at 1:36 AM

    That quote is priceless. Yep, always nice to improve in every facet.
    Most concerned about goaltending. Harding is a huge question mark. Kuemper has been solid and a lot of teams would like his young talent. Backs is an albatross with his absurd contract (which no team will want to accept in trade).
    They need to keep kuemper and not screw up by trading him like they did with khudobin. Maybe kuemper and backs for the stretch run with Harding coming back to be the hero for end of season into post season is best we can hope for.

  6. joeyashwi - Feb 9, 2014 at 10:13 AM

    Harding is a great feel good story but I am a realist. The Wild cannot continue to have him on the roster after this year. He has always been one of my favorite players but even he would admit, he can’t continue to take up a roster spot and cap space when he can’t make it through even half of a season.
    Backstrom is washed up at this point so the Wild definitely need to dump him. Heatley comes off the books at the end of the year so teams looking to unload a contract might take him off our hands, admittedly the chance is small. Stoner is a turnover waiting to happen. The team has played better with Granlund in the middle of Parise and Pominville but I still think Koivu can be valuable to the second line, if his ego can handle the demotion.
    Vanek in the offseason please! Don’t give up the farm to get him at the trade deadline.

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