Well, you can’t say Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher isn’t at least trying. For the second time in ten days the two clubs, Minnesota Wild and San Jose Sharks completed a trade.
As a Wild fan, that’s perfectly okay with me if these two keep wanting to flip players, as the Sharks are deeper and more talented offensively than the Wild and will keep net gaining as a result.
The draft day June 24th shocker that sent expendable free agent to be defensemen Brent Burns to California for popular forward (see the YouTube tributes and rants) Devin Setoguchi, top prospect Charlie Coyle, and second first-round pick Zach Phillips appears tilted in the Wild’s favor short and long term.
We don’t even know if Burns will re-sign in San Jose and even if he does, given the monopoly money being thrown around for average (Ed Jovanoski) and below average (Scottie Upshall, James Wisnewski) players, think of what Burns would have commanded and there was no way he was going to be back anyway.
Finally, I think Fletcher knew the team messed up by not getting anything for former All-Star Marian Gaborik and couldn’t let Burns walk away for nothing and given those parameters, he did quite well. I also think Burns possibly could have had a career year and it could be all downhill from here.
Why the Wild did the deal
This off-season the Wild has lost (or will lose) the following players and their production:
Thats 70 goals from five players, or an average of 14 goals per player. This coming from an offensively starved team that scored exactly the same number of goals (214) as it did last year in former Coach Todd Richards’ only two years at the helm, hence one of the reasons why he was fired.
214-70=144, a startling number. To help offset this terrible trend, the Wild traded for Setoguchi and his 22 goals, but even then, that’s only a plus five over Burns only decreasing the gap to 65 goals from last year.
Next, the Wild flipped Martin Havlat’s 22 goals for Heatley’s 26, and while this is a net gain of +4, the team still finds itself in a 61 goal gap.
After reading Wild.com message boards and Minnesota Wild Star Tribune beat writer Michael Russo’s company-line columns of “being patient” and letting the kids do their thing and come up through the system, I think Fletcher knew this wasn’t going to work with a team that is expected to make the playoffs every year yet hasn’t done so for three years.
Setoguchi? Meh, he’d have been a stop gap until the prizes in the system, Mikeal Grandlund, Jonan Larrson, Brett Bulmer, and Jason Zucker were ready, but even at his age (24), Setoguchi would have been a free agent in three years, or about the time these kids would have been coming up, so he may not even have been able to be a part of it.
Now, with Heatley Wild fans have two reasons to hope next season, and I hope Fletcher isn’t done yet. Whereas Wild fans will like Heatley’s 40 goal potential over Havlat’s 20+ who never seemed to fit the system or the team, they will not like how he disappears come playoff time—if we ever get there.
Everything Wild fans know and expect Setoguchi to be in the playoffs—a big game performer, is exactly what Heatley is not, but he’ll certainly help you get there as a clutch regular season performer.
When the Wild inevitably lost Gaborik to the big city Rangers in 2009, there were two other marquee free agents that year with him: Detroit’s Marian Hossa, who went on to sign a massive 12 year deal with Chicago, and Havlat and the Wild did quite well (at the time) in at least securing one of them to try and offset Gaborik’s lost production.
The only problem is Havlat is no Gaborik, as was soon apparent. Other than the Vikings, who sign free agents at will nearly every season, Minnesota fans are used to drafting and developing their own players from the Wolves to the Twins, but it was the Havlat deal that broke that mold as the only other major free agent a Minnesota team had signed.
Now that is gone, it's probably for the better, as he was just too inconsistent. That and I don’t think he got along all that well with the team’s star Koivu, and I know he clashed with former coach Richards.
On top of that, at four years and 20 million left on his contract, Havlat was a very expensive replacement, especially for a second line player. It was a good try by Fletcher, and it didn’t work so for the second time in a week, as he did with Cam Barker, the general manager is admitting a mistake and cutting his loses, something his predecessor, Doug Riseborough would have never done.
Now the Wild’s top line looks like this: Heatley (30-40)-Koivu (20-22)-Setoguchi, (22-30) (72-92 goal potential) compared to last year’s Brunette (18) Koivu (17) and Bouchard's (12) 47 goal total. From a flash and potential standpoint, the Wild improved quite dramatically. They should be able to sell more tickets based on the hype and intrigue of these two new players alone.
Heatley, at 30 years old, is the same age and is making $7.5M this year and is signed through 2014. He’s high risk, high reward. Both players have attitude issues, as well as disappearing acts through the course of a season, and both desperately needed a change of scenery.
Do the clubs have one more move in them?
Clearly the Wild need one more 25-30 goal scorer as they are still goal deprived. And stated, if we are to become the de facto “Minnesota Sharks” via the “San Jose Wild” that’s fine with me, as they have much more talent and depth. I’d go for the kill (no pun intended) by bringing Wisconsin native Joe Pavelski “home” by offering anything on the Wild’s roster not named Koivu or the two they just acquired for the playoff proven veteran.
Pavelski would probably welcome a move closer to his home and where he went to college at the University of Wisconsin. With no professional team in Wisconsin, he may have grown up a North Stars then later, a Wild fan, and he’d probably love to reunite with former team mates Setoguchi and Heatley
I wonder if a package centered around perennially disappointing and overpaid Nick Shultz, who I’ve personally wished would get traded for years because of these two known facts, would be an appetizer we could expand?
I wonder how the Havlat-Heatley deal went down?
Fletcher: “Hey Doug, (Sharks GM Doug Wilson) its Chuck again.”
Wilson: “Hey Chuck. What’s going on?
Fletcher: “Ah, nothing. Say, do you think we could talk another trade?”
Wilson: “Why Chuck, this comes as a surprise given our last deal, what do you have in mind?”
Fletcher: “We want Heatley if you take Havlat.”
Wilson: “Sounds like it could work. What else?”
Fletcher: “That’s it. A one for one deal in a move where both players need a move."
Wilson: “Sounds good. You gonna call it in, or me?”
The only thing I wish as a Wild fan is we could raided their talent just a bit more and maybe got Logan Couture or Ryan Clowe included or even perhaps instead of Heatley, but what's done is done, hence the Pavelski try.
One thing is certain: clearly these two GM’s have a good solid working relationship with each other and like doing business together. Perhaps this was a deal that was first talked about on draft night and carried over to yesterday’s completion?
Information, statistics and references from Michael Russo and the Minneapolis Star Tribune, NHLnumbers.com, and ESPN.com directly contributed to the content of this article.