While it’s believed Vegas Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee already has consummated some prearranged unannounced trades, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said Wednesday there’s nothing concrete completed yet with the Wild.
Fletcher has talked to McPhee and assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon since February and will continue to do so after Vegas receives each team’s protected and exposed lists Sunday morning.
Vegas’ debut roster will be announced throughout next Wednesday’s NHL Awards Show, which begins at 7 p.m. While Fletcher reiterated there’s no way around the fact that the Wild will lose a good player, he could trade the Golden Knights an asset to keep them from drafting specific exposed players, could try to acquire another team’s exposed player from Vegas or could in essence achieve a three-way deal with Vegas’ help.
“They’ve been very forthcoming in what they’re trying to accomplish,” Fletcher said. “There’s ways I think we can come to an arrangement that benefits both parties. But they’re trying that with other teams, too.”
All teams must submit their protected and exposed lists by 4 p.m. Saturday. The lists will be announced at 9 a.m. Sunday, and Vegas has until 9 a.m. Wednesday to choose its team. Of the two options, the Wild is expected to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie. Players with no-move clauses (forwards Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Jason Pominville and defenseman Ryan Suter) must be protected. Fletcher won’t comment if he asked Pominville to waive his no-move clause for Vegas in order for the Wild to protect an extra forward. If so, Pominville has until 4 p.m. Friday to decide. Pominville and his agent have not returned messages from the Star Tribune.
If Pominville must be protected, it sounds as if the Wild is leaning toward protecting forwards Koivu, Parise, Pominville, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle and Las Vegas-produced Jason Zucker. That would mean assets such as Eric Staal and Erik Haula would be exposed. Devan Dubnyk will be the goalie protected. Suter and it’s believed Jared Spurgeon will be protected on the blue line, meaning the Wild could choose only one of top-five defensemen Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin and Marco Scandella to protect.
“It’s actually a compliment to our organization that we have so many tough decisions,” Fletcher said. “No matter what we do, we’re going to have to expose five or six players that … we certainly have no desire to lose. The good news is we can only lose one player. Sometimes at 3 in the morning when I wake up, I remind myself of that, ‘You can only lose one player, go back to sleep.’
“It doesn’t take a very intelligent human being to understand our situation. You look at the rules and you look at the names, and you can do it different ways, but we’re going to expose good players.”
There’s a trade moratorium Saturday through Thursday for all teams except Vegas. Fletcher may be considering trading Dumba or Brodin before Saturday’s freeze in order to protect the other.
However, “I don’t think I’d want to be at a point where we only have three of our big five D,” Fletcher said. “I think that’s a competitive advantage we have over a lot of clubs.”
But, in his next breath, Fletcher said, “Never say never. Somebody may present a trade offer to you that is so enticing you do it and you deal with the consequences afterward.”
One forward whose name has been in trade rumors is Niederreiter, a three-time 20-goal scorer whose agent has yet to begin negotiations on a new contract with the Wild. Andre Rufener, Niederreiter’s agent, said Wednesday he agreed with Fletcher some time ago that they wouldn’t start talking until after expansion once Fletcher had a better idea of his roster and available cap space.
If other teams are calling on Niederreiter, Rufener said, “That’s a huge compliment.” Niederreiter loves Minnesota, Rufener said, and hopes for a long-term deal and to avoid arbitration.
“Chuck knows Nino’s value for the Wild,” Rufener said. “I think we’re both looking for a long-term deal. Nino’s two years away from [unrestricted free agency], so I don’t think a short-term deal would make sense for the Wild to do. I think and I assume we both have the same intention about doing something long-term. But in the business you never know what’ll happen.”
• In other business, the Wild tendered qualifying offers to top restricted free agents like Granlund, Niederreiter, Haula, Gustav Olofsson and Mike Reilly in order to retain their rights. The Wild has not decided if it’ll do the same with Jordan Schroeder. If it doesn’t by June 26, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent July 1. The Wild did cut loose minor leaguers Alex Gudbranson, Brady Brassart and Guillaume Gelinas.
• NHL schedules will be announced June 22, with home openers announced June 21.