After a monthlong search process for the next Wild general manager, owner Craig Leipold has decided that Paul Fenton is the right man for the job.
Fenton was viewed as the frontrunner from the get-go and was the first person Leipold and team president Matt Majka interviewed nearly a month ago. He remained the primary target despite a handful of other candidates being brought in for interviews over the last month or so.
Fenton, 58, will step in as only the third general manager in franchise history, taking over for longtime general manager Chuck Fletcher, who Leipold cut ties with last month.
It marks the first time Fenton will be fully in charge of a team after serving as the assistant general manager with the Nashville Predators since 2006. He made a name for himself as the right-hand man to well-respected general manager David Poile, as and the tandem worked together to turn Predators into a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, building through the NHL Draft, while executing some well-timed trades along the way.
That is exactly what Leipold is looking for with the Wild. He made it clear last month that he has no interest in a rebuild despite the fact the current core has bowed out in the first round of the playoffs in each of the last three seasons.
“We want to win a Stanley Cup,” Leipold said last month. “That doesn’t mean that that’s going to be next year. I want someone to help me with a plan for the next three or four years to win a Stanley Cup. That’s what I’m looking for.”
Leipold went as far as saying that he wouldn’t hire someone that had a different vision.
“They will know exactly how I feel,” Leipold said last month. “If they don’t have the same feeling that I do, that we are not far from being the team we need to be, then that would probably not be a candidate that I would choose.”
While it’s unclear what exactly Fenton plans to do get the team over the hump, it helps that he’s proven capable of finding talent in the NHL Draft over the course of his career.
Some of the most-notable picks he helped the Predators hit on during his tenure include: taking Ryan Suter in the first round and Shea Weber in the second round of the 2003 NHL Draft; stealing longtime goaltender Pekka Rinne in the eighth round of the 2004 NHL Draft; selecting captain Roman Josi in the second round of the 2009 NHL Draft; uncovering recent 30-goal scorer Viktor Arvidsson in the fourth round of the 2014 NHL Draft.
If he chooses to to shake up the current roster with a trade of some sort, Fenton has a good track on that front, too. Some of most-notable trades the Predators executed with him in the front office include: acquiring sniper Filip Forsberg from the Washington Capitals for next to nothing; striking a deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets for top line center Ryan Johansen; and convincing the Montreal Canadiens to part ways with dynamic defenseman P.K. Subban.
Besides that, Fenton will be tasked with navigating this offseason, which looks like it could be tricky with minimal salary cap space and restricted free agents Matt Dumba and Jason Zucker in line for hefty raises.