Wild GM sticking to trade deadline plan in wake of losing Mikko Koivu
ST. PAUL -- With the NHL trade deadline approaching, Paul Fenton has said he wants to see how his team plays this month before deciding on whether to buy or sell. That’s still the case, the Wild general manager said Thursday, Feb. 7, even with captain Mikko Koivu lost for the season.
Feb. 25 is the deadline for NHL teams to add players eligible for postseason rosters. Starting with a 7 p.m. puck drop against Edmonton on Thursday at Xcel Energy Center, the Wild have 10 games to show Fenton what he needs to see.
“Fortunately, we still have some games left before the trade deadline, and I still want to see how our players play,” Fenton said Thursday after the Wild’s morning skate at the X.
Koivu, 35, is the Wild’s longest-tenured player, on pace to play his 1,000th NHL game this season before tearing the anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his right knee in a collision with Sabres forward Tage Thompson during a game Tuesday night in Buffalo.
The Wild recalled Joel Eriksson Ek, 21, from their American Hockey League team in Iowa to take Koivu’s spot on the roster, and he will play Thursday against the Oilers. Eriksson Ek, Eric Staal and Victor Rask are the Wild’s remaining centers, and forward Charlie Coyle has played well there at times, as well.
Fenton said he is not looking to acquire another center.
“Not right now,” he said. “I’m anxious to see how we play tonight. … Let’s see how we play for the next little bit.”
In 48 games this season, Koivu has eight goals and 21 assists and is a key special teams contributor. He’s on the second-team power-play unit and, as one of the NHL’s best defensive forwards, on the top penalty-kill unit.
Asked if he anticipates Koivu will be healthy next season, Fenton said, “I don’t anticipate anything. I just know he’s out for the season.”
Minnesota has made the postseason in each of the past six seasons, and finished second in the Western Conference in Bruce Boudreau’s first season as coach. But the Wild have won only two playoff games since his arrival — and only two second-round games since the 2012-13 season.
The Wild entered Thursday holding on to the eighth and final playoff spot in the West but are 0-1-2 since returning from an eight-day winter break. The question is whether Fenton will see the potential for a playoff run that hasn’t been seen in Minnesota since the Wild advanced to the conference final in 2002-03.
If that were the case, he might be convinced to add players rather than start trading key players such as center Eric Staal, whose contract expires this season, one year after he tied the franchise record with 42 goals in 2017-18.
“I actually have meetings with our staff to talk about where we are and how we are going forward here,” he said. “I’m not trying to be mysterious. You guys watch our team as much (as I do) and you look at the standings. Everybody is in it. It isn’t like we can say yes or no, (that) you’re definitely in and you’re definitely out. It’s going to be a dogfight right to the end.”