GM Fletcher says plan is to 'aggressively' add young players
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Minnesota Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher knows the fans are impatient. He admitted on Friday night that he's impatient too. And having just watched another NHL playoff season that his team was not participating in, he knew that some bold moves were needed.
So with the NHL draft in the Wild's home rink and a huge contingent of those impatient fans in attendance, Fletcher got to work making his team younger and, he hopes, hungrier. By the end of the night, Fletcher had collected what he characterized as four first-round draft picks that should all be in uniform in St. Paul within three years, while giving up a franchise cornerstone.
"I look at our team right now and we really aggressively need to add young players," Fletcher said. "The last few years have been disappointing. We've obviously talked about that. In order to compete with the top teams in this league, we have to have more talent."
It started with the 10th pick, when puck-possession defenseman Jonas Brodin from Sweden put on a Wild sweater. Then the real fun began, when the commissioner announced the Wild had traded defenseman Brent Burns to San Jose, for a bundle.
In exchange, Fletcher brings forward Devin Setoguchi, college forward Charlie Coyle and the later first-round pick that the team used to pick forward Zack Phillips 28th overall. This was a flat-out acknowledgement that the wild just didn't have a lot of offense to call upon, and that needs to change if the team is going to climb among the top eight in the rugged Western Conference.
"Today we added the equivalent of four first-round picks," Fletcher said. "We gave up a very important piece in Brent Burns, but our time frame needs to be stretched back a bit and we need to add more young players. We very quickly assembled a lot of young talent."
The Burns-for-Setoguchi deal came together quickly, and somewhat unexpectedly. Setoguchi, who is 24 and scored 22 goals for the Sharks last season, signed a three-year contract extension with the team on Thursday. Burns, who the Wild picked in the first round in 2003, had been the subject of trade rumors, but Fletcher said there were no plans to move him until the Sharks deal materialized.
He praised Setoguchi, who has drawn the ire of some fans for inconsistency, but was a regular on the Sharks' second power play unit as the team powered to the Western Conference finals this season.
"He's 24 and he's scored 70-odd goals the last three seasons playing 15 minutes a night on a very, very good San Jose team," he said. Fletcher also said Coyle was a vital element of the deal. Coyle, who the Sharks picked in the first round last season, just completed a solid freshman year at Boston University and is a rising star in USA Hockey circles.
"There's no way this deal gets done if Charlie Coyle's not in it," Fletcher said, adding that he expects Coyle will play at least one more year of college hockey. "We feel he's one of the top young power forwards in the game."
Phillips, plucked with the pick the Wild got from the Sharks, gushed about coming to play in hockey in a state that knows and loves the game.
"Every year I'm going to be working hard, and make it hard for them to cut me every year," said Phillips, who is 6-1 and a puck-moving center. "Everything you hear is that Minnesota is a hockey state and you know they care about the sport. Knowing there will be strong fan support for many years is pretty cool."
If fan impatience can be replaced with unwavering support once again, Phillips and the rest of the Wild's first round haul will surely play a role.