Myers: Jason Pominville trade signals Wild plan to play games in June
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Less than two years ago, on draft day, with all 30 NHL teams gathered in St. Paul, two general managers felt a need to make a splash.
The San Jose Sharks, used to getting deep in the playoffs but not to the Stanley Cup Finals, figured they were one move away from taking the Cup to the beach in Half Moon Bay.
The dual messages were these: the Sharks were all-in, giving away pieces of the far future for a chance to win big in the near future.
What a difference 22 months or so can make.
On Wednesday, the Wild gave up a haul: two young players (forward Johan Larsson and goalie Matt Hackett) and two high draft picks (a first-rounder in 2013 and second-rounder in 2014) to get Jason Pominville, formerly captain of the Buffalo Sabres (plus a fourth-round pick in '14).
For the past few years, Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher has mostly stood his ground at the trade deadline, noting all that's generally been available is overprices fourth-line talent.
In Pominville, the Wild got top-line talent -- and paid a top-line price.
"He's a very hard worker," Fletcher said in the aftermath of the trade. "He's a guy that's as good defensively as he is offensively, and yet he's a guy that scored 30 goals and had 70 points in the NHL. Players like Jason aren't readily available, and that's why we paid a significant price in assets in acquiring him."
One wonders how much Monday's on-ice debacle (a lifeless 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues, at home) weighed on Fletcher's mind as he worked the phones and considered offers on Wednesday morning in San Jose, where the Wild faced the Sharks hours later.
If the Wild's normally lethal power play hadn't gone 0-for-5 versus the Blues, would the need for a little more offense have been so fresh in his mind?
Had second-line forward Matt Cullen not left the game early, with an injury that may keep him out for a few weeks instead of a few games as originally predicted, would there have been the urgency to add a player right now?
Or maybe Fletcher was thinking forward, not backward, considering what was being offered and deciding to make a move, but not just any move.
Unlike the still-bewildering addition of ill-fitting goon Chris Simon then-general manager Doug Risebrough made at the deadline in 2008, Fletcher set his sights on a talent that everyone believes will be an immediate fit.
While some teams seem devoid of on-ice leaders, the Wild expect to field a top line of Pominville, Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise on Thursday night in Los Angeles -- three players who either wear a C on their sweater now (Koivu) or have done so in the past year (Pominville with the Sabres, Parise with the Devils).
In two years, Fletcher has gone from unloading a big name and stockpiling prospects and picks to unloading prospects and picks to land a big name.
Two months ago, Wild coach Mike Yeo was asking for patience, saying that the on-ice product would come together over time.
By contrast, on Wednesday, Fletcher pushed a big pile of his chips to the center of the table, making it clear that the time for patience may be over, and with designs on a deep run in the playoffs, the Wild are going all-in.