Wild acquire Moulson, McCormick
By Chad Graff
St. Paul Pioneer Press
The Wild entered Wednesday’s trade deadline as the hottest team in the NHL, their 14-4-2 record since Jan. 1 the best in the league. So when general manager Chuck Fletcher and coach Mike Yeo said they were fine with the team they had, it made sense.
But as it became clear Wednesday that the Wild could nab a top-end forward without giving up a prospect, Fletcher decided to send a message:
The 2013-14 Wild are in it to win it.
With the 2 p.m. deadline approaching, Fletcher acquired three-time 30-goal scorer Matt Moulson and tough guy Cody McCormick in exchange for two second-round draft picks and fourth-line winger Torrey Mitchell.
“This is a move made to help us win games right now,” Fletcher said.
Despite riding a five-game winning streak into Saturday’s game against the Stars in Dallas, the Wild are just seventh in the Western Conference, eight points ahead of ninth-place Phoenix and 11 behind third-place Chicago.
“To me it was very important to recognize what our players have done,” Fletcher said. “We weren’t prepared to give up our top prospects or our first-round picks, but I felt if we could move anything else to help our team this year and to show our team that we believe in them — to reward them for what they’ve done in the last two months in particular — I felt it was very important.”
Moulson and McCormick will be unrestricted free agents at the end of this season, while Mitchell still has another year on a contract with a $1.9 million salary cap hit next season — part of the reason the Wild were fine with parting ways. The other part is the fact that Mitchell has one goal and eight assists in 58 games.
Bottom line: A Wild team that already had plenty of cap space in the summer of 2014 now has even more.
Moulson, depending on what happens the rest of this season, may be a target for the Wild to re-sign but on Wednesday, he said a new contract is “the last thing I’ve thought about.”
“Minnesota is an incredible hockey state,” Moulson said. “The fans of Minnesota, it’s pretty easy to see how passionate they are. It’s exciting to go to a team that’s doing extremely well right now and has a great fan base. I’m just excited to get there and help this team win any way I can.”
Moulson, McCormick and goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, whom the Wild acquired from Edmonton on Tuesday for a fourth-round pick, are expected to join the team for an afternoon practice Thursday.
Bryzgalov will be Darcy Kuemper’s primary backup in the wake of Niklas Backstrom (abdomen) being shut down. But Moulson is the biggest addition. In 55 games this season with Buffalo and the New York Islanders, he has 17 goals, which now rank him third on the Wild behind Jason Pominville (22) and Zach Parise (21).
Fletcher said he would have been happy with his team without acquiring a forward at the deadline but the Wild on Wednesday ranked 25th in goals per game (2.36) and 27th in shots per game (26.8).
Moulson should help there, but perhaps most important to Fletcher is the size Moulson brings. At 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, he’s the latest in a string of big forwards the Wild have acquired, joining fellow former Islander Nino Niederreiter and McCormick (6-foot-2, 225 pounds), who has accumulated 503 penalty minutes in 398 NHL games.
“We really are trying to get bigger,” Fletcher said. “First you try to get skill, then hopefully you can add some size. It’s a big man’s league. … You have to compete and certainly size helps, but I think that’s an area every team looks to this time of year.”
When the Wild play again Saturday night, they’ll have a new top-six forward, a new fourth-line forward and a new goalie.
“We think we’re deeper, and yet we liked our depth (before),” Fletcher said. “But you never know what can happen in the NHL and, again, this team has shown me a lot in the last month and a half. I think they deserve the opportunity to be rewarded with some additional help for the push for the next month here.”
Mitchell had apparently grown frustrated with his role. After he signed in 2012, the Wild added Zach Parise, Jason Pominville and Matt Cooke. Several young players also took bigger roles.
It was reported that Mitchell requested a trade, but Fletcher declinde to “even confirm or deny that.”
“Looking at our situation going forward, it was an opportunity for us to create some cap space,” the GM said. “Certainly this will be an opportunity for Torrey to go to Buffalo and play a bigger role, and hopefully reignite his career.”
The Wild have 20 games remaining in a 37-day sprint to end the regular season. After his injury-riddled team bounced back from the franchise-worst six-game regulation losing streak in December, Fletcher wanted to help.
“It’s very important in this business to send messages, and our players have played hard,” Fletcher said. “Our coaches have done a great job. Who knows where this team will go? But I’m pretty excited to see the journey.”
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.