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Trade shows Wild are all in

Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher swings for fences by landing Martin Hanzal, Ryan White from Coyotes

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

The State of Hockey has never won the Stanley Cup.

The Minnesota North Stars made the Final twice in their 26 seasons in the Twin Cities, in 1981 and 1991, but lost. The Minnesota Wild made it as far as the Western Conference Final once in their first 15 seasons, in 2003.

But the Wild rank first in the West and second in the NHL standings this season, and general manager Chuck Fletcher made it clear they were going for it when he acquired forwards Martin Hanzal and Ryan White from the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday.

When you have a chance to make a run, you don't let it go by.

"There's not going to be a called third strike here," Fletcher said. "We're taking a swing. Our players deserve that, our fans deserve that and we'll just see where it goes."

Video: Wild land Martin Hanzal in trade with Coyotes

Fletcher paid a high price. He gave up the Wild's first-round draft pick this year, their second-round pick next year, a conditional fourth-round pick in 2019 and minor-league forward Grayson Downing for Hanzal, White and the Coyotes' fourth-round pick this year. The Coyotes retained half of Hanzal's salary.

Coyotes general manager John Chayka said the fourth-round pick will become a third-round selection if the Wild win a playoff round and Hanzal plays half the games in that round. It will become a second-round pick if the Wild win another round and Hanzal plays half the games in that round.

Hanzal, 30, has never had more than 16 goals or 41 points in an NHL season. He has played 23 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, none since 2012. White, 28, has never had more than 11 goals or 16 points in a season. He has played 16 playoff games. Each is a pending unrestricted free agent.

But Fletcher had to outbid the competition -- both to acquire the players and keep them from the competition -- and he gave up no one off his roster and none of his top prospects to do it. He was in a position to pay a premium in picks because his staff had amassed so many top prospects already, such as forwards Joel Eriksson Ek, Kirill Kaprizov, Luke Kunin and Jordan Greenway.

Video: The NHL Tonight crew breaks down trades

"To me, a prospect that's one or two years further developed down the road is much more valuable than a draft pick," Fletcher said. "You already know that they're trending the right way and that they're still projecting to play in the NHL. Believe me, a team like ours, we're always close to the cap, and having players who can play on entry-level deals is a critical part of your cap management and icing a competitive roster."

The Wild rank at or near the top of the NHL in several statistical categories: second in goal differential (plus-60), tied for third in goals per game (3.31), second in goals against per game (2.31), tied for first on the power play (22.8 percent), 10th on the penalty kill (83.1 percent).

But they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in the playoffs three years in a row -- in the first round in 2013, in the second round in 2014 and 2015 -- and lost to the Dallas Stars in the first round last year.

Fletcher said he wasn't worried about the Blackhawks specifically, even though they are the Wild's closest pursuers in the West, one point behind, and have won the Stanley Cup three times since 2010. But when he and his staff looked at the team, they felt they were thin at forward for the stretch drive and a potentially long playoff run.

Hanzal is big at 6-feet-6, 226 pounds, and plays a heavy, two-way game that fits the Wild's defensive identity. He should be motivated to win after years without a chance. With Mikko Koivu, Eric Staal and now Hanzal down the middle, the Wild can create matchup problems and compete with the other strong teams in the West.

Video: ARI@DAL: Hanzal sweeps puck off a skate and in

"We thought he was the top rental forward on the market if you will," Fletcher said. "Of all the guys with expiring contracts at forward, we felt he would have the biggest impact on any roster."

White bolsters the wing on the bottom six. But he also can play net-front on the power play, kill penalties and take the odd faceoff when a right-handed shot is needed, giving coach Bruce Boudreau more options.

"Just the versatility, the compete, the grit, I think he's a guy that adds some qualities that you need this time of the year," Fletcher said.

It's all about this time of year, this year. The Wild have a lot left to prove, but they will have a little more help to prove it now.

"We like our group, and we think our players deserve the best chance possible to compete and see what we can do," Fletcher said. "Again, nothing's promised, and we know it will be tough. But I think our thought is, we might as well take a swing and see how far we can go."

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