NHL.com is sitting down with newsmakers leading up to the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 24 at 3 p.m. ET. Today, Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin discusses the trade deadline, what he thinks of the Wild's season so far and the futures of captain Mikko Koivu, coach Bruce Boudreau and prospect Kirill Kaprizov.
Bill Guerin has yet to decide how the Minnesota Wild will approach the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 24 at 3 p.m. ET.
In his first season as general manager, Guerin is giving the players time to determine with their play what actions, if any, the Wild will take.
"I'm still to be determined," Guerin said. "We have [two and a half] weeks. I like our players. I like them as players. I like them as people. They love playing in Minnesota and a lot of them are signed. I'm not in a rush to put anybody out the door."
Following a 3-2 overtime win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday, the Wild (24-22-6) are six points behind the Calgary Flames for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference, and they have played two fewer games. With 30 games left, the Wild have time to climb back in the race, but know they need to make a push soon.
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"I told the group and they all know they're getting a fair shake," Guerin said. "They're getting a great opportunity and I want to see them succeed. But we need results."
Minnesota's win against the Blackhawks was a good sign following a 6-1 loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday that caused coach Bruce Boudreau to cut short his postgame news conference because he said he didn't want to criticize players by name.
"We have to eliminate games like we had the other night," Guerin said. "We need to be more consistent, obviously, in the win column but mainly in our compete. When we compete and we play hard we're a good team, and we're going to have to do that down the stretch if we're going to make the playoffs."
The Wild can afford to wait to see how the next two weeks play out because center Mikko Koivu is their lone potential unrestricted free agent after this season and he has a no-movement clause in his contract. Other than Koivu, whose future beyond this season is unclear, the Wild don't have to worry about losing any players for nothing as unrestricted free agents July 1.
"I don't have to rush to do anything," Guerin said. "[In addition to] what I said before about liking the players and liking the people, they're signed, and I like being in that position."
Koivu is 36 and can be an unrestricted free agent after this season. He has a no-movement clause in his contract, so he would control anything that happens, but have you spoken to him about his situation or are you leaving him alone?
"I'm more leaving him alone. We've had some casual conversations, but there's no rush. Mikko and I have a really good relationship. We've gotten to know each other a lot over this season and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and I'm listening to him. We've had some good conversations, but nothing really in depth or anything like that."
If Koivu wants to play next season, is that something you'd wait to discuss until after the season?
"Yeah, we'll address that at the end of the year."
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Boudreau is in the final season of his contract. What have you thought about the job he's done coaching this season?
"I think Bruce has done a good job. Bruce and I have talked. I understand the position he's in. He's done a good job. It's not an easy one. We've created a good working and personal relationship, so I'm fine with where he is."
When do you plan to address his future?
"I don't know. More towards the end of the year, I would think. I can't give you an answer on that."
How much of your first season as GM has been about evaluating and learning about what you have in the organization?
"It's been the whole year."
So, how comfortable are you as far as what the Wild have for now and what you have for the future as far as pieces to build around?
"I'm pretty comfortable. I feel like I have a good handle on our team here in Minnesota. I have a good handle on what we have in Iowa (of the American Hockey League) … because Tom Kurvers is our GM down there and my assistant GM and he keeps me fully aware of what's going on. They're having a tremendous season (24-14-3-3). I keep track of our prospects through our scouts and our development team, and I'm getting more and more comfortable as time goes on."
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Kirill Kaprizov (fifth-round pick, No. 135, in the 2015 NHL Draft) is one of your top prospects. You watched him play and met with him in Russia in December. The 22-year-old forward's contract in the Kontinental Hockey League expires after this season. Are you optimistic he'll be in Minnesota next season?
"Yeah. I do. I have optimism, and he's a player we'd love to add to the mix, for sure."
What is his potential as an NHL player?
"I don't want to put a tag on him because it's a good league. He's a good player and there's going to be an adjustment period, but he's got tremendous talent and a lot of capabilities."
Could he step into the NHL next season and play right away?
"Yeah, yeah, yeah."
Forward Gerald Mayhew is 27, so maybe he doesn't qualify as a prospect, but he's leading the AHL with 31 goals and he scored two goals in seven games when he was in the NHL earlier this season. Is there something there?
"Yeah, there's something there. He's having a great year. He's over 30 goals already. The problem right now for Gerry is right now we're healthy and we've got roster restrictions. But the most important thing is that he keeps playing big minutes down there and he keeps doing what he's doing. He's had a fantastic year and we're thrilled with him."
You lost defenseman Nick Seeler to the Chicago Blackhawks off waivers on Monday. He played six games for you and you didn't have room for him in your lineup. Is this how the business works sometimes?
"This is the business end of it that sometimes stinks, but in all actuality, Nick Seeler is one heck of a person and high-character guy and a great teammate. He didn't get to play a ton for us this year and he never once complained. He worked his tail off and we just want to see Nick Seeler playing and happy and we're glad he's going to get that opportunity with Chicago."