ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Wild continued its roster makeover on the eve of NHL Free Agency on Friday when it acquired forwards Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for defenseman Marco Scandella and forward Jason Pominville.
The clubs also exchanged selections in next year's NHL Draft, with Minnesota acquiring Buffalo's third-round pick and the Sabres taking the Wild's spot in the fourth round. The trade also opens up valuable space under the salary cap for the Wild, as Minnesota begins the offseason trying to negotiate new deals for restricted free agents Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter.
But this swap was a lot more than simply a deal to free cap space. Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher said the club has been trying to acquire Foligno in each of the past couple seasons.
"It's a tough commodity to acquire, that big, strong power forward," Fletcher said. "You look around the League, there's very few players that have that size and physical presence and can also contribute offensively. He's a player we think we need."
Ennis has seen each of his past two seasons ravaged by injury, including double sports hernia surgery which forced him to miss 30 games last year. Before that, Ennis was a three-time 20-goal scorer. Still just 27 years old, the Wild believes he has the ability to be an impact player next season.
After eight years in Buffalo, Ennis said he was looking forward to getting a fresh start as he hopes to get his career back on the upswing.
"I've been in Buffalo since 2008, been through my fifth coach, my third GM. It's just good to get a change I think," Ennis said. "Just a new, fresh start, a change of scenery and a new team. I think Buffalo is going in a great direction. They're in good hands, but I'm excited to get going in Minnesota."
"They certainly make us a better team up front," Fletcher said. "We think we've definitely upgraded our forward group, we've created more depth, we've added some size, we've added some skill.
"Obviously, we've lost a quality defenseman in Marco and a quality veteran guy in Jason Pominville. But it just wasn't going to be possible to bring our team back as it was constituted at the end of last year."
The past couple of weeks have presented Fletcher with an abundance of challenges -- first, navigating the Expansion Draft, where the Wild traded prospect Alex Tuch and lost forward Erik Haula to the Vegas Golden Knights.
After trading Tyler Graovac to Washington and Jordan Schroeder to Columbus, Minnesota has had an opportunity to re-shape a portion of its bottom-six forward group.
That will continue as the team begins free agency at 11 a.m. CT on Saturday. Minnesota is expected to be in the market for a center and perhaps another wing, in addition to a right-shot defenseman and a goaltender to compete with Alex Stalock for the backup job behind Devan Dubnyk.
"I mentioned at the end-of-the-year press conference that we had some obstacles in front of us, we had some challenges to deal with with the Expansion Draft and to become cap compliant," Fletcher said. "We also thought there would be some opportunities to change our team a little bit. We've made the playoffs five consecutive seasons, but our goals are much greater than that. This summer is an opportunity to sort of re-tool a little bit and bring in some fresh blood."
Heading to Buffalo in the deal are Scandella and Pominville, two players who have played critical roles in helping the Wild to five consecutive trips to the postseason.
Drafted in the second round of the 2008 NHL Draft (55th overall), Scandella was the second-longest tenured member of the Wild, debuting with the club on Nov. 12, 2010 against the Florida Panthers, netting two assists in 20 games that season.
After playing in 63 games in 2011-12, Scandella appeared in just six of 48 contests in the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign, playing most of the season with the Wild's AHL affiliate in Houston. He played in all five playoff games, however, never returning to the minors after that.
Scandella had the best season of his NHL career in 2014-15, when he scored 11 goals and had 23 points in 64 games.
After scoring five goals and 21 points in 2015-16, Scandella finished with four goals and 13 points in 71 games last season. He finishes his Wild career with 27 goals and 89 points in 373 regular season games and six goals to go with three assists in 39 playoff contests.
"Marco was a guy [former Wild general manager] Doug Risebrough drafted in the second round and developed into a very good hockey player," Fletcher said. "Marco and I have spent a lot of time together the last few years. He had growing pains, but he continued to develop and he's become a quality top-four defenseman in this league. Buffalo did well to get him."
Pominville was acquired from Buffalo at the 2013 Trade Deadline, scoring four goals in his first 10 games with the Wild and posting his third career 30-goal season in his first full campaign with Minnesota the following year.
His offensive numbers dipped in each of the next two seasons, but rebounded last year, when he scored 13 goals and 47 points.
"One of the top playoff producers in franchise history and a quality guy both on and off the ice, a class act and a true professional," Fletcher said. "I think he brought a lot to our group. We made the playoffs every year he was here, and I think he was a big part of it."