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Wild stays busy during Fenton's first July 1 as team's GM

Team inks seven free agents, re-signs one of its own, buys out another as new boss begins tweaking process

by Dan Myers @DanMyers / Wild.com

ST. PAUL -- Wild General Manager Paul Fenton knew it was unlikely the team was going to jump into the deep end of the free agency pool on Sunday. 

Instead of spending big money and investing lots of term into players with heavy name recognition, Fenton believes he's made Minnesota better by targeting needed attributes that were missing from the Wild lineup last season.

In signing veteran defensemen Greg Pateryn and Matt Bartkowski, forwards Matt Hendricks, J.T. Brown, Eric Fehr and Mike Liambas and goaltender Andrew Hammond, the Wild is a deeper and more balanced team than it was last season.

"You've got pretty good nine forwards here basically on paper is the way I looked at it so far. I'm not going to make any rash decisions on whom or why we should make moves," Fenton said. "To me, it was solidifying our lineup so we know where we are and then we'll have a competition to see what else is going to be available to either be our 13th, 14th forward or call-up guys."
 

[RELATED: More news, video, analysis and more from the Wild's free agent dealings are available at Wild.com/freeagency.]
 

Fenton indicated the Wild is likely done with the free agency portion of the offseason, at least for the initial wave of signings.

He will still monitor the trade market, as he has since coming aboard as GM in late May.

"The talks are always going to continue, that's the nature of the business," Fenton said. "I'm not gonna say no to anything and I just want to have right now on paper what looks like our lineup looks like our lineup. And what if we go into the season like that with the acquisitions and the character type signings we've made then I'm OK with it. If it makes sense to improve us, then I'm certainly gonna look at that."

The Wild also re-signed defenseman Nick Seeler to a three-year contract on Sunday. With a one-way contract, Seeler may now be favored to win a third defensive pairing job out of training camp. 

"Me being not that familiar but knowing what everybody is saying and how much they endorsed him and the type of character he is for me it fits in our plans for the future," Fenton said. 
 
Here's a quick run down on what Fenton is saying about some of the Wild's newcomers:

On Pateryn: "Just talking with our people and meeting the last couple of weeks we thought adding a right shot defenseman position, adding basically a fifth guy to give us flexibility. Most teams now play the majority of their defensemen in that kind of scheme and timeframe. We targeted him, he was really the first guy that we went after, and we were very happy to get him.

Video: Paul Fenton on Greg Pateryn

"He's not a very physical guy, he's a big guy. He's a big mobile guy. He's a very good defender, he defends with his stick. When he does make contact with people, he eliminates them and that's the biggest thing, it adds some size back to our defense."

On Fehr: "Looking at our lineup and knowing currently we only had a couple of right shot forwards, we wanted to add especially a right-shot centerman that could win faceoffs, that was the most critical thing that we were looking at down the last little bit here. He resurrected himself from having been in the minors and been in kind of a buried situation. Went to San Jose, all of us had watched him play in the playoffs and especially down the stretch here watching him play. I think he's a good fit, he has a history with our coaches so they'll be able to utilize him in a lot of different areas whether it's mostly defense but it will also give him an opportunity because he has a great release as he showed."

Video: Paul Fenton on signing Eric Fehr

On Hammond and competition for the backup goaltending position with Alex Stalock: "I think everybody's gonna push everyone. Yeah, they have the same contract. Alex had a really good year last year, this is just to make sure we have the depth, and if he can challenge him in someway it should make us better."

Video: Paul Fenton on goalie depth

On Hendricks, and his familiarity with Wild coach Bruce Boudreau: "Yeah he is, I'm actually familiar with him, I drafted him in Nashville or was part of the guys that drafted him in Nashville and I've had a good relationship with him. We signed him in Nashville, obviously it didn't pan out but the character that he brings both on and off the ice and being a local guy from here that can have that influence on our younger players was really a critical part that we identified awhile ago and we're very happy to have him on board."

Video: Paul Fenton on character of Matt Hendricks

On Brown: "When (Assistant General Manager) Tom [Kurvers] and I were talking about him coming on, we talked about needing a right-shot energy forward as well. I wanted to make sure our quote-unquote fourth line -- I hate to refer to it like that. I think you have to play four lines in this league now. I think we wanted to add energy and some kind of push and Tom having had the history with him of signing him in Tampa and going through another local guy it should add some flavor to us.

Video: Paul Fenton on addition of J.T. Brown

"He did score quite a bit in college and he hasn't had the success that you might of thought he was going to. To play in that role, we're hoping he's a dirty type of goal player, that he's able to get in around the paint and chip in with a lot of ugliness."

Other than the trade market, Fenton's focus will now shift to the restricted market where the Wild has both Jason Zucker and Matt Dumba left to get under contract. 

Both players are arbitration eligible, but with nearly $14 million in available salary cap space, signing both shouldn't be a problem; it's simply finding a number that's palatable for all parties.

"We'll continue that. We'll start that now," Fenton said. "We talked at the draft last week and we made initial contact and now that this hectic day is over with I'm sure we're gonna get back on that."

Minnesota also announced that it bought out the final year of Tyler Ennis' contract, a move that freed up more than $2 million in cap space for this season. Ennis is free to sign with any team other than the Wild.

"It just gives us a little bit more space. Unfortunately -- he's a good playern -- the contract was (a) deterrent," Fenton said. "I just think it made more sense to balance out the dollars the way we did it."


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