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They said it: Fenton reviews 2018-19 season

Wild general manager will continue to reshape roster after Minnesota misses postseason for first time in seven years

by Minnesota Wild @mnwild / Wild.com

ST. PAUL -- Wild General Manager Paul Fenton met with local media Tuesday morning for an end-of-season press conference at Xcel Energy Center alongside head coach Bruce Boudreau. Fenton touched on numerous topics, including the completion of the 2018-19 season, Boudreau's future with the Wild, player updates, the upcoming NHL Entry Draft and the process of building a team that returns to the playoffs in 2019-20.

Read on for a transcript of Fenton's thoughts from Tuesday's press conference:


Opening statement:

Certainly we didn't want to be having this conversation at this time of year. We're all disappointed. This is not what we were trying to do when we started the season. This is on all of us, starting with me and worked its way down to everybody in the organization, and we're disappointed. We're looking forward to evaluating, getting on to the next step and bring us back to being a playoff team going forward here.

On the potential of adding more scoring ability to the roster:

That's why we're going to have meetings here. We're in the early stages of it. I still have confidence that this team is going to be able to score. Certainly, if you want to get deeper into it, we lost an incredible piece to our offense when we lost Matt Dumba, then having Mikko Koivu go out, who was a balancer I think could have helped our lineup in scoring stages.

Really high on the young guys we brought in, and I believe that once their comfort zone is here, and once they play in a position they're going to be able to succeed with, having some maturity, they're going to be able to score. Certainly, it's disappointing that we didn't score this year, and that's going to be addressed.

On which factors are most important to address during the offseason:

Um, quite a bit, but I don't want to tell you; I don't think it's fair. We haven't had meetings yet and been able to assess everything. I can tell you that I know ... that we need scoring. We're trying to address that. This team is going to have an awful lot of cap space, which is great. It gives me the flexibility to now look at things. But I'm not just going to spend to spend. I want to make the right decisions here.

As a lot of you know, this team was the oldest team in the National Hockey League when we started at the beginning of the season, and significantly -- or non-significantly -- we're 25th now. I'm trying to get us younger, faster, more skilled … and that's what I'm going to continue to do because I feel like that's where the league is going. That's where the success is going to happen when we go forward here.

On the process of building a team 'on the fly' and what more 'tweaks' need to be made:

I think that's it's just … it's a work in progress. I'm trying to do this on the fly, without having a rebuild, as a lot of teams refer to it. But I believe that the changes that we've made. … Again, when we get this team comfortable and get healthy, and then we see what we truly have here. As you could see, it's been a very difficult season to stay healthy at times, and when we mix and match the lineups that I foresee going forward, and then when we discuss with our staff, I think we're going to have a very good team here.

You look at the goaltending and defense that we're going to have when you add Matt Dumba back into the mix, it really balances things up. We've always been one of the teams in the league that has had great scoring from its back end, and when you can initiate and launch your attack from the back end, I find that makes most teams successful.

On the results of his approach at the NHL Trade Deadline:

I think we would've been in the same position, whether we would've made the moves that we made or not. I'm very happy with the young guys that we've brought in. Again, this is a growing process. I think I mentioned that the age was a real big factor here, and there needed to be some change. Internally, from my standpoint, I saw a team that had been together for an awful long time and had been successful but hadn't been able to take that next step to take a jump. So for me to get the likes of the Donatos and the Fialas going forward here, this is going to be a big part of our organization, and they're going to grow with us.

On the priority of addressing Jared Spurgeon's contract:

It will certainly be addressed. You see how much of an impact he has on our organization, just like anybody. He will be certainly addressed as one of our priorities.

On his thoughts on the team being in playoff contention next season:

Well, let's see what additions I make, but with the team that we have right now, getting healthy, yes, I do see us becoming a playoff team. As I said before, the great part is we've been a cap team here so I have the ability to add people. If it is through free agency, or through trades, we have the money to be able to spend up to the cap. And [Wild owner] Craig [Leipold] has been great about that the entire time that he's owned the organization.

On his reflections from his first year as general manager:

I don't know if I have a hardest part. I think every day is a unique experience, a unique challenge. There's a lot of things that happen that you have to just address. … The hardest part is just getting here and getting acclimated to everybody and finding out what their contributions are and what their roles are and then going forward, seeing where we're going to be.

On the importance of this year's NHL draft:

It's a huge draft for us. Finally, we have an almost, what I would clarify as a full draft, and we have an extra pick. That was the way that I kind of constructed it this year. I did not want to trade away picks. This organization has traded away picks for the last six years and that has affected where we are with the development of our prospects, or lack of prospects, and we have to build from within. That is part of my motto is part of the reason that I'm here is that we are going to be able to develop from within. As far as [amateur scout] P.J. [Fenton] is concerned, he and [fellow amateur scout] Darren Yopyk are the guys that are going to be running my draft. Since the leaving of [former Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations] Brent Flahr, they have been handling everything, handling our staff and they will be co-doing it together. I have lots of confidence in the both of them.

On coach Bruce Boudreau's future with the Wild:

Bruce is my coach next year. I have total confidence in him. You look at this track record for the number of years that he's been an NHL coach, it's amazing. So Bruce is our coach next year. I'm very confident in him. I have not met with Craig [Leipold] about the future of any of our coaches, to be honest with you right now. But right now, Bruce is my coach, and he's going to be the guy that is going to lead this team back to where we want to go.

On his thoughts of what to expect at the draft:

First of all, I hope we win the [NHL Draft Lottery] tonight. If we win the lottery, then we're really happy. We'll be doing some handstands. But even where we stand right now, I feel really confident that there's a lot of players out there that we're going to like in that position. I have gone through one draft in my career where I have positionally drafted. We are not doing that here. We know where our deficiencies are but we also know that the way to handle the draft is to take the best player available. I did it in 2003 in Nashville thinking that the defenseman we took would put a franchise on the map and it did. That was the nice thing, but we're not going to specifically look at a position here we are looking at the asset.

On the status of current players who are dealing with injuries:

You know about Zach Parise, he hurt his knee. It has been reported that he had hurt his knee. He will be fine with rest here in the next four weeks, I believe. It's just going to more or less be a resting pattern. Mikko, we are confident that he has a chance to be ready at training camp. His recovery, as I think all of you know, his determination is incredible, and it's fun to watch him rehabbing this because he's already I think ahead of schedule. Who I am missing here? Dumba should be ready for training camp. That would be a really, really big boost for us. You guys already know what his injury is. The rest of the injuries are realistically just bumps and bruises that will take a couple of weeks and rest to handle, but there's nothing significant to really report on anybody else.

On current players taking part in the IIHF World Championships next month:

I'm sure there's going to be some inquiries about some guys. The ones that I have been asked about, the two guys on Canada were asked and they denied it. I've had two guys, and I'm involved in the U.S. team, who said no as well. They, too, are kind of banged up and have family issues here that hopefully will be resolved. I anticipate getting called on some of the European teams, but having it be as late as it is this year, I have not received those yet.

On addressing the status of re-signing free agents:

We're going to continue to talk about it here today. I've got meetings with the coaches this afternoon after I'm done with some of the interviews. I certainly have interest in having maybe some of the UFAs back in some capacity. The RFAs I'll be dealing with. I already have been dealing with their agents on that going forward. But it's a research thing that we're going to do and find out exactly what their value is.

On evaluating the positions of players for next season:

We are going to talk about where everybody fits as we go on here. There is no definitive position that anyone has. I told you that Mikko is probably for training camp. As Bruce was just saying, there are a lot of question marks that come up. You need a full roster in order to be successful. Where guys play will be determined by him and his coaching staff. We will have suggestions to where guys play. And for [Kevin] Fiala being a young kid and having the chances that he did, I think he was fine. I don't know how many posts he hit. You probably do. You guys keep all those stats. For me, I look how the player plays and how he fits in. I know that Kevin can be much better. I know that Kevin can be an exciting player. I talked about him being a gamebreaker. I think that got blown out of proportion. I'm talking about a guy that can make the game very hard for the opposition to play against in the offensive capacity and I know that he will come back and be that player. He needs a full year of training. He certainly was what I would say a beaten dog in the way that he was in Nashville. They didn't have him high up and he wanted to be high up. When you're a professional athlete and you don't see that fit it makes it very difficult. For us we see him as being high up in our lineup and being a productive player. As we get healthier and put our pieces in place we see him getting that much more productive.

On keeping the staff accountable for making strides toward positive changes:

I honestly believe that it's a work in motion here. I've tried to do this on the fly. I do not believe that this is a breakdown team or organization. We have strong goaltending, we have tremendous defense when they're healthy, I have built this way from my previous life that if you build on your goaltenders on out through your strong defense, you're launching the attack and now you get with the way the game is played today with skill and speed. So you acquire people that have the ability to make plays, then we'll have success, on paper. But now I've got to be able to put it onto the ice.

On grading the trade market and free agent market:

Yeah, last June, by the way, I started that. And that's just the nature of our game. I've got to have a feel for everything in the league. It's now part of our jobs to analyze everybody else's deficiencies and maybe what moves that they're going to have to make and see if we're going to get into that part of the game.

On his thoughts regarding this summer's free-agent pool:

I guess it depends on the exact position. There's certainly some free agents out there that I'm interested, that are intriguing, but it doesn't necessarily mean that it's the fit, and it has to be the fit.

On the possibility of acquiring a good player in the first round of the draft:

Really good. Really good. I would say right now that our scouts have said that they have a great feel of the top-15 that they have and that they're going to discuss and that we're going to get a really good player.

On reassigning Donato, Kunin and Greenway to help boost Iowa to a playoff spot:

I would love that. They were phenomenal this year, Iowa was. And then it was almost like it just hit disaster in so many different ways. We were not as deep as we were playing in my opinion. Our goaltending was tremendous and then they kind of hit a little bit of a slide here. I'm hoping that these three games left that they're going to be able to help us get in. I mean, our goal is to get in. And that's the most important thing.

On the influx of younger players in Iowa:

We think so. Based on our projections of guys that we're having coming in, yeah, we're going to have a bunch of young guys there. That's where I want to be.

On his plan for the cap space this summer:

I didn't have any of it last summer. It all depends on what's available. … There's some guys that are available. Do I want to kill our franchise with one addition? Probably not, to be honest. I don't want to use everything up, and you can read into that as much as you want. 

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