When Wild General Manager Chuck Flecher came to the organization’s office in Saint Paul, he had no idea that for the second-consecutive year he’d be making a Trade Deadline deal—especially one with the Buffalo Sabres, again.
However as the day went along for the Wild brass, hunkered down in the organization’s office, it began to look more and more likely that the team would be able to improve its roster with only 20 games remaining on the schedule.
So for the second year in a row Minnesota tapped Buffalo for a skilled winger, while also getting a gritty forward for added depth. The Wild acquired forwards Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick for winger Torrey Mitchell and a pair of second-round picks. Last year, the Wild acquired Jason Pominville and 2014 fourth-round pick in exchange for Johan Larsson, Matt Hackett, a first-round pick in 2013 and a 2014 second-round pick.
“It’s exciting to go to a team that’s doing extremely well right now and (has) a good fan base,” Moulson said.
It will be the third home for the 30-year-old this season, traded to Buffalo in exchange for Thomas Vanek and a first (2014) and second-round pick (2015). The Trade Deadline Day started off slow, but finished with a bang, as several forwards with a pedigree of goal scoring swapped teams. Coincidentally, Vanek was traded to Montreal, former-Wild forward, Marian Gaborik, landed in Los Angeles and Martin St. Louis ended up in New York with the Rangers.
With the Sabres in a rebuilding phase, teams in playoff contention targeted Moulson. Speculation was high throughout the day and trades finally started to fall like dominoes once the St. Louis trade went down.
“I think the rumors out there had me traded about 300 times before the time I even got to Buffalo,” Moulson said. “It’s tough not to look at, but I’m extremely happy I ended up in Minnesota and thankful that everything the Sabres did for me this year, but it’s great to be a part of the Wild.”
Moulson, Vanek and Gaborik all become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season, which made teams hesitant to move valuable first-round picks.
“We weren’t prepared to give up our top prospects or first-round picks,” Fletcher said. “But I felt if we could move anything else to help our team this year and to show our team that we believe in them—to reward them for what they’ve done in the last two months in particular—I felt was very important.”
The Wild was unwilling to part with young roster players or any of the organization’s prized prospects. So the price was right to pick up a proven goal scorer. Fletcher is open to possibility of re-signing Moulson, but the focus of this move is to improve the team today.
“You never know; we’re open minded,” Fletcher said. “Matt Moulson is a good hockey player. He’s scored goals in this league; he’s an intelligent player. He moves the puck well, he’s gritty, he gets to the front of the net.
“He’s a guy we think will thrive in the playoff drive that we’re undergoing now and if we’re able to get into the playoffs, he’ll help us there.”
Moulson is also leaving things open, mainly because he hasn’t had much time to think about his pending free agency. Having already gone through a change of area code once this season, he knows how hectic coming to a new team can be.
“I’m always open minded; nothing is set in stone for me,” Moulson said. “The Wild is a great team…I hope to win a championship this year, I think that’s everyone’s goal.
“[Free agency is] not something I’ve really though about, just getting to the new team and trying to help them win.”
With Moulson, they get a player who adds size, goals and a power play. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound wing is fourth in the NHL in power play tallies (47) and 16th goals scored since the 2009-10 season.
“If we can get to a place where we have two or three lines teams have to worry about offensively, two power play units that teams have to worry about — so you have a 1a and 1b — that makes you much more difficult to coach against,” Fletcher said. “That’s where we want to get to.”
Joining the Wild is Moulson’s Buffalo teammate, McCormick. The veteran will bring grit and a big, physical body to Minnesota.
“[McCormick’s] a hard-nose player,” Moulson said. “He’s responsible defensively, a great penalty killer and he’ll do anything for his teammates and his team.
“He’s a great teammate.”
After trading the fourth-rounder it acquired from Buffalo last season to Edmonton for goaltender, Ilya Bryzgalov, yesterday. The Wild was done making moves. Now, with only 20 games left, Minnesota will try to find chemistry with its new acquisitions and keep playing at a high level.
“Twenty games is plenty,” Moulson said. “I’m sure we’ll be rolling on all cylinders by the time playoffs role around.”