| The prospect of Pavol Demitra on a line with Marian Gaborik puts smiles on the faces of the Wild brass. |
Minnesota Wild President and General Manager Doug Risebrough sent a few messages on Saturday at the NHL Entry Draft. The number one message was, “we want to win now.”
In the biggest Draft Day move in club history, Risebrough packaged the club’s 17th overall pick with top prospect Patrick O’Sullivan in a deal for sniper Pavol Demitra of the Los Angeles Kings.
“He’ll be a great help offensively,” said Risebrough minutes after the trade was announced. “I think he can play the center position. I think he can play the power play. I just think he likes to play, so he fits in well.”
What Risebrough hopes is that he fits in well with Marian Gaborik, who teamed with his fellow countryman on a potent line for Slovakia at the 2006 Winter Olympics.
“I think the significance is they know each other,” said Risebrough. “They’ve played together in Trencin, they’ve played together over the lockout, and they’ve played together at the World Championships and the Olympics. They know each other pretty well and I think it will help make them both productive. They are a good fit and they’ll feed off each other.”
“Marian’s the best player on the team, and we know that. We’re trying to find ways to make him better and this is one of those opportunities.”
Demitra will be under contract with the Wild for two more years, and Risebrough says that’s two years of utilizing a player that is the perfect Wild player.
"What’s so exciting to me about this deal is that it’s the ultimate thing we’ve tried to do. We had a good player that developed, and you parlay that into a deal that will get something going. But I’m not sure you can make that deal unless you know you’ve got some other prospects that are ready to perform.
"Demitra is excited about the opportunity and the prospect of playing with Marian."
And why not? The two are close friends (Risebrough hinted that the two were talking when the GM phoned Demitra late in the Slovakian night) and both possess dynamic scoring abilities. Head coach Jacques Lemaire, who is also excited about the deal, can now toy with having Gaborik and Demitra on a line, with Brian Rolston, Todd White and Pierre-Marc Bouchard on other lines.
The move for the three-time 30+ goal scorer didn’t come without a price. The club gave up arguably its most promising prospect that never played a game with the team in Patrick O’Sullivan.
“It was very tough to give him up,” admitted Risebrough. “Patrick has really come on. There was some doubt about his background, but this kid is a quality kid that really developed this year. I think he’s going to be a good player. It’s just a difference between getting someone that can fit now rather than down the road.”
| The Wild parted ways with Patrick O’Sullivan, the American Hockey League’s Rookie of the Year, to get Demitra. |
“I don’t want him to take it as a reflection on him because he’s going in the right direction. I think he appreciated that we took a chance on him and he told me that ‘you’ll never be disappointed.’ I don’t want him to think that we were disappointed. We weren’t disappointed.”
Risebrough said the trade talks evolved from general conversations.
“It was really open conversation, and we both kind of shared ideas about it. This is how it ended up.”
The looming question mark surrounding the 31-year-old Demitra was a string of injuries that hampered an otherwise productive 2005-06 season in Los Angeles. He missed 24 games in the season’s second half due to a leg injury (10 games), an eye injury (six games) and a concussion (eight games).
Despite that, he averaged better than a point-per-game, scoring 25 goals and 37 assists in 58 contests.
Risebrough wasn’t concerned about injuries in the least, saying that he was thoroughly checked out prior to the deal being made.
“We’ve got to do a good job of finding other players. We’re trying to find ways to get more offense, and offense on two lines. This will help some of the other players on the other lines. Patrick is that too, but this is more of a fit.”
Risebrough said he had interest from other teams in the 17th pick but no other team came close to offering a player of Demitra’s caliber.