The Stanley Cup contenders are officially appointed between the boards, but Wilde’s off-ice decisions make her fill the role.
With a salary cap looming and the team still hovering near the top of the Western Conference despite a month-long coma, Wild indicated his playoff ambitions by adding future Hall of Fame goalkeeper and Vezina Trophy winner Marc-Andre Fleury in the most amazing NHL. Acquisition on Monday before the trade deadline.
“It’s because of what these guys have been doing all year, the way they’ve played and the way they’ve changed things here,” said general manager Bill Guerin. “This is a credit to them.
“I do my job.”
The Wild acquired Fleury from Chicago, and sent the Blackhawks a conditional initial draft of 2022 that would be relegated to the second division if Wild failed to advance to the Western Conference final and Fleury did not post at least four wins within the first two rounds.
Chicago also kept half of Florey’s contract, a three-year, $21 million deal after this season when the 37-year-old is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent.
“It’s a great opportunity for me, to come here for a good team, do the playoffs and have a chance to run here,” Fleury said. “I’m so excited.”
Fleury will fill in a new tandem look for Wilde in the crease, as the team replaced Capo Kahkkonen and San Jose’s fifth-round pick for defensive man Jacob Middleton.
Prospect Jack McBain was on the move, being shipped to Arizona for a second manager after Wild was informed that the Boston College team would not sign with the organization. The team also dealt with Viktor Raske after he was demoted to junior last month; He ended up with Seattle for future considerations, and Wild retained half of his contract.
Add in recent arrivals from midfield Tyson Jost and body agitator Nicolas Deslaurier, and Wild has been aggressive in making a roster change gearing up for a bumpy race into the post-season.
“They were designed for playoffs,” Florey said.
After a hot first half that at one point saw Wild climb to the top of the NHL, the team faltered from the All-Star break, going 4-9 while 57 goals were flagged in that span.
Guerin settled on making a network change two weeks ago, when he inquired about Fleury.
However, Guerin has gone back and forth in the past few days about whether the deal will be finalized. Fleury ended up waiving the no-trade clause to join Wild, and Guerin felt that losing the first Director of the Conference Finals appearance was worth it.
And Fleury has a talent for playoffs.
He won his first Stanley Cup when he and Geren played for Pittsburgh in 2009 before turning back in 2016 and 2017 while Geren worked in the team’s front office.
“He can help us all,” Guerin said of Fleury, who has the fourth most wins ever (90). “This experience is the key.”
In 45 games with the Black Hawks rebuilding, Fleury went 19-21-5 with 2.95 goals-to-average, 908 save percentages and four closings after an off-season deal from Vegas, where Florey starred in four seasons.
“It’s fun to watch,” Geren said. “It’s like watching Kirill [Kaprizov] Except for the goalkeeper.
Not only did Fleury finish third in wins, scoring against average and breaking a year ago, he was also crowned the best goalkeeper in the league. Florey was particularly sharp in the first round of playoffs, leading the Golden Knights over the wilderness in seven games amid a sparkling 1.71 goal-to-average and 0.931 save percentage.
Overall, it ranks third in NHL history in wins (511), is seventh in games played (928) and has a career .913 savings percentage after it was first drafted overall in 2003 by the Penguins.
“There’s not much that beats winning,” Fleury said. “You always chase that feeling and that accomplishment. You just want to keep doing it again.”
Wearing his trademark No. 29 with Dmitriy Kulikov switching to No. 7, Florey — who goes by the nickname Flower — backed Cam Talbot Monday night against Vegas at Xcel Energy, but it’s unclear how Wild will distribute the workload the rest of the route.
“It’s a really great team,” Florey said. “I think Cam is a great goalkeeper as well, I’m just going to try to lift my weight, try to do well and try to help win some matches.”
What the Wild’s goalkeepers will look like for next season is also a mystery.
Although Fleury hopes to continue playing, Guerin is not sure if Fleury will re-sign. However, bringing Florey meant severing ties with Kahkonen, a Wild Draft pick who won 31 games over three seasons, including a 12-8-3 final round.
“I had no idea,” Kahkkonen told reporters after being pulled out of the snow on Monday morning. “Obviously it was a shock at first but now that I’ve had a little time here to think about it, I think it will be a great opportunity.”
Talbot is under contract for another season, and Geren predicted potential player Jesper Walstedt would leave Sweden to play in North America.
But that’s not all Wild Wilde has to find out.
Kevin Fiala is in an expired deal, and the team currently has limited flexibility – about $10 million – for its summer spending as the acquisition cost of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter increases to nearly $13 million; They’ll be just shy of $15 million by 2023-24.
“I know what’s going to happen,” Geren said. “I know what we have to do.”
Meanwhile, Wild plans to move 14 attackers and eight defenders along with Florey and Talbot, surpassing the usual limit on the 23-man roster that expired on the deadline.
The team hired NHL forward Conor Dewar in a paper move to make Dewar eligible to return to Iowa State; Dewar stays with Wild, using one of four available games for the team to remember for the rest of the season.
This is the next step in this process, the future.
Management rewarded a performance in which Wild Wild competed for the second seed in the Central Division.
Now it’s up to the players to show up.
“We think they can all help our team, and I’m very confident in the group that we already have that they would welcome these guys with open arms, and that would be a perfect fit for everyone they are,” Geren said.