MONTREAL, QC - JANUARY 07: Mikael Granlund #64 of the Minnesota Wild skates against the Montreal Canadiens during the NHL game at the Bell Centre on January 7, 2019 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
ST PAUL (FOX 9) - It’s been a hectic several weeks for Minnesota Wild General Manager Paul Fenton, who has been busy both shaking up his roster and trying to keep the fight alive for the Western Conference Playoffs.
In his latest move on Monday before the NHL trade deadline, Fenton sent winger Mikael Granlund to the Nashville Predators in exchange for Kevin Fiala. In 63 games with the Wild this season, Granlund had 15 goals and 34 assists for 49 total points. His most recent goal came last Thursday in a win over the New York Rangers.
It’s a hectic time for Granlund, whose fiancée also went into labor on Monday with their first child.
“The Granlund’s are in labor right now so to have this happen makes it even more difficult to disrupt people’s lives. That’s the unfortunate part of being in this industry, they all know that it’s a business,” Fenton said. “From the Wild, we wish them nothing but the best, especially hopefully with a happy, healthy baby.”
Fenton called the move a “hockey trade” that’s “going to help both teams.”
In 64 games with the Predators this season, Fiala has 10 goals and 22 assists. In 80 games with the Predators last year, Fiala scored 23 goals and had 48 total points, both career-highs. Fenton drafted Fiala to the Predators in 2014, and knows first-hand the speed and skill he can bring to the Wild.
Fiala is expected to play for the Wild Tuesday night in Winnipeg.
It’s also the latest in a series of moves Fenton made before the trade deadline. He moved veteran Matt Hendricks Monday for a draft pick, and last Wednesday, sent Charlie Coyle to the Boston Bruins for Ryan Donato and a draft pick.
Donato scored the game-winning goal for the Wild in a 2-1 overtime win Sunday over the St. Louis Blues, one of the hottest teams in the NHL. The Wild take a three-game win streak into Winnipeg Tuesday night.
Fenton still firmly believes the Wild can be a playoff team. They currently hold the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference at 66 points. Colorado is right behind at 65 points, Arizona is at 63 points and Chicago has 61. It’s still anyone’s guess who finishes in that final spot.
Fenton said Monday’s move, and the trades that preceded it, were a way to shake the team tree. It’s something Fenton has been doing plenty of the last several weeks. When Niederreiter was sent to the Carolina Hurricanes, Fenton said it was to put the team on notice and see how they responded.
“It has nothing to do with the cap space or money or anything. It has to do with the talent level here and where we are. We’re still trying to make the playoffs here this year,” Fenton said. “This is the exciting part of it is you put a Fiala in here, you put a Donato in here, they’re two young kids that are looking to make their real mark in the National Hockey League. Them added to the mix we have, I think it’s just very exciting.”
While Granlund, Coyle and Niederreiter are all with different teams, one household name staying in St. Paul is center Eric Staal. He had also been in talks of being traded, but the Wild agreed to terms with him Monday on a two-year extension worth $6.5 million.
In 62 games with the Wild this season, Staal has 18 goals and 41 total points.
It’s been a roller-coaster ride of a season for the Wild, but the road has been especially rocky since they returned from the bye week on Feb. 1. The Wild were 1-6-3 before putting together three straight wins, the latest being Sunday’s overtime win over St. Louis.
After being shutout in consecutive games, the Wild has scored nine goals in its last three wins. For Fenton, it’s all about putting the Wild in the best position possible to get into the postseason.
‘This team has been topsy-turvy, it’s been fun. The last couple games have been really a lot of fun. It’s really put us back in the picture of things here,” Fenton said. “I think that this team has the potential to make the playoffs, and if you make the playoffs you just never know.”