Paul Fenton’s tenure as GM in Minnesota is over after just 14 months on the job. So, what’s next for the struggling Wild?
Paul Fenton|Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images
Paul Fenton’s tenure as GM in Minnesota is over after just 14 months on the job.
According to The Hockey News contributor and The Athletic reporter Michael Russo, Wild owner Craig Leipold gave Fenton the news on Tuesday morning. According to Russo, sources said a series of bad moves and other matters resulted in the firing. While he didn’t make any major deals during his tenure, sending Nino Niederreiter to Carolina for Victor Rask – who had just three points in 26 games while battling injuries, while Niederreiter had 30 points in 36 games with the Hurricanes – was a major blunder early into his first season with the team.
At the time of his hiring, Fenton was seen as a golden boy with 12 years of experience as David Poile’s assistant GM in Nashville. Fenton, the Wild’s third GM in franchise history, saw his team fall from 101 points with Chuck Fletcher at the helm last year to 83 this past season. If giving Fenton the axe after only 14 months as GM is slightly surprising, the timing is downright shocking: the Wild have been out of action for over 100 days and the team allowed him to control draft decisions and handle free agency. Fenton didn’t make a move after July 1, when they signed Mats Zuccarello to a questionable five-year contract that will end when he’s 36. The Wild have $9 million in cap space with two key RFAs – Kevin Fiala and Joel Eriksson Ek – left to sign.
The Wild were always going to have a rough time in the Central Division, where there are four legitimate Stanley Cup contenders and Minnesota is arguably the division’s worst team. This is a team that should be focusing towards the future, but Fenton’s deals were more geared towards marginally improving the team in the short run instead of acquiring young assets.
Players Signed: 32
Total Contract Value: $144,054,125
Players Drafted: 16
Trades: 12https://t.co/Y4e36qZ9bO pic.twitter.com/obiEmDJ2oV
— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) July 30, 2019
It will be interesting to see where the Wild go from here. After taking a chance on Fenton, who had never previously held the GM position, it’s likely they’ll target someone with experience like Ron Hextall, Dean Lombardi or Mike Gillis (assistant GM Tom Kurvers will take over until a replacement can be found). Whoever takes over will be left with a long list of players on bad contracts with a limited prospect base to work with (especially if Kirill Kaprizov can’t be convinced to sign).
With Mikko Koivu, 36, unlikely to sign a deal anywhere near his current $5.5-million cap hit, the only real UFA to worry about next summer is defenseman Jared Spurgeon. Russo said the Wild made an offer worth $6.8-million a season to Spurgeon that wasn’t accepted. Finding a trade partner to take Zach Parise’s $7.54-million cap hit – with a NTC, to make things worse – until he’s 40 will also be a challenge.
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