Last 4th of July the Minnesota Wild made a big splash in free agency by signing Zach Parise & Ryan Suter to 13 year contracts. This 4th of July holiday was setting up to be a quiet one for the Wild.
So far it has been anything but quiet.
Things got started on Wednesday with Minnesota buying out defenseman Tom Gilbert who was set to make $4 million this season. As a result the Wild were able to sign former Minnesota Gopher defenseman Keith Ballard to a two year contract worth $1.5 million.
On Friday, free agency began with a couple of former Minnesota Wild players finding new homes. Pierre Marc Bouchard signed a contract with the New York Islanders while Matt Cullen agreed to play with the Nashville Predators. With both departures expected and the Wild still up against the cap it wasn't expected they would make any moves today.
However that changed a little after 6:00 PM when it was announced that Minnesota had traded forward Devon Setoguchi to the Winnipeg Jets for a 2nd round pick in the 2014 draft. (A pick the Wild originally didn't have after trading it to Buffalo in the Jason Pominville deal.)
By trading Setoguchi, Minnesota was able to free up $3 million in cap space. Before Wild fans could process the trade of Setoguchi it was announced that Minnesota had signed Matt Cooke to a three year deal.
Yes, that Matt Cooke who was Public Enemy #1 when he played for the Vancouver Canucks from 2000-2008.
Judging from the reaction of Wild fans on Twitter, they are less than thrilled with addition of Cooke to the roster as now they have to come to grips with cheering for someone they have despised for nearly almost the entire existence of the franchise.
However I look at the moves Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher has made since the NHL Draft and I have to say I like what he has done within the restrictions of the salary cap.
First of all he was able to trade Cal Clutterbuck, who was never going to be anything more than a 3rd line player in the NHL who hits for Nino Niederreiter, who was the 5th overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft and has the potential to be a 30 goal scorer in the NHL.
Guys like Clutterbuck are a dime a dozen in the NHL. Wild fans who are angry about losing Clutterbuck should think back to how they felt when Aaron Voros left the team after the 2007-2008 season to play for the New York Rangers.
Voros was a player who could hit and provide a spark but could do little else. The guy that ended up taking Voros' role after he left the Wild, Cal Clutterbuck.
Then Fletcher was able to sign Ballard to take Gilbert's spot on defense. After watching Gilbert for a year, I can say I'd rather have Ballard who I think is better defensively than Gilbert and can provide just as much offense from the blue line.
Ballard should be able to play in the top four on defense along with Jared Spurgeon and bridge the gap from Suter & Brodin as the top pairing of defenseman to the bottom pairing which will consist of a combination of Clayton Stoner, Marco Scandella, and Nate Prosser.
As for trading Setoguchi and signing Cooke, if you look at it as a trade off, player for player, then yes it is a bad move for Minnesota.
However if you factor in Niederreiter taking Setoguchi's place on the 2nd line and Cooke taking Clutterbuck's place on the 3rd line then it doesn't look that bad. Plus reacquiring a 2nd round pick and creating cap space gives the Wild flexibility to make a trade later this season if necessary.
Now I know a lot of Wild fans are upset that Minnesota couldn't re-sign Matt Cullen and some of them on Twitter have asked why they couldn't trade Setoguchi earlier so the Wild would have the money to keep Cullen. The deal that Minnesota made with Winnipeg wasn't available before Cullen went to market as a free agent.
Even if the deal was available, Cullen ended up getting $3.5 million for two years to play for Nashville. As much as I like Cullen as a player, I'm not sure the Wild could have made an offer like that and I’m not sure Cullen would have taken a hometown discount to stay.
Are the Wild better after these moves? It's too early to tell. But for a team that looked like they would have to stand pat because of the salary cap, Minnesota was active today.
Say what you want about the hockey team but you can't say Chuck Fletcher isn't trying to improve them.