Fletcher adds depth and talent in trade

Saturday, 02.25.2012 / 1:43 AM / 2012 Trade Deadline


In the end, Minnesota Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher was willing to let unhappy defenseman Marek Zidlicky go somewhere else -- but not without getting a solid return.

Zidlicky and Wild coach Mike Yeo haven't been happy with each other -- and on Friday, Zidlicky waived his no-trade clause to go to New Jersey, where the Devils need a puck-moving defenseman. But the Devils paid a price, sending defenseman Kurtis Foster, 22-year-old forward Nick Palmieri and forward Stephane Veilleux to the Wild. Minnesota will also receive Washington's second-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, which the Devils acquired last year, and will get a third-rounder in 2013 if the Devils make this year's Eastern Conference Finals and Zidlicky plays at least 75 percent of New Jersey's games in the first two rounds.


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Zidlicky has no goals and 14 assists this season, and he's played in only 41 games. He was scratched by coach Mike Yeo in late January and early February and wasn't happy about it, though he played in Minnesota's last two games and had an assist in Thursday's 3-2 shootout win at Florida.

Fletcher said the chance to pick up depth and young talent, not any problem with Zidlicky, was the key to the deal.

"Zid's a good hockey player and sometimes these things happen," he said from Dallas, where the Wild played on Friday night. "He's had a good career. He's a competitor. He's been good for us on and off the ice and I think we certainly have to acknowledge that. He's going to go to a team, [get a] fresh start and he'll probably play well there, so I think we recognize we gave up a good asset.

"For a lot of this year, we've had a lack of depth. We've battled injuries and I think any time you can put three players on your NHL team, it certainly makes you better and on top of that, we were able to pick up at least one asset if not two for the future. There's elements of this trade that make us better in the long run and elements of this trade that hopefully give us a boost right now as we pursue a playoff spot."

The keystone to the deal for the Wild would appear to be Palmieri, who wasn't able to crack the lineup on a full-time basis but has been impressive in his 78 NHL games. He was taken by the Devils in the third round of the 2007 NHL Draft.

“He was a huge part of this deal," Fletcher said. "We went into it hoping to get a couple assets, for the future and he was a big part of it. It's one thing to take draft picks that maybe are four or five years away but in Nick Palmieri we're getting a 22-year-old player that's in his third year of pro hockey. He's got close to 80 games in the League and I believe he's had 13 goals in that span, so he's had some success."

In 78 NHL games, Palmieri has 13 goals and 12 assists for 25 points -- that includes four goals and three assists through 29 games with the Devils this season. At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, the Utica, N.Y., native brings some much-needed size as well.

"I thought he played well last season for New Jersey and this season maybe hasn't gone quite as well. So we're hoping that a fresh start here will be a good boost for him in his career," Fletcher said. "Certainly he'll come in and he'll be part of our group as well down the stretch here."

Foster will be playing for his third team this season -- he's gone from Anaheim to New Jersey to Minnesota in less than four months -- but it will be his second stint in Minnesota, where he played from 2005-09. He's just about ready to return from a back injury, and should get plenty of time on a banged-up Wild blue line.

"We need depth on defense," Fletcher said. "Trading a defenseman like Zidlicky who can log a lot of minutes, we needed to bring in an NHL defenseman, so getting Curtis was a key component of this deal. He has a lot of NHL experience, has some size and he has a big right-handed shot that we think will help our power play.

"You feel a little bit for a guy like Kurtis Foster. It's his second trade and third team and he's got a family that's got a nine-month-old at home. I think he was caught off-guard a little bit but certainly he loved playing in Minnesota. Was excited about the opportunity and excited to get back and play with players he knows very well."

Veilleux, a 2001 pick by the Wild, played 361 games in six seasons in Minnesota, totaling 43 goals and 47 assists. He still ranks eighth all time in games played in Minnesota. He's spent this season with New Jersey's AHL affiliate in Albany

"Stephane's a player that brings a lot of intangibles to a team," Fletcher said. "He's a leader. He's a character guy. He's a competitor. From what I understand, he's good in the room. He's a vocal guy. We have a quiet dressing room. And I know from speaking to some of the players that have been around here for a while, they felt his presence would really help our room, bring us competitiveness and help on the ice. He was another key component of this thing."

The Wild return home to host San Jose on Sunday, their last game before the trade deadline comes on Monday at 3 p.m. ET. With his team five points out of the last playoff spot in the West, Fletcher said he may not be done making moves.

"We've got some roster maneuvering to do," he said."

Stephane Veilleux

Left Wing - MIN
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 0
SOG: 0 | +/-: 0

However, he said trading Zidlicky was a move made with the current season as well as next year in mind.

"There was some interest in Zid, and we had to weigh the potential offers and weigh whether it was right to move him now or this summer," Fletcher said. "But this just seemed to make sense. It was a way I felt of helping our team right now. Again we're competing. We think we have a chance to make the playoffs and we're bringing three guys into our dressing room. So I think that sends a message to our players that we're serious about competing yet let's not kid ourselves.

"We're serious about trying to improve our asset base and getting a second-round pick and getting a young player like Palmieri and potentially another pick is a big part of it as well. That's the part of this offer that I liked and it's why the deal was consummated today. We were able to accomplish a couple different things with this trade."