Chuck Fletcher’s Best and Worst Moves as in Minnesota
The Flyers have their new GM. Chuck Fletcher was hired on Tuesday to take on the job.
Fletcher had spent nine seasons as the GM of the Minnesota Wild from 2009 to 2018. He had also served as an assistant GM for more than a decade with three other organizations, and most recently was a senior adviser with the New Jersey Devils.
With Fletcher now taking the GM seat for the second time in his executive career, it’s fair to wonder if he’s the right man for the job. Obviously, things came to an end in Minnesota following last season and the Wild didn’t experience outrageous success, though they have made the playoffs in each of the last six seasons.
Here is a look at Fletcher’s GM career with Minnesota, highlighting some of his best and worst moves.
2012 Free Agency - The Wild made a splash in 2012 during free agency, signing both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to 13-year, $98 million contracts. While both carry significant terms and cap hits, the move was exactly the kind the Flyers may need. Interest in the franchise was decreasing and the Wild had missed the playoffs in the first three years of Fletcher’s time as GM to that point. They haven’t missed the playoffs since and the Wild have been a hot ticket ever since.
The 2010 NHL Draft - Fletcher drafted forward Mikael Granlund and Jason Zucker in the first two rounds of the 2010 NHL Draft and both have proven to be key players on the Wild roster.
Trading for Nino Niederreiter - The cost to get Nino Niederreiter, another top forward for the Wild in recent years, was fourth-liner Cal Clutterbuck and a third-round pick to the New York Islanders. Niederreiter has averaged 20 goals per season in his five years with Minnesota.
Trading for Devan Dubnyk - Goaltending is obviously important and the Wild were struggling with stability at the position in the 2014-15 season when Fletcher acquired Dubnyk from Arizona for a third-round pick. Dubnyk has 143 wins, a 2.29 GAA and a .922 save percentage since joining Minnesota.
Signing Eric Staal - It looked crazy when 31-year-old Eric Staal signed a three-year, $10.5 million deal with Minnesota when it looked like his career was on the decline. Fletcher had a clear find with Staal. In his first season with Minnesota, Staal scored 28 goals and had 65 points, his highest totals in both categories since 2011-12. Last season, he followed it up with a 42-goal season, also tallying 76 points.
Trading Nick Leddy - Fletcher traded Nick Leddy in 2010, along with former Flyer Kim Johnsson, for Chicago defenseman Cam Barker. Leddy was obviously a key part of Chicago winning three Stanley Cups. Barker was nothing more than a draft bust. The third overall pick in 2004, Minnesota waived Barker following the 2010-11 season.
Trading Brent Burns - Trading prospects can be a catch-22. You can make your team better immediately, or you can find out you lost out on a great talent in the future. That was the case with this move. The Wild traded Brent Burns and a second-round pick to San Jose to acquire then prospect forward Charlie Coyle, forward Devin Setoguchi and a 2011 first-round pick. At the time, Setoguchi was a rising star in the league, but had off ice issues that cut his time in Minnesota short. Coyle has been an up-and-down player in his career, though solid at times, and does remain on the roster, but obviously Burns went on to be a superstar in the league with the Sharks.
Trading Jason Pominville - Fletcher originally paid a hefty price -- a first and second-round pick -- to acquire Pominville from Buffalo. He signed Pominville to a five-year, $28 million extension. Then he traded him during the offseason prior to the 2017-18 season for Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno. Pominville came to Minnesota having scored 20 or more goals in each of the last six full season -- the only exception was the lockout-shortened 2013 season, where he scored 14 goals. He scored 30 in his first season in Minnesota, then never topped 18. Back with Buffalo, he had 16 goals last season and has nine already this season.
Losing Alex Tuch and Erik Haula to Vegas - In an effort to protect Minnesota's defensemen, Fletcher worked out a deal with expansion Vegas. The cost to keep his defensive core: forward Erik Haula and prospect forward Alex Tuch. Haula set a career-high with 29 goals last season, but has just two this season in an injury-plagued year. Tuch, a 2014 first-round draft pick, played in only six games with Minnesota and didn't register a point. With Vegas, he scored 15 goals and had 37 points as a rookie and has eight goals and 20 points in 20 games this season.
Trading for Martin Hanzal and Ryan White - The Wild were rolling during the 2016-17 season, with many thinking they had what it took to make a run to the Stanley Cup Final. In an effort to commit to win-now mode, Fletcher traded Minnesota's first-round pick in 2017, a 2018 second-round pick, a 2019 conditional fourth-round pick and prospect Grayson Downing for Martin Hanzal and Ryan White from the Arizona Coyotes. Hanzal was the centerpiece of the deal with many teams vying for his services. Hanzal scored just four goals and had 13 points in 20 games, and added one goal in the Wild's five-game playoff series loss to St. Louis.
A look at all the moves made by Fletcher as Wild GM offered an interesting footnote. Fletcher traded a 2013 third-round pick to the Flyers for forward Darroll Powe in 2011. The Flyers traded the pick to Dallas and eventually it went to Pittsburgh. The Penguins selection with that pick: Jake Guentzel, who scored four goals in Game 6, eliminating the Flyers from the playoffs last season.
Fletcher also made his share of coaching changes during his nine years with Minnesota. He was brought in and hired Todd Richards. Richards was the head coach for two seasons before he was fired. Fletcher hired Mike Yeo to take over. Yeo held the coaching job for four seasons and was fired with 27 games remaining in the 2015-16 season. Assistant coach John Torchetti coached the remainder of the season. Bruce Boudreau was hired prior to the 2016-17 season and is currently the head coach.
There is certainly a lot of room for Fletcher to make adjustments and make the team his own over the next few weeks and months. He had his hits and misses in Minnesota and never got that team over the hump. He gets another shot in Philadelphia.