Mike Max on What The Next Wild GM Will Face and Chuck Fletcher’s Legacy

The Wild don't have much room to wiggle when it comes to the salary cap

Sports To The Max with Mike Max
April 24, 2018 - 2:25 pm

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The next General Manager that takes over The Minnesota won’t encounter an easy scenario, according to WCCO Radio host and sports analyst Mike Max

“Right now, from a general manager standpoint, this is not a great job,” Max said after the news of Chuck Fletcher’s firing broke Monday. “You're not on the rise and you're strapped with some contracts that will be tough to get rid of, and you're going to be up against the salary cap, so the ability to wiggle will be difficult, so how do you get better?”

The Wild will need to get better if they want to go deeper into the playoffs, after getting dumped by the Winnipeg Jets in five games, the third consecutive year the Wild were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round.

Max thinks the one avenue open to the new GM — trade moves — will also be a challenge. “Who do you trade? That's a really good question. You don't want to trade Eric Staal if he's had a really great year, but he's at an age where he still has some trade value. Parise and Suter, you're not going to trade,” he said. “You're in a tough situation that way. You can move a couple of the guys that are younger, but you're going to have to mainly go with what you've got as your nucleus.”  

Fletcher was with the Wild for nine seasons, and his biggest move came in the summer of 2012, when he signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to long-term contracts.

“While they have not achieved what they thought they would after they signed those two, it was a very good business decision. The Wild have been sold-out ever since,” Max said. “They certainly got the attention of the fan base here. And to do that, he had to manipulate and orchestrate and look to the future for the salary cap, so he could pull it off.”

One area that didn’t pan out as well, Max said, was that not enough of the younger players had turned into consistent high-level performers. He cited Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker and Nino Niederreiter. Max noted that Fletcher, while he was thoughtful and generally a good person, had the chance to hire three head coaches — Todd Richards, Mike Yeo, and now Bruce Boudreau — but never made it to the Western Conference Finals.

“He has had an opportunity to hire a number of head coaches, which is a little bit unusual when you're the general manager, to get that many kicks at the can.”

As for who might be the GM, Max said that Brian Lawton, currently an analyst with the NHL Network, could be in the picture "He's got the acumen to do it, and that would be a name that I would pay close attention to." 

Whoever it is, Max things they’ll be under pressure to win immediately, since The Wild have key players — Suter, Parise, Mikko Koivu, signed to long-term contracts.  

“They are going to have a tough time trading those contracts, those are big contracts. The person who comes in next has to be willing to say we're taking a run at it next year, for sure,” Max said.