Less than a day after making his first trade as the Minnesota Wild’s general manager, Bill Guerin addressed the media Tuesday morning in the wake of trading veteran winger Jason Zucker to Pittsburgh in exchange for a conditional 2020 first-round pick, defenseman Calen Addison and forward Alex Galchenyuk.
Guerin thanked Zucker for his time in Minnesota before addressing the assets he had just acquired, and then went on to answer questions from the gathered media in St. Paul. You might not have noticed it, but Guerin shared quite a bit in his 10 or so minutes at the podium.
The first thing we learned was that Guerin stayed the course in getting exactly what he wanted from Pittsburgh. He referenced wanting Zucker last season when he was the assistant general manager to Jim Rutherford (Pittsburgh’s GM) and seemingly used that against his old boss in negotiations. Guerin held out for a draft pick and a prospect and did not waver on his demand for the Wild’s 28-year-old winger.
Once his demands were met on Monday, Guerin had no problem pulling the trigger on the trade.
“I did have to stay patient [during negotiations],” said Guerin.
The most important detail we learned from Tuesday was that Guerin values the future of the club over the present. Meaning, he is not going to sacrifice future assets to make a trade before the Feb. 24 deadline just to bolster his squad’s chances of making the playoffs. In fact, Guerin considers the opposite to be more important.
When asked about getting additional cap space next season with Zucker’s contract off the books, the general manager replied, “Cap space is always nice to have. That wasn’t the main component of the deal.”
What does Guerin mean by that? He values the future assets – Pittsburgh’s conditional first-round pick in 2020 and defensive prospect Addison – more. These are future assets the Wild badly need as Guerin tries to retool this squad on the fly without fully bottoming out.
Guerin further cemented what exactly he was looking for in a trade by saying, “I really believe this is a fair trade. We got exactly what we wanted: For us to have two first-round picks in the draft, a top prospect (Addison) and a player (Galchenyuk) that fit every one of our needs.”
While Guerin did reiterate it was important to get a player back right now to help the team’s morale, it was clear he was focused on acquiring future assets.
The last thing Guerin made crystal clear was that he would not be done making trades if the team slides in the two weeks before the trade deadline.
“I can promise you this,” Guerin said, “if there is quit, there will be more trades.”
But Guerin did make clear that it was not going to be a trade just for trade’s sake. It had to be the right trade.
“I’m not going to make trades just to make trades and fabricate something that’s not good enough,” he said. “I have to plan for anything. If a deal makes sense — whether it’s for futures or right now — if it’s going to help us either way, we have to weigh the pros and cons in either direction.”
With only one UFA on the roster, Mikko Koivu, the Wild don’t necessarily have to return to the trade market this season. However, the general manager used this trade of Zucker – freeing a roster spot next year for prized prospect Kirill Kaprizov – to send a message loud and clear to his team.
Get it together, or I’ll go back to the trading table.
What Guerin did make clear, though, on Tuesday morning was that he is thinking about the long-term of this hockey club over the short term, something Minnesota fans have been clamoring about for a few years.
Guerin is off to a solid start in re-tooling. What major change will come next?