Under-fire Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher will be back for another season.
That’s what Wild owner Craig Leipold said on Thursday, telling the Star-Tribune there’s “absolutely no way Chuck is not going to be here next year.”
“He is our guy,” Leipold added. “I continue to have a high level of confidence in Chuck and his staff and we’re already talking about next year.”
Leipold might have confidence in Fletcher, but there are those in Minnesota that don’t.
The Wild found themselves in a precarious position this year, fighting for a playoff spot after advancing to the second round in each of the last two seasons. The team isn’t young — Ryan Suter, Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek are all on the wrong side of 30 — and Fletcher’s twice fired coaches in the last five years: Todd Richards was dismissed in favor of Mike Yeo, and Yeo was sacked midway through this season in favor of current (and interim) bench boss John Torchetti.
The NHL’s seventh longest-tenured GM, Fletcher — to his credit — has made some nice moves over his seven years in charge. Acquiring Devan Dubnyk from Arizona all but saved the Wild last season, and his ability to land Parise and Suter during the summer of 2012 was a franchise-altering moment.
Looking ahead, though, it’ll be interesting to see how Fletcher alters what many see as an aging, expensive roster.
Pominville, who scored a career-low 11 goals this season, is pulling down $5.6M annually until 2019. The Suter and Parise contracts, which carry $7.5 million hits, run through 2025 (not a typo).
If Fletcher can integrate some of the club’s young draft prospects and win a trade or two — Matthew Dumba‘s name has come up as a potential chip on numerous occasions — he could turn this thing around.
It won’t be easy. But Fletcher, if nothing else, has the backing of his owner to get it sorted.
“Chuck knows he is not on any hot seat with me,” Leipold said. “So if there are rumors – and I haven’t seen them – then they aren’t something Chuck or anyone else should be worried about.”