In acquiring Martin Hanzal on Sunday, Minnesota built itself a formidable quartet of centers — Hanzal, Eric Staal, Mikko Koivu, Erik Haula — but also did something else in the process.
It didn’t let Hanzal go to a competitor.
This, perhaps, is equally important to what the 30-year-old brings to the team. Hanzal’s big, he’s physical, he’s got sound defensive awareness and good offensive instincts — the kind of attributes you want heading into the playoffs.
And the kind you don’t want your rivals acquiring.
In Sunday’s trade call, GM Chuck Fletcher acknowledged as much when asked if he made trades with other teams in mind. In the case of Hanzal, the question was asked specifically about Chicago — a team that had been occasionally linked to the ex-Coyotes center, and one with a history of swinging for the fences at the deadline.
“Obviously everyone knows Chicago has won three Stanley Cups over the last six or so years,” Fletcher said, per the Star-Tribune. “Clearly in the West they’re always the team you have to go through and you have to beat to get anywhere you want to go to.”
To be fair, Fletcher — like his counterpart in Chicago, Stan Bowman — also has a long history of wheeling at the deadline. The Hanzal trade didn’t come out of the blue. This marks the fifth consecutive year the Wild have gone out and acquired a forward, acquisitions which have ranged from minor pickups (David Jones, Chris Stewart) to prominent ones (Jason Pominville).
In each instance, Fletcher’s goal was to make the team better. But this year, things were a little different. Whereas acquisitions likes Jones and Stewart were designed specifically to impact the Wild and only the Wild, yesterday’s trade took something significant off the table for other teams.
Fletcher realized the Western Conference is wide open and that Hanzal, arguably the most impact player available, would be a difference maker.
And not just in Minnesota. The reverberations of this trade will be felt.
“Of all the guys with expiring contracts, we thought he, at forward, would have the biggest impact on any roster,” Fletcher explained. “So certainly our goal was to have him play for us, and also to keep him away from other teams in the West.”