Wild sign five unrestricted free agents
ST. PAUL — After promising to "tweak" the roster at his introductory news conference on May 21, Wild general manager Paul Fenton delivered Sunday morning, July 1, signing five unrestricted free agents.
Although none of the moves was flashy on the surface, they do help the Wild fill a handful of needs heading into next season.
"In the free-agent market, I'd say we're done," Fenton said. "It was (about) solidifying our lineup so we know where we are, and then we'll have a competition to see what else is going to be available."
Perhaps the headliner of the class is defenseman Greg Pateryn, who signed a three-year deal with an average annual value of $2.25 million. This move didn't come as a surprise considering both sides had expressed mutual interest for the past week or so.
"Just talking with our people, and meeting the last couple of weeks, we thought adding a right-shot defenseman position (would) give us flexibility," Fenton said. "He was really the first guy that we went after, and we were very happy to get him."
Pateryn, 28, likely will slide into the bottom pairing, perhaps taking playing time away from incumbent Nate Prosser. He stands 6 feet 3, weighs 225 pounds, and plays a very physical game, which will bring a different dimension to the Wild blue line.
"He's a big, mobile guy," Fenton said. "He's a very good defender. He defends with his stick. When he does make contact with people, he eliminates them, and that's the biggest thing."
Pateryn skated in 73 games with the Dallas Stars last season, averaging 19 minutes, 37 seconds in a shutdown role. He started his career by playing parts of four seasons with the Montreal Canadiens.
"It was huge," Pateryn said of garnering more playing time last season. "It gave me the confidence I needed, and it gave me the chance to prove myself and show not only the league but my teammates and the other players around the league what I can do. ... It was a good role for me and I feel like I really thrived in it."
The Wild also signed right winger J.T. Brown, a Burnsville native, to a two-year, $1.375 million contract. Brown has a relationship with assistant general manager Tom Kurvers going back to their time together with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"Well, when Tom and I were talking about him coming on, we talked about needing a right-shot energy forward as well," Fenton said. "I think we wanted to add energy and some kind of push and Tom having had the history with him of signing him (with the Lightning), and going through another local guy, it should add some flavor to us."
Brown, 27, played for Rosemount High School and starred for two seasons at Minnesota Duluth, where he helped the Bulldogs capture the 2011 NCAA championship.
Although he made a name for himself as a dynamic scorer at the lower levels, Brown has never established himself as an offensive threat at the NHL level. He has only 20 goals in more than 300 games.
"I feel like there's definitely an offensive side that can be brought out," Brown said. "I'm looking forward to doing that here."
Fenton finished up his shopping by locking up center Eric Fehr (one year, $1 million), winger Matt Hendricks (one year, $700,000), and goaltender Andrew Hammond (one year, two-way).
Fehr, 32, was rather ineffective last season, splitting time between the Toronto Maple Leafs and San Jose Sharks. That said, he does have a familiarity with Wild coach Bruce Boudreau, having played for him with the Washington Capitals. Fehr has 106 goals and 100 assists in 580 career games.
Hendricks, 37, is a Blaine, Minn., native who will play on the front line. He played 60 games for the Winnipeg Jets last season almost exclusively in the bottom six.
Hammond, 30, has spent the bulk of his career with the Ottawa Senators, though he finished last season with the Colorado Avalanche. He will likely challenge South St. Paul native Alex Stalock for the right to back up Devan Dubnyk.
Although the Wild still haven't made a big splash this offseason, it's possible a trade could be on the horizon, though Fenton vowed to stay patient on that front.
"Those talks are always going to continue," Fenton said. "That's the nature of the business. ... If we go into (next) season like that with the acquisitions and the character type signings we've made, then I'm OK with it. If it makes sense to improve us, then I'm certainly going to look at that."