Trade deadline day is complete, and at least in Chuck Fletcher’s three-year tenure, this was the most impactful. Two years ago, Fletcher’s only move on actual deadline day was giving up Eric Belanger for a second round pick. Last year, the Wild acquired Swedish forward Mikko Lehtonen for goalie Anton Khudobin.
This year was very, very different.
Right around the lunch hour, the Wild picked up Bloomington native Tom Gilbert from Edmonton in exchange for Nick Schultz. Then, right before the deadline expired, the Wild sent Greg Zanon to Boston in exchange for another blueliner, Steve Kampfer, who will report to Houston of the AHL.
First off, it’s no secret that the Wild gave up a player who is truly one of the nicest guys many of us at the Wild have ever had the pleasure of dealing with. I had the chance to spend some time with Nick on a Wild Road Tour, as well as several road trips with the team and many interviews in the locker room. He is as genuine a person as there is, and it’s obvious that all of his teammates felt that way, and more.
If Darby Hendrickson is number one in all-time nice guys, Schultz has to be 1A.
Schultz is the franchise’s all-time leader in games played, and one of the most durable players as well. He developed into a stay-at-home defenseman that kept things simple and was usually mistake-free.
Fortunately, the word is that Gilbert is a top-notch person off the ice as well, and he brings an element that the Wild has sorely missed, which is offense from the blue line. But General Manger Chuck Fletcher made a point to say in his afternoon media conference call that Gilbert shouldn’t just be labeled an offensive defensemen. He noted that Gilbert was also used to face the top lines of other teams, as he did when he played against Minnesota and would match up against Mikko Koivu’s line.
Of course, Gilbert is a former Jefferson Jaguar, and was actually a large focus of the book, “Blades of Glory” by John Rosengren, which takes a behind the scenes look at the Jaguars during their 1999-2000 season.
He played four years at the University of Wisconsin before joining the Oilers, where he was a teammate of Kyle Brodziak. He’ll become the second Wild player ever to wear #77, joining Lubomir Sekeras in that club.
As for the Zanon deal, the Wild parted ways with one of its best shot blockers. Zanon is going to be a free agent at the end of the season, and it was unlikely the Wild was going to re-sign him. In return, the club received a young defenseman in Kampfer that is also considered a puck-moving defenseman with offensive upside. Check out the Wild TV video of Fletcher talking about today’s trades, here.
Schultz and Zanon weren’t the only players to leave the Wild organization today. Brad Staubitz, who was placed on re-entry waivers yesterday, was claimed by the Montreal Canadiens.
So it was a busy day at Wild headquarters. In some ways, it was sad, but it certainly appears the future looks bright. The Wild let go of three of its oldest players, and got younger while adding at least one draft pick. It also has a lot of salary cap space heading into this offseason.
And while the future looks good, it appears that the present is shaping up pretty well. The team saw a very good start from the three players acquired in the Marek Zidlicky trade last night, and it’s expected that Gilbert will get in the lineup tomorrow night against Los Angeles.
And for college hockey fans, the Wild added two more today. Gilbert was a Badger and Kampfer was a Michigan Wolverine. Right now, the Wild has nine former college hockey players (not including Kampfer) on its NHL roster, and five native Minnesotans.