A sleepy, trade-free trade deadline day exploded with activity as the magic hour of 3 p.m. ET approached.
For the Minnesota Wild, word came down as their pregame skate began in San Jose, and changes came quickly. Rookies Johan Larsson and Matt Hackett were yanked off the ice, clearly signaling that either they were out too late the night before and just got caught, or they were about to be traded.
Not surprisingly, it was the latter.
(They're upstanding young men, so why would you think they were out too late Tuesday night?)
Larsson and Hackett are heading to Buffalo, part of possibly the most significant trade deadline deal the Wild have ever been a part of. Minnesota acquired Buffalo Sabres captain Jason Pominville before the deadline Wednesday.
The trade also includes the Wild sending their first-round pick this summer and 2014 pick to the Sabres. It's a steep price, but one the Wild clearly were willing to pay, as made clear by general manager Chuck Fletcher in his comments about Pominville.
"He’s scored 30 goals in the league, he’s had 70 points, he’s a team captain. He’s a hard-working, 200-foot player, and I think like some of our other top players, like Parise and Koivu and Backstrom and Suter and you can go right down the list, not only is he talented, he’s got a hard-working mentality and a high level of character.
"He plays the point on the power play, he kills penalties. He’s just a guy that brings a lot of dimensions and versatility and a player that could fit into a lot of different roles."
Ace reporter Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote the Wild were in on now-Rangers forward Ryane Clowe, but his no-trade clause allowed him to choose his destination. He wanted to play in the Eastern Conference over going to Minnesota.
Pominville, via a limited no-trade clause, was able to submit a list of eight teams he would not approve a trade to. Minnesota was not on the list. Now, he's set to join the Wild.
It's significant on multiple fronts.
For starters, this franchise has been around for over a decade. In that time, the Wild have sold a lot more than they've bought, and moreover, when the Wild do make a deadline addition, it's for Chris Simon.
This isn't Chris Simon.
In a short amount of time, Fletcher and assistant GM Brent Flahr have rebuilt a pool of prospects that was virtually non-existent for a while. They've drafted marvelously, and did a good enough job stocking picks for the 2013 draft that they felt they could afford to part with a first-rounder in this deal.
As Fletcher told Russo, "we aren't sellers anymore."
Despite this trade, Minnesota will still have at least one pick in every round from two to seven, and the Wild still have two picks in both the third and seventh rounds this summer. Plenty of time to find more young players to stock the system with.
Larsson is a good young player. He hasn't played in the NHL much, but did very well in Houston this season. He isn't Pominville by a long shot at this point, but there are facets of his game -- namely his two-way play -- that seem similar, at least.
Hackett appeared to be Minnesota's goalie of the future, but Fletcher still has Darcy Kuemper and Johan Gustafsson in the system, with the latter expected to come to North America next season. He is a nice candidate to take over for the clearly-departing Ryan Miller in Buffalo.
At first glance, giving up this much for one guy (Pominville) could be taken as a sign the Wild are all-in for a Stanley Cup run this year. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.
For starters, Pominville has one more year left on his contract. Furthermore, we all know Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are signed long-term. So is captain Mikko Koivu. Jonas Brodin is a rookie defenseman who 1) is going to be a superstar, and 2) is under team control for a long time. We've already seen that youngsters like Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker can play at this level. Soon enough, the same will be learned of guys like forward Brett Bulmer and blue-liners Matt Dumba and Marco Scandella, among others.
Undoubtedly, Fletcher believes this team can win. If he's right, no one will question this deal. Even if he's wrong, Pominville and his new teammates have more opportunity to make management look good.