A day after his Minnesota Wild should have been playing Game Seven of their Western Conference Semifinal series with the Chicago Blackhawks, GM Chuck Fletcher revealed in an end-of-season press scrum that he is already hard at work in preparation for next season.
Though a deal with head coach Mike Yeo has yet to be reached, Fletcher made it clear the third-year bench boss is his guy. The two will likely meet next week to hash out the details. It’s all but guaranteed Yeo will return for his fourth season behind the bench this fall.
The biggest news of the day is that Fletcher has re-signed right-hand man Brent Flahr to a new multi-year deal. Flahr, who was an amateur scout under Fletcher when he was assistant GM in Anaheim, spent two seasons as the Ottawa Senators’ director of hockey operations prior to signing with Fletcher and the Wild as assistant GM in July of 2009.
In his time with Minnesota, Flahr has strung together a string of impressive drafts picks and undrafted free agent signings. Top picks Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker, Johan Larsson, Brett Bulmer, Jonas Brodin and Mathew Dumba have already made their NHL debuts, and Granlund, Zucker and Brodin have all gone down in Wild history in some way or another while become mainstays in the lineup. Then there are the kids scouted under Flahr but acquired in other ways–namely Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter. Acquired via trades, the two big, ultra skilled wingers are already top-6/top-9 forwards that really came of age this postseason. Finally, there are the undrafted free agents.
Flahr and his staff turned some heads earlier this spring, signing top undrafted collegiate free agent Christian Folin–a big, physical right-shot Swedish blue liner with an even bigger shot–and Canadian Hockey League over-age wingers Brady Brassart (Calgary Hitmen, WHL) and Zack Mitchell (Guelph Storm, OHL) who both scored at over a point-per-game pace in the regular season. Mitchell’s production exploded in the playoffs, scoring 12 goals and 18 assists for 30 points and a plus-23 rating in 20 games while lifting the Storm to the OHL championship with the second highest playoff point total.
Aside from guys like Mario Lucia, John Draeger and Nick Seeler, who are still playing college puck, most of these youngsters will be on display in Des Moines next season. From there, they’ll keep growing and developing while praying and hoping for that call from Fletcher or Flahr that their services are needed with the big club. After long seasons of slim picking, Minnesota’s prospect pool is deeper than it’s ever been, and Flahr is directly responsible for that.
Prior to his three years with Fletcher and the Ducks, Flahr also worked for six years alongside the Minnesota GM within the Florida Panthers organization. A defenseman, Flahr played four seasons in the ECAC with Princeton from 1992-96 before retiring from hockey as a player.
This looks to be the start of a beautiful offseason for the Wild.