Trade energizes playoff-bound Wild
ST. PAUL -- Though newly acquired forwards Martin Hanzal and Ryan White did not arrive in time to join the Minnesota Wild for Monday's morning skate, still in transit after being acquired in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday night, their...
ST. PAUL - Though newly acquired forwards Martin Hanzal and Ryan White did not arrive in time to join the Minnesota Wild for Monday's morning skate, still in transit after being acquired in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday night, their presence was felt throughout the locker room.
Less than 12 hours after Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher announced the deal, Wild players seemed energized by the move before Monday's 5-4 overtime win over the Los Angeles Kings.
"I think that's Chuck telling us that he believes we can win," All-Star goaltender Devan Dubnyk said. "When he's willing to go out there and trade some draft picks for an opportunity to win this year, that should let us know something, for sure."
Hanzal, who is 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds, will be an instant upgrade for the bottom half of the lineup, where he is expected to become the third-line center. He had a team-high 16 goals and 10 assists in 51 games with the Coyotes this season, and could be instrumental for the Wild during the stretch run with the red-hot Chicago Blackhawks right on their tail in the Western Conference.
Hanzal, along with fellow center Eric Staal and Mikko Koivu, could make for some matchup nightmares with their size and strength up the middle.
"Our top three centers on this team have an average height of 6-foot-5 and at least 220 pounds," veteran wing Chris Stewart said. "That's going to be tough to play against."
Hanzal brings a physical edge to his game, and according to Stewart, has an "undercover mean streak" not many people know about.
"He's a tough guy to play against," Staal said. "You line up against a guy that's 6-foot-5, and big and strong, and that can get difficult as the night goes on and through the course of a playoff series. It's nice to be able to add that to what we've already got going here down the middle. We have some big, strong guys that can lean on people and make it tough to play against."
When he was coaching the Anaheim Ducks, Wild coach Bruce Boudreau saw Hanzal four or five times a season. He remembers him well.
"(He) played against (Ryan) Getzlaf and did a really good job," Boudreau said. "He can be physical. He's mean. He's got a deft little touch. He's really good on faceoffs. He was Arizona's shutdown guy. I think he does a lot of things great."
Dubnyk played part of one season with Hanzal when he was with the Coyotes, and he talked about Hanzal with Fletcher on Sunday before the trade was executed.
"He just asked me what kind of guy he was," Dubnyk said. "It was funny to have that conversation and then go out and practice then 40 minutes later, the trade was made. To have a player of that size and strength with the skill and the shot that he has is an unbelievable combination. I just told (Chuck) that he's good in the room, guys enjoy him."
Dubnyk added that Hanzal's size alone will provide the Wild with a boost in the long run.
"He's one of the only guys in the league who can stand in front of me in front of the net on a power play and I can't see over the top of him," he said. "That's one thing I always prepare for playing against him. He's an absolute wall in front of the net."
Throw in Ryan White, who likely will be the right wing on the fourth line, and the trade makes the Wild a better team.
"There is no time like the present for this group with the way we've been playing," Stewart said. "We don't know when we're going to get another opportunity like this. (Chuck) is giving us a chance. It's up to us to do it."