Bruins

Bruins reportedly just missed out on Eric Staal at trade deadline – what could have been for all parties?

(Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

After just one season at the helm of the Minnesota Wild’s operations department, GM Paul Fenton was handed his pink slip Tuesday evening in a shocking development. 

Michael Russo of The Athletic reported that the Wild opted to part ways with Fenton after a rudderless Minnesota club — burdened with a number of veteran contracts — missed the postseason for the first time since 2011-12 with a record of 37-36-9. 

Along with a decline in production both on the ice and across various departments within the Wild’s organization during Fenton’s tenure as GM, Minnesota often found itself on the wrong side of multiple trades designed to both put the Wild over the top in 2018-19 and stock them up for the future.

While a woeful deal that saw Minnesota deal away Nino Niederreiter to the Hurricanes (14 goals and 30 points over 36 games in Carolina) in exchange for Victor Rask (2 goals, 3 points in 23 games with Minnesota — 3 years left on contract at $4 million AAV) might be the worst of Fenton’s trade blunders, it’s far from the only one. 

Even if Ryan Donato hit the ground running in his first run-through in Minnesota (4 goals, 16 points over 22 games), the case could be made that the Wild could have received even more back for Charlie Coyle than just Donato and a fifth-round pick it snagged in a February deal with Boston. 

After all, beyond the run that Coyle put together during Boston’s playoff stretch (9 goals, 16 points over 24 postseason bouts with the Bruins), the veteran center is locked up for another season at the fair value of $4.25 million.

At least in the immediate future, the Bruins have to be pleased with their dealing with Fenton. Although, based on Russo’s report, Don Sweeney and Co. tried to put together one additional move with Minnesota just ahead of February’s trade deadline. 

While the Bruins eventually scooped up Marcus Johansson from the Devils for a second-round pick in 2019 and a fourth-rounder in 2020 during the closing minutes of the deadline, Boston reportedly came close to adding another impact forward instead — Minnesota veteran pivot Eric Staal. 

Russo writes:

“Fenton also nearly traded Jason Zucker at the trade deadline to the Calgary Flames on the same day he signed Eric Staal to a two-year extension rather than trading him to what sources said was the Boston Bruins. It also got out in June that Zucker would have been traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins had Phil Kessel waived his no-trade.

Woah.

Now let’s be clear — even with Johansson departing in free agency to sign a deal (with great value) with the Buffalo Sabres, Johansson was a great pick-up for the Bruins during their run to the Cup Final. All in all, the veteran winger tallied 11 points over 22 playoff matchups and formed an effective partnership with Coyle that transformed Boston’s third line from a destination for castaway skaters into arguably Boston’s most effective combination during 5v5 play. 

But how would things have been different had Fenton ultimately pulled the trigger on a deal that would have sent Staal to Boston? Let’s take a look:

BSJ Analysis: