By Michael Russo
Greetings from Honolulu.
A new era for the Wild begins Friday.
According to NHL sources, the Star Tribune has learned that the Wild has agreed to terms with Pittsburgh Penguins assistant General Manager Chuck Fletcher to replace Doug Risebrough, who was fired April 16.
An announcement is expected Friday.
Fletcher could not be reached for comment and the Wild would not confirm. The Wild would prefer not to conflict with the Wolves’ announcement, but with the Penguins playing tonight and Saturday, this had to be the timing.
Fletcher, 41, the son of longtime NHL exec Cliff Fletcher, has been around the sport since he was a child. He’s got 16 years of experience with Florida, Anaheim and Pittsburgh, and he’s only 41, working alongside some of the NHL’s most respected executives — Bill Torrey, Bobby Clarke, Bryan Murray, Brian Burke and now Ray Shero.
He’s a rarity because he negotiates contracts, like the $58 million Pavel Bure deal in Florida, and helps scout and draft players. It’s a team effort, obviously, but some of the best include Ed Jovanovski, Rob Niedermayer, Rhett Warrener, Kristian Huselius, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Joffrey Lupul and Bobby Ryan.
Fletcher played a huge part in the Panthers’ 1993 expansion draft that turned into the core (John Vanbiesbrouck, Scott Mellanby, Brian Skrudland, Tom Fitzgerald and Bill Lindsay the most notables) of Florida’s 1996 run to the Stanley Cup Finals.
He’s also been to the Finals with Anaheim and Pittsburgh.
“It’s his time to be a GM,” Murray, now Ottawa’s GM, told the Star Tribune earlier this month. “He’s an intelligent guy – I used to say young guy, but he’s getting up there now. The most important thing to being a GM is your people skills, and he’s real classy in that regard and has earned the respect of the players because of his treatment of them.
“It’s so important to have a guy who knows how to negotiate contracts, and he’s such a strong candidate for Minnesota also because he understands what it takes to play in this league.”