Q: How did this progress so quickly?
“Well, I think probably what got the ball rolling for a lot of talk over the last 10 or 12 days was the acquisition of the negotiating rights for Ilya Bryzgalov. That set the wheels in motion. Most teams probably viewed us as trying to sign Ilya – we did come to an agreement today – and I think that got the ball rolling. I know over the last few days, I spent a lot of time talking particularly with both Los Angeles and Columbus, and that culminated in what happened today.”
Q: How much confidence do you have in the leadership of guys like Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk in passing the torch to those guys?
“This is obviously a huge couple of moves today by our organization. Certainly the emergence of Claude over the last few years has been a factor. I think the ascension of James over the last part of the season and particularly the playoffs – I think we have two good young players there that are on the verge of doing even better things for our team. So that certainly was a factor, particularly Claude. I view Claude as sort of Mike Richards-like in his competitiveness and his ability to do a lot of things for us offensively and defensively. That really helped in that regard.”
Q: Why both [Richards and Carter]? Could you have done one or was there a conscious effort to do both?
“Well this had nothing to do with the financial at all. What we did today was make two good hockey trades, in our opinion, and I think Columbus and Los Angeles would say the same thing.
Both Mike and Jeff were good players for our organization and did a lot of great things, and we wish them both well. The players we acquired for those players are good players in their own right. We looked at our team at the end of the year and felt we needed to get bigger on the wing.
I think with the acquisition of Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds, both those guys are bigger wingers that can play in your top-nine mix of forwards. And perhaps the hidden gem in this whole thing is Brayden Schenn. In our opinion, he’s one of the top, if not the top young player outside the NHL. So it kind of led to that. We had said for a number of years to our local guys that I really liked our team, and I still did, even a few days ago. Today we’re a different team, and I really like this team, the way it’s structured right now.
Obviously, the ability to agree to terms today with Ilya was a big factor moving forward. We’ve solidified that position. Our defense remains intact, and we’ve made some changes up front where we have bigger wingers. We’re ready to move forward. We have a little bit of freedom left in terms of the salary cap, which is nice. Right now we’re in a position where we have acquired a high draft pick in this year’s draft, so we’re busy preparing for tomorrow and the first round of the draft.”
Q: Do you see Schenn being able to step into your lineup next year?
“The guy that’s really going to answer that is Brayden Schenn. We view him as one of the top young players not playing in the leauge. He’s had a little bit of a taste with Los Angeles over the last two years, and he went to the American league last year and played some games at the end of the season. We’ll see how it goes. He’s going to come to our development camp in early July and obviously will be at training camp. I can easily say we think he’s capable of doing it, but as with any young player, you never know until you get to that point. So he’s going to be given every opportunity to make our team, for sure.”
Q: Was there any discussion about moving Jeff or Mike before you acquired the rights to Bryzgalov?
“Well, again, I can remember having a couple conversations from other teams just looking around between the end of when we finished playing to the end of the Stanley Cup Final. The emergence of Claude may have put us in the position, but no real talks with any team until we acquired Ilya, and it just proceeded from there.”
Q: At what point was that decision made that a once untouchable guy like Richards could be traded?
“We spent a lot of time talking internally since the end of the season. When you make a commitment to go out and acquire a goalie that you view as an upper-echelon goalie, you know you’re going to have to pay him. So I think things at least internally here, what can we do to make this work financially, cap-wise… we started talking about some things, and some of the phone calls we received inquiring about what are you going to do if you do reach an agreement with Ilya, and things went on from that. I can reflect back on a lot of things. I do view Claude a lot like Mike. Did that make it easier to trade Mike? I guess, a little bit. Both these trades were very difficult for us to make, but at the end of the day, we do think we made good hockey deals and I’m sure LA and Columbus would say the same thing.
Q: This leaves you pretty young up front. Is this it for right now or do you still need to add some experience?
“Today was obviously a very busy day and a huge day for our franchise. We’re busy preparing for the draft tomorrow. We have a high first round pick along with some other picks we didn’t have 24 hours ago, so we’ve got our work to do over the next two days here in St. Paul, and we’ll get together on our roster after that. But you’re right in saying that we are younger up front. Any time you take out two 26-year-olds and you sprinkle in a 22, 23 and 20 year old, you’re younger for sure. That’ll be something we talk about once we get past the draft leading up to the July 1 free agency period.”
Q: On the next captain – is it a wide open field?
“That’s a good question. I can honestly say we have not once talked about that. There’s some guys on our team that have been captain on previous teams they’ve been on. So we have some guys that certainly we could talk about. I haven’t even broached the subject with Peter Laviolette and we haven’t talked about any of that internally. It was a very busy few days here since I arrived in Minnesota, and as I said, we’re shifting gears here. We’re now focused on the first round and the following rounds for Saturday. We have lots of things to talk about once we get back to the office. So we’ll see.?
Q: Any discussions on who you might look at with that 8th spot?
“Our scouts have been meeting since they got here and I’ll be honest, I haven’t sat in on a whole lot of their meetings. I was at the combine earlier and we did interview a lot of players, including guys that we viewed as potential first round picks This is part of the process of preparing for the draft, and our scouts have been doing their due diligence. I think we’re very well prepared. We’ll spend some time tonight going over things and make sure our list is in order. We may even interview a few guys that perhaps we didn’t get at the combine in Toronto a few weeks back, or maybe reinterveiew a few guys. We do have some work we’re going to do before the first round tomorrow.”
Q: Do you feel that all things being equal that there is a organizational need for depth?
“I know our lack of draft picks over the last few years would probably [inaudible], but I think we’ve done a good job acquiring a lot of free agents afterward who were undrafted. Eric Gustafsson, Mike Testwuide… we signed a couple guys this year, Tyler Brown, a big left winger that we really like. So we have added to our cupboard in terms of prospects. But again, the lack of draft picks has probably, I don’t’ want to say set us back, but would make the outsider looking at us think that way. But I think we’ve done a good job with these free agents in getting some of that back.”