Chuck Fletcher's boldness with Zach Parise, Ryan Suter should have Flyers' attention


Chuck Fletcher admitted he was a bit of a gunslinger back in the day.

He remembered his first season as general manager of the Wild in 2009-10, when he traded the team's first-round draft pick from the summer prior and a defenseman to the Blackhawks for blueliner Cam Barker.

That first-round draft pick was Nick Leddy.

Fletcher looks back on the moment as a growing experience. He even poked fun at himself Wednesday during his introductory press conference as Flyers general manager.

"We were able to off-load another player and save some money, so it was a genius idea," Fletcher said with sarcasm when asked if he could recall learning from a mistake. "I got under budget, I added a veteran D and I traded away a young defenseman that may never play. How's Nick Leddy doing?

"So, but what I learned about that was there wasn't a process. And by that, we've evolved a lot more. I think there are certain inputs you have to look at when you make a decision."

It's now 2018 and Fletcher is a different GM (see story). Yes, he can still pull the trigger, pouncing with the aggressive and progressive mentality that endeared him to Flyers president Paul Holmgren and Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott.

But he understands the grand scheme. He can play the short game while still seeing the long view. And he gets the risk and reward to his decision-making.

In July 2012, Fletcher made two of the most polarizing deals of his career when he landed coveted free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, signing both to 13-year, $98 million contracts.

The Wild made the playoffs six consecutive seasons but never went past the second round. Unfortunately, the Blackhawks got in the way a bit.

However, Fletcher saw a window of opportunity and wanted to make the most of it. He certainly grasped the entire picture.

Fletcher on Wednesday explained the thought process behind those deals and how they changed the organization:

At that point, we had been a team that had been struggling to make the playoffs. We were a team, much like Philadelphia, with a very passionate, hockey knowledgeable marketplace and fan base. And frankly, it just wasn't good enough that we weren't competitive enough at that time. 

But we felt we had very strong drafts in 2010, '11 and '12, and had a lot of good, young players coming; it just seemed at that point, you basically had the chance to sign two 27-year-old players in the prime of their career. We had the cap space, we had cleaned up our cap and we had the young guys coming; because once you sign guys to big cap deals, you need young talent matriculating up or else … you just don't have the big dollars to spend any more. 

We just felt it was the right time and we became a competitive team right away. Since Minnesota signed them, made the playoffs all six years, revenue shot up dramatically, fan interest shot up dramatically, the building sold out, waiting lists. It did a lot of great things and unfortunately we weren't able to push through the way we wanted but those guys did an amazing job for that franchise.

Fletcher went for it and a proud hockey market could respect the attempt — the benefits were evident.

That buzz has been missing in Philadelphia (see story). Clearly, Holmgren and the Flyers' way could only wait so long for it to come back (see story).

While far from perfect, Fletcher's past showed the Flyers he can at least get things humming again.

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