Wild acquires G Marc-Andre Fleury as West hopes move | Sports News

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By JOHN WAWROW, AP Hockey Writer

The NHL playoffs simply wouldn’t be the same without Marc André-Fleury somewhere in the mix.

Unable to stop the Chicago Blackhawks from retooling, the three-time Stanley Cup winner heads to Minnesota to help the high-scoring Wild solve their inconsistent goaltending issues for a playoff push at the end of the season. Minnesota gave up a conditional first-round pick in this year’s draft to acquire Fleury, 37, hours before Monday’s NHL trade deadline.

Fleury, who last missed the playoffs in his first full season in Pittsburgh 16 years ago, jumped 10 places in the Western Conference standings when he landed in Minnesota where he will share the duties of goalkeeper with Cam Talbot. The Wild opened the day fourth overall — and third in the Central Division — in a hotly contested playoff race in which six points separate third-place St. Louis and ninth-place Dallas.

Eight of the West’s top nine teams have made moves, starting with the conference-leading Colorado Avalanche, who landed Montreal’s Artturi Lehkonen, who is considered one of the best 200-foot wingers in the hockey. The only competitor not to trade was short on salary and injury-exhausted Vegas, who sits in eighth place.

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Eastern Conference teams were also busy, taking advantage of one last chance by focusing primarily on depth and defensive needs.

The salary cap, which held steady at $81.5 million, played a role, with the majority of trades involving players eligible to become unrestricted free agents this summer with draft picks in return.

The East-leading Carolina Hurricanes acquired forward Max Domi in a trade with Columbus just before the deadline. Domi has exceeded 40 points in four of his seven NHL seasons.

“We were looking for someone to round out our forward group, the top nine, and felt that was a perfect fit for us,” Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell said of Domi, who has nine goals and 32 points in 53 games this year. .

The Pittsburgh Penguins landed potential top-six forward Rickard Rakell in a trade with Anaheim. Rakell’s 154 goals in 550 games ranks fifth on the Ducks’ list. In return, Anaheim acquired Zach Aston-Reese, Dominik Simon, potential goaltender Calle Clang and a second-round draft pick.

The eighth-placed Capitals made two moves to the wing, with Marcus Johansson returning to Washington for a second stint after a trade from Seattle and Johan Larsson arriving on a deal from Arizona.

The New York Rangers added size to their defense by acquiring Justin Braun in a trade from Philadelphia.

Of the completed trades, the Wild’s addition of Fleury may well be the most significant in an attempt to bridge one of the league’s biggest disparities: Minnesota ranks third in the NHL with an average of 3, 67 goals per game and 22nd by allowing 3.2 goals per game.

In acquiring Fleury, who won a Vezina Trophy a year ago with Vegas, Minnesota traded backup goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen and a fifth-round draft pick to San Jose for defenseman Jake Middleton. Kahkonnen was 12-8-3 this season and 0-5-1 with 21 goals against in his last six starts. The Wild also landed a second-round pick this summer from the rebuilding Coyotes for unsigned prospect Jack McBain.

— The St. Louis Blues found the defenseman they were looking for, acquiring Nick Leddy from the Detroit Red Wings. St. Louis also got Luke Witkowski and sent forward Oskar Sundqvist, defenseman Jake Walman and a 2023 second-round pick to Detroit. Leddy is a pending free agent.

– The Coyotes acquired the contract of unsigned forward Nathan Smith and Bryan Little from the Winnipeg Jets for a fourth-round pick in 2022. Little is signed for two additional seasons with an annual salary cap of $5.3 million and is unlikely to play again due to concussion issues.

“We are thrilled to acquire Nate,” Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong said. “He’s a very skilled two-way center who is relentless and competes hard every night. We are very happy to acquire his rights and look forward to him joining the Coyotes organization.

— The Toronto Maple Leafs were perhaps the biggest losers of the day by failing to meet their goaltending needs. Toronto lost the signing of Harri Sateri after Arizona claimed the Olympic gold medalist Finn on waivers. Signed by Toronto to a $750,000 contract for the remainder of the season, Sateri initially had to rescind waivers because he played in Europe this season.

— A goaltender thought to be available left the market before the deadline when Anton Forsberg re-signed with Ottawa. Forsberg signed a three-year, $8.25 million contract.

AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno contributed.

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