Chuck Fletcher won't return as general manager of Wild

Chuck Fletcher will not return as general manager of the Minnesota Wild, owner Craig Leipold announced Monday. Fletcher's contract was up after this season, and the team decided not to offer a new one.

Brent Flahr, senior vice president of hockey operations, will serve as acting general manager.

Wild owner Craig Leipold met with Fletcher on Monday to tell him the club was not renewing his contract. He then addressed the players.

A name to watch out for in the Minnesota Wild GM search: Paul Fenton, the longtime assistant GM of the Nashville Predators. Fenton is considered one of the best GM-ready candidates in the league. Remember: Wild owner Craig Leipold previously owned the Preds. You have to wonder if another man with Nashville ties could be linked there should the coaching position become open as well: current Capitals coach Barry Trotz.

Emily Kaplan, ESPN2y ago

"Very agonizing,'' Leipold said. "I like Chuck. Probably more than I like Chuck, I respect him tremendously. I didn't decide on this definitely until a couple of days ago. In our new practice facility, we have a motto. It's the first thing you see when you walk in the door: 'Good is not good enough.' I went through the practice facility about two weeks ago, and I felt that was a signal for me. It starts with me.''

Fletcher, who was also an executive vice president for the Wild, had been the team's general manager since May 2009 when he replaced Doug Risebrough, the only other general manager in the team's history. His teams made the Stanley Cup playoffs six times but never advanced past the second round. It was assumed heading into this postseason, after a 101-point regular season, that Fletcher would need to make the Western Conference finals to keep his job.

Instead, the Wild were eliminated by the Winnipeg Jets in five games, the second straight season coach Bruce Boudreau's team was one and done. Boudreau signed a four-year deal with the Wild in May 2016.

Leipold, who took over the organization the year before hiring Fletcher, said the move was unrelated to the Wild's early exit. Last year, Leipold declined to extend Fletcher's deal.

"My antenna's been up,'' Leipold said. "Chuck and I have had numerous conversations all year. I wanted to wait until the end of the year to assess everything, to understand how I feel about where we're going. Are we still in the window to win the Stanley Cup? I believe we are. He believed we are. But my personal feeling was that I wanted someone new to come in and kind of shake it up.''

Before joining the Wild, Fletcher served for three years as an assistant general manager under Ray Shero with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

His tenure with the Wild will be defined by the biggest offseason moves in franchise history: the July 4, 2012, signings of free agent winger Zach Parise of the Devils and defenseman Ryan Suter of the Predators to 13-year, $98-million contracts. The blockbuster contracts redefined the franchise, giving it two star pillars around which to build. But subsequent moves were inconsistent, despite some steals, like the acquisition of Nino Niederreiter from the Islanders for fourth-liner Cal Clutterbuck.

The team's player development also fell short of the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

The Wild join the Carolina Hurricanes in seeking a new general manager. Minnesota has $7.4 million in cap space next season but face some bit organizational questions given that four key players -- Parise, Suter, Eric Staal and Mikko Koivu -- are all over the age of 33.

Leipold said he won't order a significant rebuild, nor does he believe that's necessary for postseason progress. He added he would not hire a general manager who recommended a long-haul approach to winning the franchise's first championship.

"They'll know exactly how I feel,'' Leipold said. "And I would expect any general manager candidate coming in to talk with me to understand our players, to know where the strengths and the weaknesses are, and the direction we're going in.''

The Associated Press contributed to this report.