Fletcher sees trades as avenue to improve

A weak free-agent market means the Wild GM will have to wheel and deal to fill needs, and that might mean moving a top defenseman.

Chuck Fletcher has scoured the free-agent forward list and says this is not the summer for the Wild to buy its way out of problems.

His preference is the trade route, and the Wild general manager is getting good use out of his unlimited-minute cell phone plan heading into next Friday’s and Saturday’s NHL entry draft in Los Angeles.

Fletcher has been having a half-dozen trade discussions a day, and he has contemplating everything from trading a defenseman such as Brent Burns for forward help to dealing backup goalie Josh Harding to even moving his first-round draft pick if the price is right.

“If there’s an opportunity via the trade route to improve our team, I’m pretty sure we will find those opportunities,” Fletcher said.

The Wild is looking for a top-six forward, most notably a quality center to play behind captain Mikko Koivu . Fletcher said the biggest area of depth to deal from is the blue line.

Defenseman Marek Zidlicky has a no-trade clause, and the Wild is not looking to deal gritty and, as importantly, affordable Greg Zanon .

That leaves the Wild’s trio of $3-plus million defensemen — Burns, Nick Schultz and Cam Barker, and prospect Tyler *****a . And since the Wild will try hard to extend Koivu’s contract this summer, the one asset that might be able to secure that long-coveted center is Burns.

http://www.startribune.com/sports/wild/96622489.html?elr=KArksi8cyaiUBP7hUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aULPQL7PQLanchO7DiUr