Players' wild reaction to Al-Dhaimi deal: 'We have put ourselves in a position to see players having to leave'

TEMPE, Ariz. — And so, after eating breakfast and sharing laughs with his former teammates Thursday morning, Brandon Duhaime was no longer a member of the Minnesota Wild, having been sent to greener pastures for a chance to become the latest former Wild player to win a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche.

Two years after Nico Storm was able to hoist that coveted trophy instead of accepting what sources say was a five-year contract offer from the Wild worth about $2.2 million per year, Duhaime was shipped to Colorado for a third-round pick in 2026.

Wild president and general manager Bill Guerin, who liked Duheme but did not offer him a contract beyond this season, informed Duheme at the team hotel that a trade might be imminent and that he would be held out of Thursday night's game against the team. Coyotes to protect their health. But things moved quickly from there, and shortly after arriving at Mollet Stadium on Thursday morning, Duhaime was pulled aside and informed that he had been traded to the Avs.

Duhaime quickly rushed to the airport. The unruly players, who witnessed this, were informed of the news during a team meeting before going to work, setting out on the ice for the morning skate.

Duhaime was a popular teammate, and players like Mason Shaw, Freddie Gaudreau and Connor Dewar – who were also shopped before Friday's 2pm Central Trade Deadline – were clearly stunned. Adam Beckman, who was recalled from Iowa, took over for Duhaime on the left side of Dewar and Freddie Gaudreau and played there against the Coyotes.

This is life as a professional athlete. life goes on.

“You hear about the speculation and talk about what could happen,” Shaw said. “But when it becomes a reality and we're all sitting here warming up and getting ready for practice, laughing with a guy and he finds out he's being traded, that's a tough time. But it's going to be good for him at the same time. I mean, obviously he's going to be on a good team and we're going to see someone here very soon,” “Which is kind of crazy. I'm sure it won't be easy for him.”

Duhaime, along with former Minnesota Mr. Hockey Casey Mittelstadt, Sean Walker and Jakov Treinen, could make his Avs debut against the Wild on Friday night at Ball Arena. The big question for the Wild is whether any of their other players, like Dewar or the injured Pat Maroon, can join Duhaime out the door before the clock strikes 2.

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Guerin said Thursday that he has interest in both players.

The Wild entered Thursday's NHL action nine points out of the playoff spot with 20 games remaining. A few Saturdays ago, they had climbed within two points of somewhere.

So Marcus Foligno, who missed his 12th game with a hip injury Thursday night but is expected to pitch against Duhaime in returning to Minnesota's lineup on Friday, said the Wild players did it to themselves.

“It's hard to put ourselves in that position where we have to see these things happen,” Foligno said. “It's frustrating. It's not a fun time of year. I know we're still trying to get in and that's right. But we're in a position where you think if it should or could have been done in other areas, we wouldn't have done it.”

“We put ourselves in a position to see players have to go, and I think that falls on us players. We have to blame ourselves when we lose friends. I was a part of it in Buffalo the whole trade deadline, and it's not fun. It's been a fun time.” Bad and (Aldheim) was very disappointed when he had to leave. But he has a great opportunity in Colorado, for sure, and just the guy in the room will miss him.

“As much as we admire the guy, that means everyone loves him. This is a guy that everyone has really gravitated to. Great young man. Work ethic on and off the ice. Great role player.”

Guerin also respected what the 26-year-old 2016 draft pick brought to the Wild at No. 6. He's a fast player, has good physique and is willing to hang up the gloves. But offensively, he did not contribute much, as he played the last 47 games without a goal.

Guerin, knowing what Duhaime was looking for as a restricted free agent last summer, decided he wasn't willing to pay that price this offseason. Additionally, he needs to free up spots for roster candidates next season.

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“The lineup was full,” Guerin said. “I think the direction it's going, money-wise, is going to make it really difficult. … Starting with the draft and developing through the wilderness, playing a few years in the minors and then being an impact player, it makes it difficult to move a guy like that.

“Honestly, what's more, you hear what his teammates are saying about him, and my interactions with him have always been great and fun. He's a good player, a great teammate, and he's going to be great. We wish him nothing but the best. He deserves it.”

There aren't expected to be many moves on Friday outside of Dewar and Marrone, though Shaw and Dakota Mermes are pending free agents. Most other players have partial or full trade protection, including Marc-Andre Fleury and Alex Goligoski, whose deals have expired but have no-transfer clauses.

Guerin said he doesn't envision trading anyone with term remaining on their contracts, but one wonders if at least dangling Filip Gustafsson to a playoff contender in need of a goalie if the team is going to make it worth the Wild's time.

It may be a summer move, but there's no doubt Gustafsson has had a tough season (17-15-3 with a 3.30 goals-against average and .892 save percentage) in the first year of a new three-year contract.

The Wild ranked 29th in the NHL with a 0.894 save percentage and dead last with a third period save percentage of 0.878. Gustavsson has had a save percentage below .900 in eight of his last 10 starts with a 3.33 GAA. He ranks 38th in the NHL with a .871 penalty save percentage.

Some players walk on eggshells.

“I went through it a lot early on, getting traded at the deadline two years in a row,” said veteran Ryan Hartman, who isn't going anywhere after signing a three-year extension in October. “It's a stressful time for everyone. The fans enjoy it, the fans love it, but it's still someone's life being uprooted. Having to pick up and go, it's crazy when you do this one second and by tomorrow they're living somewhere else.”

With Duhem gone, Beckman, a former emerging prospect who entered Thursday's game with no goals and one assist in 12 NHL games and had not seen any action during his previous call-up, gets a chance. With Foligno back and Marat Khusnutdinov expected to arrive on Friday night and make his debut in the coming days, it will be up to Beckman to prove himself. If he doesn't do that, whether it's in Colorado or later, he'll have a hard time staying in the lineup opposite Jake Lucchini or Vinny Lettieri.

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“It gives a guy like Adam Beckman a chance,” Foligno said. “Guys need to step up. You never know what happens in this situation. But we're not technically bringing in some players for the first time. We're bringing in some players who have played NHL games. So, if they can pitch in, that's great. This is the time It is appropriate to do it now, and we will see where we will be in a couple of days, if we are closer to the fight.

Beckman said that's his goal.

He said: “I'm happy to be here, and playing in these meaningful matches is exciting.” “It's the type of hockey you want to play down the stretch here. Hopefully I can come in and try to make an impact. … I think, for me, it's trying to push the pace offensively, getting pucks on net, trying to contribute and things like that.”

The Wild will need contributors against a loaded Avs. Valery Nichushkin is expected to return for them on Friday, and Hart Trophy candidate Nathan MacKinnon has scored at least a point in 31 straight home games – plus new faces, including the beloved Dewey 1.

“We joked about (fighting each other) this morning, just laughed, and then it happened,” Foligno said with a laugh. “We're definitely going to mix it up with him (Friday) night for sure. I'll take my licks, but he doesn't have to worry about me. He's got to worry about a lot of other guys here like (Marc-Andre Fleury) probably.”

“I'm sure it'll be weird for him. It'll probably be one of those games where even if it's not against us – I'm sure when you go to a new team, your first game will probably be a blur. You're just trying to get to know everyone “It will be different when you see it on the other side.”

(Top photo: Matt Bluett/USA Today)

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