In a stunning move, the Minnesota Wild have fired general manager Paul Fenton after just 14 months on the job.
The team announced the move in a statement on Tuesday.
"After giving much thought to this difficult decision, I informed Paul today that he was not the right fit for our organization going forward," Wild owner Craig Leipold said. "I believe we have a good hockey team, a team that will compete for a playoff spot this year, and I look forward to hiring a General Manager that will help us win a Stanley Cup. I would like to thank Paul for his time with the Wild and wish him and his family the best in the future."
According to a report from The Athletic's Michael Russo, Fenton was fired over the phone by Leipold, who was convinced to pull the plug on his general manager after losing faith in his ability to lead the organization.
In their lone season under Leipold's direction, the Wild were sellers at the trade deadline and missed the playoffs for the first time in seven years.
The move comes as a big surprise, as general managers are rarely fired this late into the offseason. The Wild made a relatively big splash in free agency by signing veteran forward Mats Zuccarello to a five-year, $30-million deal -- a move that surprised many given the team's apparent shift toward a rebuilding effort during last season.
That signing apparently wasn't the sole reason for Fenton's firing, but it seems as though it may have played a part in his untimely departure.
From The Athletic:
No one incident caused the ousting, but the lingering fallout from a series of arguably bad trades and other personnel matters, along with internal issues that, sources said, created low morale throughout the hockey operations department and dressing room forced Leipold to make the move before Fenton could even manage his second season with the Wild.
Among the notable deals that an active Fenton made last season in Minnesota:
- Trading Nino Niederreiter for Victor Rask
- Trading Charlie Coyle for Ryan Donato
- Trading Mikael Granlund for Kevin Fiala
The Niederreiter-for-Rask trade was particularly panned, as Niederreiter went on to thrive with the Hurricanes in the latter half of the year while Rask struggled to even crack the lineup in Minnesota. Fenton also reportedly tried to trade Jason Zucker to the the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Phil Kessel earlier this offseason, but Kessel wouldn't waive his no-trade clause to approve the deal. Kessel was ultimately traded to the Coyotes.
Aside from the criticized personnel decisions, it sounds as though Fenton also didn't exhibit great leadership over his single season with the club. According to the unnamed sources cited in The Athletic's report, the morale of Fenton's staff deteriorated over the course of his tenure, with several issues eventually finding their way to Leipold's attention.
The Wild will turn over the reigns to assistant general manager Tom Kurvers while they conduct an immediate search for Fenton's full-time replacement.