Wild trade for Leopold, Stewart before NHL deadline
The Minnesota Wild added two more players for the stretch run in the final hours before the NHL's trade deadline on Monday, dealing for defenseman Jordan Leopold and right wing Chris Stewart to shore up their depth.
The Wild sent defenseman Justin Falk and a fifth-round draft pick in 2015 to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Leopold, the Hobey Baker award winner in 2002 for the national champion team at Minnesota after growing up in the Twin Cities area.
Then the Wild sent a second-round selection in the 2017 draft to Buffalo for Stewart, who had 11 goals and 14 assists in 61 games for the Sabres this season. They also acquired AHL center Jared Knight from the Boston Bruins for center Zack Phillips, their first-round draft pick in 2011.
The 34-year-old Leopold appeared in only 18 games with the Blue Jackets after arriving in a trade with the St. Louis Blues in November.
The native of Golden Valley, Minnesota, had a career-high 13 goals and 35 points with the Sabres as recently as the 2010-11 season, but he'd been a healthy scratch more often than he played for the Blue Jackets.
Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher was seeking a left-shot, puck-moving defenseman, and Leopold fit that profile.
''If Jordan was from Ontario we still would have had interest in him, but I think in this particular case it certainly made it nice that we were able to acquire him,'' Fletcher said. ''He's going to be very motivated, where after practice he can go home and see his family. Let's not kid ourselves. It'll probably take a lot of pressure off him.''
Leopold's daughter, Jordyn, wrote a letter to the Wild coaches a couple of months ago asking them to trade for her dad. The request was never delivered, but a photo of the note began circulating online right before the deal went down.
In Stewart, the Wild added a 27-year-old who's listed at 6-foot-2 and 234 pounds. Sabres general manager Tim Murray called Fletcher about 10 minutes before the deadline, and their on-and-off conversation about a deal was finally completed.
''The ability to add a power forward, the ability to add some size and toughness, was crucial,'' Fletcher said. ''Probably one fair criticism you could say about our club was we lack a little bit of size and having Chris will certainly help solve that, and adding Sean Bergenheim last week. ... I think we're a harder team to play against today than we were a couple weeks ago.''
The Wild also reassigned left wing Stephane Veilleux to the AHL.
Knight was a second-round draft pick by the Bruins in 2010. Phillips had seven goals and eight assists in 49 games for the Iowa Wild in the AHL this season.