Less than a year after defenseman Marco Scandella previewed the 2016-17 season by forecasting, “It could be our last year as a group, so it’s now or never,” Scandella indeed won’t be returning.
The second-longest tenured Wild player was traded Friday to the Buffalo Sabres along with former Sabres captain Jason Pominville and a fourth-round pick for forwards Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno as well as a third-round pick.
No money was retained by either team in the trade, which will clear $5 million for the Wild in salary cap money.
Scandella has three years left on his contract at $4 million annually and Pominville has two years left at $5.6 million annually.
The Wild now has more room to sign Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund, although it also has to re-sign Foligno, a restricted free agent.
Ennis, 27, who happens to be Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon’s best friend, has two years left on his contract at $4.6 million annually, while Foligno, 25, earned $2.25 million last season.
“It’s really surreal,” Spurgeon said. “At the same time you’re losing two great people. With Marco, I’ve been with him ever since the start and it’s going to be sad he’s leaving. He’s one of my best friends. But at the same time it’s pretty crazy to think that your best friend from growing up when you’re playing, two smaller guys that were told no, are going to be playing on the same NHL team together.”
Ennis, a 5-foot-9 skilled winger who has played center, has scored 97 goals and 236 points in 419 games. He’s coming off a five-goal, 13-point season in 51 games, but is a three-time 20-goal scorer and is Buffalo’s longest tenured player.
“It feels almost like a dream come true playing with Jared,” he said. “I’ve had injury trouble the last couple years, but I feel great, I feel as good as I ever have. I think Minnesota will like the way I play. I can’t wait to get going.
“I’m so pumped. I’ve been playing with Jared since I was five years old.”
Spurgeon and Ennis happened to be working out together in Winnipeg when news of the trade broke.
Said Spurgeon of his new teammate: “He’s very skilled. He’s very offensive minded and he can pull off some pretty crazy moves. He’s a fast player that works hard, and for a smaller player, his strength is very underrated and he goes in those dirty areas. He’s had some tough injuries the last couple years, and I’ve been working out with him this summer, and he looks good.”
The 6-foot-3, 208-pound Scandella, 27, was drafted in the second round in 2008. He debuted in 2010 and scored 27 goals and 89 points in 373 games with the Wild over parts of seven seasons.
Pominville, acquired from Buffalo in 2013, scored 72 goals and 206 points in 327 games with the Wild.
Foligno, the 6-foot-3, 228-pound left wing, is the younger brother of Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno and son of former NHLer Mike Foligno. He is coming off a 13-goal, 23-point season and has scored 49 goals and 116 points in 347 games.
“You can put me in different roles, you can use me in different scenarios,” he said. “At the end of the day, I’m going to be a hardworking forward that sticks up for teammates and plays a simple game.
“I look up and down that [Wild] lineup, it’s a very talented, skilled lineup with great centermen. I’m excited because you want to push for the playoffs every season and I haven’t done that yet with Buffalo.
“Minnesota’s definitely a team that’s built for success in the playoffs. I’m just hoping I can come in there and just be a small voice but hopefully have a big impact on the team so we can make a long run in the playoffs.”