New Wild GM Fenton opens free agency with expected tweaks

FILE - In this Feb. 23, 2018, file photo, San Jose Sharks center Eric Fehr warms up before an NHL hockey game against the Chicago Blackhawks, in Chicago. The Minnesota Wild are bringing in a couple of veteran forwards, agreeing to one-year deals with Matt Hendricks and Eric Fehr. A person with direct knowledge of discussions tells The Associated Press the Wild agreed to a $700,000 contract with the 37-year-old Hendricks. A second person with direct knowledge of talks says the Wild have also agreed to a deal with Fehr. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the contracts cannot be signed until the free agent signing period opens later Sunday, July 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

When Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold changed general managers this spring, he was adamant about the strength of a roster he believed only needed some tweaking and not a total overhaul.

New GM Paul Fenton took the Wild into the first day of free agency by making several of those minor adjustments, highlighted by an enhanced third pairing of defensemen and more lower-line depth for a team that has made the playoffs six straight times but has not advanced past the second round in 15 years.

As the market opened on Sunday, the Wild announced agreements with former Dallas defenseman Greg Pateryn (three years, $6.75 million), restricted free agent defenseman Nick Seeler (three years, $2.175 million) and forwards J.T. Brown (two years, $1.375 million), Eric Fehr ($1 million) and Matt Hendricks ($700,000).

The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Pateryn had 12 assists in 73 games for Dallas last season, also setting career highs in ice time, shots on goal, blocked shots and hits. The 28-year-old is a right-handed shot and a solid penalty-killer who played previously for Montreal. Pateryn will likely playing alongside Seeler, who had four assists and a plus-10 rating in 22 games last season in a productive NHL debut with the Wild. He played in all five playoff games, too.

Fehr and Hendricks both previously played for Wild coach Bruce Boudreau with Washington, with the 32-year-old Fehr finishing last season with San Jose and the 37-year-old Hendricks playing for Winnipeg. Fehr has 106 goals and 100 assists in 580 career NHL games. Hendricks has 54 goals, 59 assists and 1,358 hits in 581 career NHL games and has appeared in 39 playoff games.

With Matt Cullen departing as a free agent to return to Pittsburgh, Fehr is the likely anchor of the fourth line with Brown and Hendricks each candidates to skate next to him. The son of former Minnesota Vikings running back Ted Brown and a 2011 NCAA champion with Minnesota Duluth, Brown split last season with Tampa Bay and Anaheim. He has 20 goals and 44 assists in 309 career games.

Brown (Rosemount), Hendricks (Blaine) and Seeler (Eden Prairie) are all Minnesota natives.

For more AHL depth, the Wild agreed to terms on two-way contracts with defenseman Matt Bartkowski, who played in 18 games for Calgary last season, forward Mike Liambas, who played briefly for Anaheim in 2017-18, and goalie Andrew Hammond, who played last season for Colorado. Hammond could challenge Alex Stalock for the backup role behind Devan Dubnyk.

Fenton, who replaced Chuck Fletcher, saved the Wild more than $2.4 million against the $79.5 million salary cap by buying out the final year of forward Tyler Ennis‘ contract. They also have forward Jason Zucker and defenseman Matt Dumba left to sign as restricted free agents.

For more AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey