Bergenheim excited with trade to Wild, thinks transition will be easy

Sean Bergenheim had expressed interest from moving on from the Florida Panthers and getting traded to the Minnesota Wild seems to be a perfect fit for the forward.

Perry Nelson/Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

During his final days with the Florida Panthers, Sean Bergenheim expected to be traded before the NHL’s March 2 trade deadline and had certain hopes for his potential destination.

Bergenheim, 31, didn’t have much say in the matter. He had expressed his interest to move on, but it was still up to Florida and general manager Dale Tallon to find the right fit. Bergenheim was in a cab Tuesday in Chicago when he got the call informing him of his next stop.

The Minnesota Wild, fortunately, offered Bergenheim another opportunity to play and the key factors he hoped for in a new team.

"I was very happy," Bergenheim said Wednesday on a conference call with Minnesota reporters.

The Wild traded a 2016 third-round draft pick to Florida on Tuesday night, acquiring the veteran forward from Florida along with a 2016 seventh-round draft pick. Minnesota fit Bergenheim’s criteria as a team with hopes of playing in the playoffs as well as an easy transition.

"One was obviously to be a playoff team that I can see that can go far," Bergenheim said, checking off his reasoning. "I think this Minnesota team is a team like that. That was my first thing. And obviously we have a lot of job left to do to get in the playoffs and do some damage. But I’m very excited about that.

"And then the other thing was I had hoped that obviously it would be a team that I can see myself fitting in well with my style of play. I think I can help this team. I think with the guys also that’s on that team, the Finnish guys and everything, I think the transition coming into a team midseason is going to be easier knowing those guys so well."

Bergenheim isn’t well-versed in the Wild’s style after playing his entire nine-year career in the Eastern Conference. But Bergenheim does know several players on the team and has played with some of Minnesota’s Finnish contingent.

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From their days playing junior hockey in Finland, Bergenheim has played with captain Mikko Koivu. Bergenheim said the two played with and against each other, even playing on the same line before. Bergenheim knows goaltender Niklas Backstrom and he’s played hockey in the summer with Mikael Granlund.

"He has some good speed," Koivu said of Bergenheim. "I think his work ethic; he’s an honest player and had lots of success in this league. And earlier with good teams has some playoff experience, so he knows. He’s been on winning teams and I think that’s always an important thing. His work ethic and a good two-way player overall, I think. He can help in a lot of areas."

The Wild are counting on it. Bergenheim has eight goals and 10 assists in 39 games this season for Florida, and has tallied 95 goals, 84 assists and 373 penalty minutes in 489 regular-season games.

But he’s made his mark in the playoffs with 12 goals in 23 career playoff games.

"I don’t know what it is in the playoffs that just for some reason it suits my style, I guess," Bergenheim said. "I just enjoy those games so much. I enjoy regular season games too, but it’s true when they say that the playoffs are a little bit of a different world. For some reason, I don’t really have an explanation what it is why I’ve had success with my previous teams in the playoffs. All I know is that it is so much fun playing playoff games."

Bergenheim will join the team in Nashville and likely will join the lineup Thursday as Minnesota continues its push for the playoffs. Despite Tuesday night’s loss to Edmonton, the Wild still sit in the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff standings.

"He’s a playoff type hockey player," Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo said Tuesday. "He’s going to hound pucks, which would fit in the way we want to play the game. Great work ethic, goes well to the net. What I like is he’s good at both ends of the ice."

In a sense, Bergenheim will be re-entering a playoff chase. Florida is in ninth in the Eastern Conference, but Bergenheim hasn’t played since a Feb. 12 game at Minnesota. He had been a healthy scratch for six games previous to the trade.

"I don’t know really what happened," Bergenheim said of his time with the Panthers. "I wasn’t a healthy scratch once until I asked for a trade. I’m not looking into being a healthy scratch. I feel I’ve played well. I’ve played good hockey this season and my ice time had been less than what it had been before. But I think I’ve been able to bring a lot every time I’ve been on the ice."

Bergenheim wasn’t surprised by the trade. He knew a move was likely before the trade deadline and he had been given warning a trade could happen as soon as Tuesday. In the final year of his current contract, Bergenheim is looking forward to getting back on the ice.

"I know there’s a lot more energy in me to play in a better role, so to say," Bergenheim said. "Whatever the role is, there’s a lot of energy, I’ll put it that way . . . I don’t really think extra pressure of this being my contract year or anything. Right now I just want to play for the Wild. Like I said, I really want to play in the playoffs and have some fun there."

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