Wild owner admits he botched Fenton hiring: 'I missed it and this is on me'

Bruce Kluckhohn / National Hockey League / Getty

The man who brought Paul Fenton to the Minnesota Wild now acknowledges he didn't choose the right candidate.

Craig Leipold, the club's owner, took responsibility for the former general manager's hiring while discussing Fenton's abrupt firing Tuesday.

“I missed it and this is on me," Leipold told reporters, prefacing the remark by saying morale showed him that the Wild didn't have the right leader, according to The Athletic's Michael Russo.

Fenton was axed after only one season as Wild GM. Minnesota missed the playoffs. There was speculation that Fenton was dismissed because several of his deals backfired, but Leipold insisted the decision wasn't based on those trades.

"The reason for the termination is not any one big issue," the owner added. "It was over time, smaller issues were building up. It was not a good fit."

Leipold then elaborated, shedding light on the former Nashville Predators executive's perceived strengths as well as his apparent weaknesses.

"I knew him in a different way," Leipold said. "He was an assistant general manager really doing scouting. That was his role. And he was tremendous at that. It was the other portion of being a general manager: the organizational, the strategic, the management of people, the hiring and motivating of the departments - when I talk about not being a fit, that's what I'm referring to."

Leipold also said exit interviews with players indicated there was a sense things weren't OK. The owner added that he called almost every player Tuesday, including defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who can become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Fenton was fired about four months into the club's offseason and with about a month and a half remaining until training camp begins for 2019-20.

Minnesota's former GM oversaw the team's draft in June. His head-scratching moves included inking forward Mats Zuccarello - who turns 32 on Sept. 1 - to a five-year, $30-million contract on July 1, trading Nino Niederreiter for Victor Rask, dealing the consistently productive Mikael Granlund to the Predators for young winger Kevin Fiala, and sending versatile center Charlie Coyle to the Boston Bruins for Ryan Donato.

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Wild owner admits he botched Fenton hiring: 'I missed it and this is on me'
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