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No expectations, just optimism for the Wild and new defenseman Declan Chisholm

CHICAGO — On his first day with the Minnesota Wild, Declan Chisholm didn’t know a whole lot about what was in store for him.

Did he know any of his new teammates? “No one,” he said.

Did he have a sense of when he might play in a game? “I don’t know,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”

As for his own feelings about being claimed off waivers from Winnipeg and joining a new team, Chisholm had no doubts.

“I wasn’t hoping to be put on waivers, I was just hoping to play,” he said, “and if that took waivers, I was going to be happy if I got picked up on waivers. And that was the case. So, I’m super happy to be here and couldn’t be more grateful.”

The Wild are happy to have Chisholm, a productive American Hockey League player looking for a chance to play. Stuck behind a healthy blue line for a good Winnipeg club (30-13-5), he turned 24 last month.

“He was one of the better defensemen in the American League last year,” general manager Bill Guerin told the Pioneer Press on Wednesday. “He’s a good, young talent, a two-way defenseman who can play second-unit PP. I don’t know why he wasn’t playing with Winnipeg; I think they’ve been relatively healthy, and we figured we’d take a stab at him.”

Multiple teams took a stab, but all the others had better records than the Wild — 21-23-5 headed into Wednesday’s late puck drop against the Blackhawks at United Center. Chisholm has only played in eight games all season and said Wednesday he missed only one of those games — the last in a conditioning stint at AHL Manitoba — because of illness. Other than that, he said, he has been healthy and practicing.

He was still catching his breath when he talked to reporters after Wednesday’s morning skate. Coming off the bye week and all-star break, Chisholm hadn’t skated in eight days. He was able to work out a work visa issue on Tuesday and traveled from Florida to meet the Wild in Chicago on Wednesday.

It was an exciting trip, he said.

“I couldn’t really get in the lineup (in Winnipeg), and I knew if I were to get picked up on waivers, the team’s probably going to pick me up to play me,” he said. “So, that just made me really excited.”

The Wild think they might have a keeper in Chisholm, who has one assist in two games with the Jets this season, and five in six games with Manitoba. With the Moose last season, he had five goals and 43 points in 59 games — tied for sixth among AHL defensemen with 38 assists — but was a minus-13.

In his first two AHL seasons, Chisholm was a combined plus-4.

Asked if he had expectations for Chisholm, Wild head coach John Hynes said, “It’s not about putting expectations on him; it’s trying to find the good in every player and understand what his strengths are, try to put him in positions to succeed and help him.”

“If you can get a player off waivers — particularly a young player like him — and it works out, then you’ve added a really good player to your team,” the coach added. “That’s what we’re looking to do.”

A restricted free agent at season’s end, Chisholm was expected to dress and go through warmups on Wednesday night, and there is a chance he could play on Friday against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Xcel Energy Center.

Whenever he starts playing, Chisholm said his goal is to show Minnesota he should be on the big league roster next season. Three Minnesota blue liners — Alex Goligoski, Zach Bogosian and Dakota Mermis — will be unrestricted free agents at season’s end.

“I’ve got to prove myself as much as I can,” Chisholm said. “You’re always playing for a job, right? So, that’s for next year. I hope I can prove that here for the remainder of the season and earn myself a spot on the team next year full time.”