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We are just two weeks away from the March 3 NHL trade deadline. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered Daily face-to-face with at least one trade-focused story each day before the deadline day.
Today we’re going to focus on the Minnesota Wild, who have a precarious hold on the final Western Conference playoff spot.
2023 trading deadline countdown: 16 days
Current record: 28-20-5, 61 points (2nd Wild Card)
General Manager: Bill Guerin (4th season)
Head Coach: Dean Evason (3rd full season)
Captain: Jared Spurgeon (3rd season)
Last year: Lost to the St. Louis Blues (4-2) in the Western Conference quarterfinals.
Current schedule: Click here
Goals for: 2.91 per game (24th)
Goals conceded: 2.85 per game (12th)
Power play: 23.5% (9th)
Penalty Kill: 81% (10th)
C Sam Steel – Signing a one-year, $825,000 contract on August 30
RW Ryan Reaves – Acquired from NY Rangers on November 23
G Filip Gustavsson – Acquired from Ottawa on July 12
LW Kevin Fiala – Rights traded in Los Angeles on June 29
G Cam Talbot – Traded to Ottawa July 12
C Nick Bjugstad – Signed a one-year, $900,000 contract in Arizona on July 13
LD Jordie Benn – Signed a one-year, $750,000 contract in Toronto on July 14
LD Dmitry Kulikov – Traded to Anaheim on Aug. 31
LW Tyson Jost – Claimed waivers by Buffalo Nov. 19
RW Marcus Foligno – will miss Wednesday’s game (knee) but should be day to day
For the most part, the Wild have been very healthy this season. Almost half of their skaters have played all of the games; they have only used 29 players in total this season, including the two goalkeepers. Ryan Hartman has missed 22 games with a shoulder injury. Jonas Brodin missed eight games with a « lower body » injury. Jordan Greenway was injured on his season debut, missed 18 games overall, but has been available in every game since the day Ryan Reaves was acquired before US Thanksgiving.
Rewind: Deadline 2022 Playbook
It is often useful to take a look at what was executed at last year’s trade deadline to see what can be gleaned for insight into how this year might be approached.
March 21, 2022
In Minnesota: Marc-André Fleury
In Chicago: 2022 2nd Round Pick (Ryan Greene), 50% retained
March 21, 2022
In Minnesota: Jacob Middleton
In San Jose: Kaapo Kahkonen, 2022 5th round pick (Jake Furlong)
March 19, 2022
In Minnesota: Nicolas Deslauriers
To Anaheim: 2023 3rd round pick
March 21, 2022
To Minnesota: 2022 2nd round pick (Hunter Haight)
In Arizona: Jack McBain
March 15, 2022
In Minnesota: Tyson Jost
In Colorado: Nico Sturm
March 21, 2022
In Minnesota: Future Considerations
In Seattle: Victor Rask
The Wild were incredibly active in the limit period, making six trades in an effort to improve their roster. Fleury was the big addition to the deadline, which was interesting because they were able to add him (and re-sign him to a two-year contract this summer) while improving their draft committee by trading first unsigned prospect Jack McBain to the Coyotes in the previous hours. With an excess goalie, the Wild traded Kahkonen to the Sharks in exchange for Middleton, who was also re-signed to a three-year extension this summer. Adding grit and personality was a key theme in last year’s trade for Nicolas Deslauriers and November’s deal for Reaves. Along the way, the Wild made some shrewd salary cap trades — like making a few million dollars by trading Filip Gustavsson for Cam Talbot or playing a better player in Jost to get Colorado out of their cap with Sturm.
How did we get here?
The Wild’s season has swirled around like a harsh winter wind in Minnesota for the past few weeks. They’ve struggled on both sides of the All-Star break, plummeting in the standings with a 3-6-1 record in their last 10 games — and none of those wins are regulation. Their slide put Minnesota’s playoff position on thin ice, as it came at the exact moment the Colorado Avalanche began to recover, toppling the Central Division standings.
In a way, this year has been three different seasons rolled into one for the Wild. They fell out of the gate with a 9-8-2 record (86 point pace). Then general manager Bill Guerin pulled the trigger on a pre-Thanksgiving trade for Ryan Reaves based on what he said was a hunch for the arrogance and personality the team lacked. It was the touch of a general manager who recently played in the league and won the Stanley Cup and has a visceral, visceral feel for his team dynamic. Minnesota took off. They racked up points in 18 of their next 24 games (16-6-2), which seemed to supplant them in the heart of a crowded Central Division.
Now they are in the middle of a drought. They struggled to score, especially at even strength. And there’s a hint of fragility in their game and in their dressing room at the moment as they’ve been brawling. In their last 10 games, the Wild have scored just 10 even-strength goals (10 even-strength, nine power-play, one shorthanded, one shootout). With such a goal bonus, it added stress to their defense and goalkeeper. The goalkeeper was no problem, but the defense showed signs of cracking with what coach Dean Evason repeatedly said was poor decision making in pinch and neutral zone situations, leading to odd man opportunities and high danger odds against . All of this begs the question: what will Guerin do to change the fate of the Wild season?
Delay posture: cautious buyers
Guerin has said many times this season that he won’t be able to get the Wild out of trouble. And that rings true now. Here’s the thing: the Wild is between a rock and a hard place.
They have a world player in Kirill Kaprizov at the height of his career. They have the composition of a team that could be tough in the playoffs, if they can get into it. They have space to spend this season.
But they have to deal with a specific set of parameters. With Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts hitting $14.75 million in dead space next season, the Wild probably can’t face a player whose contract is up. And at the same time, they won’t want to dip into their prospect pool or the top end of their draft board, because they’ll need as many young players as possible contributing to inexpensive entry-level deals. while these takeovers take their toll. on their cap.
So that means the Wild lives in a world of likely second-tier acquisitions looking for rentals that won’t cost a ton to try and secure a playoff spot. Or, of course, you can’t rule out a good old-fashioned hockey trade – but those are increasingly rare.
With this framework, here are the areas the Wild could address:
Main objective: center of impact
We’ve argued before that the Wild badly need a true No. 1 center, but that player doesn’t seem to be materializing in the open market. Adding a Bo Horvat or Dylan Larkin would have been a phenomenal upgrade had they been able to get their hands on a player of this magnitude, someone who can make Kaprizov even more dangerous on the front line. The Wild say, however, that they are not necessarily married to acquiring a center and would consider any scoring help.
Secondary objective: Defender of the depths
Notice that we wrote “defender” and not “defender”. Because listening to Evason, as mentioned above, the Wild could apparently use a defender who can calm things down – especially through the neutral zone – instead of increasing their risk profile. A true defender could take a lot of heat and pressure off Minnesota’s overall team play.
Tertiary objective: Consider a market for Dumba
At this point, we don’t think Guerin’s phone has been ringing non-stop with teams interested in Matt Dumba, who is an unrestricted free agent pending. This could change in the days and hours leading up to the deadline. Other than that, the Wild won’t be desperate to salvage a trump card or two to leave Dumba. They prefer to keep it as a classic “own rental”.
Potential targets 🎯
Let’s line up the Wild with some names from our last Trade Targets chart:
- Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues: Center. Check. Arouses character. Check. 2019 Conn Smythe Trophy winner. Check. The Blues captain really seems to tick a lot of boxes for the Wild. The only one he does not currently know would be the cost of acquisition. If O’Reilly slips into second-round pick territory, it’s easy to see Minnesota’s interest.
- Nick Bonino, San Jose Sharks: Bonino will not be expensive. He is incredibly smart. And he is the model of constancy. Guerin has seen Bonino’s impact in Pittsburgh’s two Stanley Cup innings and he could be an added value.
- Taylor Raddysh, Chicago Blackhawks: The cost of acquiring Raddysh probably wouldn’t be cheap. But if the Wild were to go the winger route, he’s been productive and that contract next season below the league minimum would be a perfect guy for their salary cap situation.
- Luke Schenn, Minnesota Wild: Schenn is the type of stylistic defenseman who can help Minnesota. He doesn’t take unnecessary risks, he’s physical and he won’t break the bank on acquisition cost – and he’s a player the Wild could re-sign for next season if they like him.
- Salary cap space: The Wild are one of the few teams in a playoff position with no real salary cap issues for this season. They have accumulated space all year round. According to CapFriendly, they could currently afford to add an $11 million player, up to $16 million in total salary by the deadline.
- DR Matt Dumba: It’s no secret that the Wild would be willing to deal Dumba under the right circumstances. We’ve broken down his game in a detailed trade deadline player profile as a real boom or bust addition.
- 2023-2024 2nd Round Pick, 2024 3rd Round Pick: The Wild would rather not deal with this year’s top pick if it is avoidable.
- B-level prospects: The Wild won’t be trading top prospects like Marco Rossi, Jesper Wallstedt, Brock Faber, Carson Lambos or Liam Ohgren.
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