With the trade deadline rapidly approaching, the Minnesota Wild are once again stuck between a rock and a hard place.
The optimists will say the team is just five points out of a wild card spot. But on the flip side, the naysayers will tell you the exact same thing, along with the fact the Wild have to jump over three teams just to get there. That’s no easy feat for a team that has roughly one-third of their season remaining. It’s just that difficult to jump over teams in the NHL with its current points system.
General manager Bill Guerin is in his first season at the helm of the Wild. As Guerin was a late-offseason addition to the front office, it’s been speculated on the Giles and the Goalie podcast that he would take until the deadline at the very earliest before making a major roster move.
With the deadline right in front of him, the time is now for Guerin to make his first moves as general manager.
Not minor moves — major moves.
The Minnesota Wild have long traded players when their value was lower than what it normally should be. Settling for less than face value return might have been allowable while the team was making the playoffs, but now with the team stuck on the outside of the postseason but never really bottoming out, the time is ripe for the team to sell off some assets while their value is highest. The Wild need draft capital badly, and the upcoming deadline will be the best place for them to stockpile some more.
Yes, the team has its first- and second-round picks this year, along with rounds four through seven. Round three, some may remember, went to Nashville on draft day last season so the Wild could move up to pick No. 75 and draft Adam Beckman. But adding more draft picks to the pot is never a bad idea, especially if you want to move up at some point in the draft to grab a player you really love.
Imagine if the Wild wanted to move up from the 11th pick of the first round to, say, the 4-6 region to grab a player they value. Now imagine they had an extra first-rounder in the draft this year because they traded a Jonas Brodin or Eric Staal at the deadline. That move up in the draft becomes a lot more enticing because the Wild have the assets.
Sure, the Wild don’t need to trade up either. They could hang on to their first rounders and whatever other draft picks they accumulate, but the point remains: the Wild badly need to stockpile draft picks.
The team needs to continue getting younger. The last two drafts under now-former general manager Paul Fenton have been very promising, with the final results still several years away. But it’s a good start to replenish a prospect cupboard that went barren at the end of Chuck Fletcher’s tenure as general manager. More because he was giving first- and second-round picks away like candy on Halloween.
Minnesota and Guerin are also afforded the opportunity to make some moves now and maximize value on players because they have some young players knocking on the door of – or have already reached – the NHL roster and could step up into a higher profile position.
Say you move a Brodin. The Wild have players like Carson Soucy and Nick Seeler, among others, who can jump up and take his spot. Moving Staal would allow a young promising player like Joel Eriksson Ek an extended chance in the top six to prove his worth and make his case to stay there on a permanent basis.
With star prospect Kirill Kaprizov on the horizon for next season, the Wild will have to clear out some space on the wing for his arrival. Jason Zucker is once again a hot commodity and also could fetch the Wild a decent return, especially with wing-starved teams like Pittsburgh knocking on the Wild’s door. It also puts the likes of Luke Kunin, Jordan Greenway, Kevin Fiala and Marcus Foligno out on the market to equally make space on the wing, where the Wild are heavily stacked.
Foligno is a tempting asset to move at the deadline, as he has one year remaining on his contract and has shown defensive prowess at the forward position for Minnesota. A team could greatly use a guy like Foligno in their bottom six for the playoffs, and the Wild should capitalize on that value.
It’s very possible the Wild go on a run out of their bye and put themselves in an even better position to make the playoffs. With just 27 days before the Feb. 24 deadline, MoneyPuck.com has the Wild at 45.1 percent to make the postseason. A 7-3 or 8-2 stretch out of the bye would greatly increase those odds, and would heavily impact the decision-making that Guerin and company make before the deadline.
But a run like that shouldn’t impact their decision-making process. The time to capitalize on player value is now for Minnesota. Don’t let a possible hot stretch up to the deadline take away from the fact this franchise badly needs to restock its draft/prospect assets.
The Wild’s only way out of mediocrity is going to be finding a star through the draft, and having more picks will only increase the chances of making it happen.
If Guerin does not make moves at the deadline, then you can expect the Wild to remain exactly where they are now.
In other words: stuck in mediocrity.