After 10 games of subpar play and now with the likelihood that 2020 first-round draft pick Marco Rossi will not return to the Minnesota Wild this season after post-COVID complications, the Wild are incredibly thin at center behind Joel Eriksson Ek.
What general manager Bill Guerin planned to do at center, whether he intended to make another trade before the season started or plug Rossi into the lineup immediately, will remain unknown. Currently, they do not have the depth to put a playmaker on both Kevin Fiala and Kirill Kaprizov‘s lines.
With the Wild entrenched in a battle for the top four of the Honda West Division, are there moves to be made that can help solidify the center position? Here are the options Guerin has to address the position:
Taxi squad/Iowa call up
We saw this route used on Sunday night as the Wild recalled Luke Johnson, Gerry Mayhew and Kyle Rau from their taxi squad to provide relief for their forwards with the loss of Fiala and Marcus Johansson last week. Johnson and Mayhew are listed at centers, and with them already on the taxi squad, they are an option to plug in at center. Johnson had 18 goals, and Mayhew had 61 points for Iowa last season and certainly earned a look on the NHL squad this season.
This is the move that most fans are clamoring for. Guerin will likely be active on the trade front as he continues to try and address the position. Minnesota was in on the Pierre-Luc Dubois sweepstakes. Still, they were ruled out by the Columbus Blue Jackets the night before the center was traded to the Winnipeg Jets because the Wild did not have enough assets to match what the Jets eventually traded for him.
Now it looks more likely that Guerin targets another rental. The Wild lost Matt Dumba over the weekend, who might have been used in a trade for a big-name center. With some decent draft capital at his disposal, it could be very likely that a trade for a rental center happens by the trade deadline.
Stand pat/wait for the offseason
The Wild needs to have a better record than the California teams to earn the 4-seed in the West, so this option might not be the most palatable for all involved. But, if prices for centers are too steep, Guerin may decide he does not want to give up assets to get into the playoffs, only to get smoked by one of the top three teams in the first round.
Minnesota has five draft picks in the first three rounds of the 2021 draft, with an extra two thanks to two separate trades with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Guerin could see this draft as another opportunity to build up his batch of prospects for the future in the hopes of finding long-term solutions next to Fiala and Kaprizov.