It was a big price to pay but Minnesota Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher made it clear that he means business. The long-time GM put his cards on the table for all to see as he acquired arguably the top forward rental on the trade market three days before the NHL’s deadline.
The already deep Wild forward group instantly had its two biggest holes filled following a significant trade with the Arizona Coyotes. The team brought in big two-way centre Martin Hanzal and bruising winger Ryan White from their Western Conference foes without subtracting anything off their active roster.
— NHL (@NHL) February 27, 2017
The specifics of the deal see Hanzal, White and a 2017 fourth-round draft pick head from Arizona to Minnesota in exchange for minor league forward Grayson Downing, a 2017 first-round pick, a 2018 second-round pick and a 2019 conditional fourth-round pick.
The conditional fourth-round pick can become a 2019 third-round pick if the Wild win one playoff round or a 2019 second-round pick should the Wild win two or more rounds during this year’s postseason. The pick is also conditional on Hanzal playing in at least 50% of Minnesota’s playoff contests.
Another key element for the Wild in this trade is that the Coyotes will be retaining half of Hanzal’s $3.1 million salary. The salary retention will ensure that the Wild still have a bit of breathing room under the cap should they choose to explore further moves prior to deadline day. CapFriendly estimates that Minnesota has just north of $1.8 million in deadline cap space remaining.
What Minnesota Gets in Hanzal
In acquiring the 6-foot-6 Hanzal, the Wild have secured the services of a strong two-way centre who excels in the dot and doesn’t shy away from physical play. The 30-year-old pivot ranks inside the NHL’s top ten faceoff men, winning 56 percent of the draws he takes. He also averages more than two hits per game and was a regular on the Coyotes power play and penalty kill.
The biggest question surrounding Hanzal is his durability. The Czech centre hasn’t played more than 66 games in a season since 2009-10 and has missed ten games already this year. The good news is that he’s healthy now and hasn’t missed time with anything significant this season. Hanzal has averaged over 18 minutes per game throughout his NHL career so he should be able to handle the ice time he gets from head coach Bruce Boudreau in Minnesota.
Hanzal displays excellent defensive awareness and is also capable of chipping in offensively. He received 60 percent defensive zone starts with the Coyotes this season and was used as their primary shutdown centre option. He also hit the score sheet often enough to rank third on the team in scoring at the time of the trade.
While not the smoothest skater, the centreman is strong enough to fend off his attackers and protect the puck. The big forward is not easy to play against and was one of Arizona’s top possession players. His versatility is also beneficial as he provides the Wild with both secondary scoring and a secondary shutdown option after captain Mikko Koivu. Hanzal hasn’t been to the postseason since 2011-12 and will be itching for a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup.
What Minnesota Gets in White
Not to be overlooked, the addition of White helps solidify the Wild’s fourth line and could finally put an end to the carousel of players auditioning for duty. White brings an aggressive puck hound mentality to the ice each and every night. He was the Coyotes’ hits leader among forwards (138) and averaged three hits per game despite skating in less than 11 minutes each contest.
The rugged forward plays with an edge and has dropped the gloves four times this year. It’s that sandpaper style that also made him Arizona’s penalty minutes leader with 70 minutes spent in the sin bin. White can play both centre and wing and can also chip in with the odd goal. He has seven goals and 13 points on the year which are approaching his career-highs of 11 goals and 16 points.
Another valuable asset that White brings to the Wild is his 294 games of NHL experience. He’s an established NHL player which is something that most of their try-outs for the fourth line this season were not. At 28-years of age and on an expiring contract, White is a pure rental. He adds depth to the forward group and should fit in well on the team’s fourth line alongside a player of a similar mould in Chris Stewart.
Where They Fit In
Coach Boudreau will be happy with the acquisition of his two new forwards as they give him several additional possibilities for line combinations. The team experimented with various combinations prior to embarking on their mandated five-day break and the only sure conclusion is that they won’t be breaking up the ever-dangerous line of Koivu, Jason Zucker and Mikael Granlund.
Eric Staal was recently reunited with power wingers Niederreiter and Coyle but, being stuck in the midst of a pretty significant slump, the veteran centre could find himself bumped down to the third line coming out of the bye week. Personally, I would love to see a trio of Hanzal, Niederreiter and Coyle as they would give the opposition headaches in their own zone. The line has the potential to excel in controlling the play down low by creating a cycle and wearing down defenders along the boards.
Hanzal was advertised as an elite third-line centre when he was on the trade market so that may ultimately be his landing spot in the Wild lineup. Third-line centre duty would place the newcomer between veterans Zach Parise and the streaking Jason Pominville while bumping Erik Haula down to the fourth line. The Wild would benefit greatly if the feisty Parise could develop chemistry with a large centre like Hanzal holding onto the puck while he gets into scoring positions. It would be an absolute win if the former 45-goal scorer rediscovered his offensive magic alongside the 226-pound pivot.
White’s spot in the lineup is an obvious one. He’s tailor-made for a fourth-line checking position and will fit right in next to Stewart. The lightning fast Haula should see an increase in space and time with the extra open ice created by his two heavy wingers running around.
Newly re-signed Ryan Carter is eligible to play in the playoffs with Minnesota and, should he find his legs and get his timing down in the AHL, he could come up and be the perfect 13th forward heading into the postseason. Jordan Schroeder might remain on the active roster but is not likely to see much playing time down the stretch while 23-year-old Tyler Graovac could be in the minors to stay after failing to impress.
The Wild’s starting forward corps is now twelve skaters deep and without any glaring weaknesses. They have the ability to slot every single one of their forwards into roles suitable for their abilities and skillsets. The team should benefit greatly from the additions of Hanzal and White, who could very well be the final pieces to a Stanley Cup winning puzzle.
Mark Bowie covers the Edmonton Oilers and the QMJHL for THW.