As the NHL Trade Deadline approaches, teams will have to evaluate their roster and how their team is trending. While it can always be said that this is a critical time during the NHL season, it has never been more true than this season. It is an even more difficult process this season because of all the logistics involved this season. The NHL Trade Deadline is set for April 12 which is just after the mid-way point of the 2020-21 season. Due to quarantines and the tight salary cap, it will be a tricky time period for NHL general managers.
It has always been a difficult process but this season especially since it is a shortened season and the general managers only have a small sample size to judge. Due to the logistics including quarantines and making the money work, it wouldn’t be surprising to see less action occur on the usually busy day. The value of adding pieces might be at an all-time low because of this shortened season.
As the date is less than a month away, there is no doubt the process has begun despite the lack of context management has on their teams due to the small sample size. One has to wonder how much the upcoming Seattle Expansion Draft will affect the approach each team has for the big day.
The Wild’s Game Plan
The Wild are in an interesting situation this season which could have been expected before the season began. The Wild currently sit third in the Honda West division with 29 points with games in hand on the St. Louis Blues in front of them. While the Wild are a legitimate playoff team, they need to stray away from buying or adding any pieces. Assuming they make the playoffs, they will have reached their goal in this transition season.
It is good experience for the youth including Joel Eriksson Ek, Jordan Greenway, Kevin Fiala, Kirill Kaprizov, and Nico Sturm. It can help aid their development and can provide valuable experiences that could be critical in the future. The youngsters will most certainly benefit from playoff experience and could be the ultimate test. There is nothing wrong with the Wild losing in the early rounds as it is good experience, so there is nothing to justify spending assets to make an unessential run in a season with no expectations.
The reality is there’s no reason for the Wild to buy or add pieces at the deadline in a transition season. However, the other option is that they could opt to do nothing at the deadline and stick with the team they got. The downside to that approach is the Wild lose valuable draft capital in the upcoming 2021 NHL Entry Draft that could be a huge boost to the retool.
The best option in my opinion for the Wild would be to sell at the deadline. The Wild should move the upcoming unrestricted free-agents that could garner them an array of draft picks. The truth is that they can utilize the trade deadline to accelerate the retool through the draft – something the Wild haven’t done in the past.
Several Potential Trade Deadline Assets
Bjugstad one of the Wild’s best assets that they can dangle at the deadline. The 28-year-old center has displayed his ability to be a strong middle-six center that can be a reliable two-way player. He has four goals and 8 points in 23 games. However, his point production doesn’t give the full picture.
He’s been a strong forward who has been highly effective for the Wild despite the lack of production. His affordability is what makes him a very attractive trade target. He could be a reliable third or fourth-line center for a contending team that has a lack of depth down the middle. He is on the last year of his contract with a cap hit of just over $2 million.
Johansson has been very underwhelming this season, to say the least. However, his 94 games of playoff experience and his past play might make him a player that teams may desire to have. The 30-year-old forward has two goals and an assist in 11 games this season. Given his success with the Washington Capitals, one has to wonder if he could be a legitimate trade target for teams. It may be a concern that he has been injured which has hindered his way to get in the lineup. If the Wild were to retain half of his contract, a team would be getting a veteran forward for just over $2 million.
Bonino has also had a very underwhelming start to the season. His Stanley Cup-winning pedigree and success as a depth piece in the playoffs could cause a contender to desire to add him as their fourth-line center. The 32-year-old center has two goals and five points in 22 games. While he has been very poor in almost everything, one facet he has excelled in is his success in the faceoff circle. The veteran center has won 53.4% of his draws and could be a huge asset to a team struggling in the faceoff circle. If the Wild were to retain half of his contract, he would roughly be around $2 million which isn’t too expensive for a rental.
There are plenty of other players the Wild could move too including Victor Rask, Ian Cole, and Brad Hunt.
It is very important for Minnesota to utilize the upcoming NHL trade deadline. It can be an effective path to accumulate draft picks as building through the draft is the best way to build a contender. The Wild should sell as many expendable assets as they can in order to use this as a way to accelerate the retool. They have several pending unrestricted free-agents that can be dangled at the deadline for valuable and important assets.
Aaron Heckmann covers the Wild for The Hockey Writers & Zone Coverage. His data-driven articles are focused on solving problems, telling stories, and discovering unique storylines. Find him on Twitter @aaron_heckmann.