After a blockbuster deal that sent Jason Zucker to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin has made his expectations clear to his roster:
“I can promise you this: If there is quit, there will be more trades,” Guerin said after acquiring Alex Galchenyuk, prospect Calen Addison and a lottery-protected 2020 first-round pick. “I wholeheartedly expect this team to compete for a playoff spot. We’re right there, and if there’s any signs of anybody taking their foot off the gas, that will be an indication,”‘Not done yet? GM Bill Guerin: If Wild quit, ‘there will be more trades’’ The Athletic, 2/11/2020.
Right now, those are lofty expectations. The Wild are four points behind the Arizona Coyotes for the last Western Conference wild-card spot. While they’ve played three fewer games than the Coyotes, the Wild’s playoff chances seem slim, at best.
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Assuming the Wild don’t close that gap and take control of a playoff spot in the next two weeks, Guerin will try to sell off whatever pieces he can.
Several players won’t be available: veterans Zach Parise, Mats Zuccarello, Jared Spurgeon, and others have no-movement clauses in their contracts. Still, the Wild have plenty of skaters that can be shipped out.
Big Name Blueliners on the Block
The Wild have had solid depth on the blue line for years, led by Ryan Suter, Matt Dumba, and Jared Spurgeon. Still, 2020 could be the third consecutive season when they miss the postseason and they haven’t advanced past the first round since 2015. That’s usually how trade rumors get started.
In the case of Dumba and Jonas Brodin, the trade rumors have been swelling for a while and they aren’t slowing down. According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, both are on the trading block but at a fairly steep price.
Dreger noted that the Wild are looking for at least a top-six center in return for one of these two defensemen. While there’s a chance that could happen, a trade involving two high-end players switching teams is more likely to happen during the offseason than at the trade deadline.
Dumba is in his seventh NHL season but will turn just 26 years old this offseason, and he carries a $6 million cap hit through the 2022-23 season. He broke out for career highs in goals with 14 and 50 points during the 2017-18 campaign. Last season, he racked up 12 goals and 22 points in just 32 games but missed 50 games after tearing a pectoral muscle.
In 56 games this season, Dumba has managed just four goals and 19 points. He’s struggled to find his offensive game since the injury, but he’s shown the ability to produce strong numbers at the NHL level. That will be enough for a team to take a chance on him.
As for Brodin, the 26-year-old blueliner is under contract through next season with a cap hit of roughly $4.17 million. He is a consistent two-way player and has been since he was selected in the first round in 2011. With a career-high 25 points, Brodin doesn’t offer the same offensive ceiling that Dumba does, so contenders looking for an impact defenseman will likely look to acquire Dumba first.
Guerin Could Flip Galchenyuk
As part of the Zucker deal, the Wild acquired Alex Galchenyuk from the Penguins mostly to keep cap space under control. The 26-year-old winger has 17 points in 46 games this season and really never fit into the Penguins’ system.
Last season, the Florida Panthers acquired Derick Brassard as part of the trade that sent Jared McCann and Nick Bjugstad to Pittsburgh. That same month, the Panthers flipped Brassard to the Colorado Avalanche for a draft pick before the trade deadline. Guerin should do something similar with Galchenyuk.
Assuming Galchenyuk doesn’t click right away, it will be hard to justify signing him to an extension before he hits the open market this offseason. While his trade value is at its lowest, the Wild should try to accumulate as many assets as possible if they decide to sell; the Western Conference playoff race is tight, and a contending team may be willing to overpay at the deadline.
Aging Forwards on the Move?
As for the rest of the roster, it’s really up to Guerin to decide who needs a change of scenery. The only other pending unrestricted free agent besides Galchenyuk is Mikko Koivu; the Wild captain has a no-movement clause and has been with the franchise for his entire 15-year NHL career.
While he’s not considered an “aging” forward, the Wild may instead look to move on from Victor Rask. The team acquired him from the Carolina Hurricanes last season after he posted back-to-back 40-point seasons in the Eastern Conference. However, he’s totaled just 14 points in 63 games with the Wild.
The most likely forward to be on the move is Marcus Foligno. The 28-year-old winger would be a very intriguing bottom-six player on a championship-level team. He’s 6-foot-3, has averaged roughly 200 hits per season since 2013, and he’s pocketed nine goals in 46 games this year. Foligno has a $2.875 million cap hit next season and could give a contending team that little push through the postseason.
Finally, one last option is Eric Staal. The 6-foot-4 veteran center scored 42 goals just two seasons ago and has a shot at surpassing the 60-point mark again this season. He also has one season remaining on his current contract that carries a $3.25 million cap hit, but that also includes a modified no-trade clause that allows him to submit a 10-team, no-trade list.
Of course, according to Guerin’s comments, he wants his team to keep fighting for a postseason berth. If they go on a bit of a roll and find themselves within a point or two of a wild-card spot by the trade deadline, maybe no other trades will come to fruition.