Monday, the Minnesota Wild placed center Tyler Graovac on waivers.
The fourth-line pivot hasn’t been awful during his delayed rookie season. The 23-year-old made the Wild out of camp last year, but an opening night injury left him on the shelf for months and then forced to work on his recovery in Iowa. At times, he’s been a reliable presence on the fourth line with Chris Stewart and a rotating cast on the other wing. But he’s also struggled at times, possibly because of a lack of NHL experience. Either way, his 39.9 percent adjusted CF% isn’t thrilling.
Boudreau said Matt Dumba is probably out tomorrow. Also said defensive zone draws sealed Graovac's fate #mnwild
— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) February 13, 2017
The 6-foot-5 forward has the ability to use his size to his advantage along the boards and isn’t without offensive gifts. While he has just six goals in 45 games this year, in his last injury-free season he put up 21 goals and 46 points through 73 games in the AHL. That offense was accumulated on an absolutely dreadful Iowa team that struggled to find ways to score. That season, he was the first player in Iowa franchise history to surpass 20 goals.
Nonetheless, Graovac has value. He’s still young and improving with an affordable cap hit of $675,000 that he’ll carry into next season before being a restricted free agent. There should be suitors out there for Graovac now that he’s on waivers. There’s a good chance he’s claimed.General manager Chuck Fletcher even said as much Monday. So, here’s a look at six teams that might be interested in his services.
Like most presidential candidates, the Coyotes have shown over the years that they’re willing to make an outlandish claim. (See: Tikhonov, Viktor; Plotnikov, Sergei.) With a team that’s built for a future season and looking to trade away center Martin Hanzal, Graovac might be a good fit.
They’re a team with plenty of young forwards and prospects, but depth is useful and they may find themselves in a situation where they need to deal some forward prospects to bolster their blue line. Adding more young players in their situation can’t hurt them as they work to fulfill a plan to make Arizona competitive again.
The ‘Canes are young and making a push toward big improvements with a young forward group that is deep on the wings. Adding a big young center starts to round out a forward group that has some heavy, high-skill forwards on the way. Graovac can help shore up their center depth and continue putting young players on the team to create a core that will stick around for a long while.
The cellar-dwelling Avs need to build toward the future and they need prospects, even if Graovac isn’t exactly a top-six forward. At the end of the season, veterans Jarome Iginla and John Mitchell will be moving along, as might 26-year-old Andreas Martinsen. Adding a big depth center works for right now as they look to sell off pieces at the deadline and works for the future as they add a young forward who can grow with their prospect pool, even if it’s just a little wading pool right now.
St. Louis Blues
Graovac might not be a long-term fit for the Blues, but there’s a certain logic to grabbing him as a part of a push toward a playoff berth. The Blues are down Kyle Brodziak, their usual fourth-line center. They’re also dealing with a minor injury to Paul Stastny.
That added depth is a cheap way to help the team’s depth toward a postseason berth. Additionally, new head coach Mike Yeo is familiar with Graovac from his time in Minnesota. In fact, Yeo had Graovac as a part of last season’s opening night roster.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Graovac might be a nice solution for Lou Lamoriello’s team. They want to make a push to the postseason, but also want to follow through on their rebuild. Grabbing a 23-year-old center for nothing might be a nice middle ground of giving them some additional depth without selling off any assets or draft picks.
He might be a better fit than Ben Smith and with coach Mike Babcock saying William Nylander won’t be playing center this season, added center depth could be useful for the Leafs.
The Canucks dodged a bullet when an MRI revealed Monday that Bo Horvat has only a deep bruise after blocking a Jack Eichel shot over the weekend. But the team could still use a reliable fourth-line center. Graovac may be capable helping the Canucks stay in the postseason race while keeping an eye on the future, especially if they’re looking at the possibility of trading away a veteran or two and are still unwilling to admit they need to rebuild.
Dustin Nelson writes about news and the Minnesota Wild for The Hockey Writers.