With trade deadline speculation in full force around the league, the Minnesota Wild have yet to tip their hand in regards to any potential activity. It’s clear that the current Central Division leaders are buyers if a move is going to be made, but few rumors have made sense or proven credible.
I’ll preface this deadline exploration by first saying I am firmly in the camp that believes the Wild would be better off standing pat with the current roster. Having mortgaged the future by dealing draft pick after draft pick in past years, there is less reason to pursue rental players with how well this season has gone.
Setting my opinion aside, the Wild could probably use a bottom-six forward in a perfect world, specifically a center. According to reports, there are quite a few available and some would make sense at the right price.
Of all the potential trade targets out there, Brian Boyle makes the most sense from a number of standpoints.
First of all, he’s affordable with a meager $2 million cap hit. The Wild are limited in who they can pursue since they only have about $3 million in wiggle room.
Secondly, he’s an imposing figure standing at 6’7 and 244 lbs. That would make him an immediate physical presence for a Wild squad that ranks 29th in hits.
On top of his size, Boyle’s numbers are more than respectable for someone averaging about 14 minutes a night. His 13 goals and nine assists would be a vast improvement to the Wild’s current fourth line center Tyler Graovac who has six goals and no assists. Boyle also wins 53.7% of faceoffs compared to Graovac’s 47.6%.
Statistically and peripherally speaking, Boyle would be a solid addition target assuming the Tampa Bay Lightning and general manager Steve Yzerman are prepared to willing to sell. The two wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference are virtually up for grabs, but the Lightning are six points out of a playoff spot. That being said, it’s going take an offer the Bolts can’t refuse to pry away an integral part of a team that many predicted to win the Stanley Cup this year.
I’ve been curious about Martin Hanzal for a few years now. My belief is that he’s a better player than he’s given credit for and would flourish given an opportunity on a better team. Being stuck on the lowly Arizona Coyotes for his entire career has been an issue, but 2017 could finally be the year he gets a chance elsewhere as there is a lot of interest for his services.
Money is going to be the biggest issue when it comes to the Wild acquiring Hanzal. His $3.1 million cap hit is probably a deal breaker unless the Wild are willing to part ways with a player asset or the Coyotes retain a portion of his salary.
Similar to Boyle, Hanzal towers over opponents at 6’6 and provides two-way help down the middle. He is an active player that will shoot, hit, block shots and kill penalties. Add in the likelihood that he reaches 20 goals this season, and Hanzal’s versatility is attractive.
I could definitely see the Wild inquiring about Hanzal, but the asking price is likely too much.
Vrbata is another member of the Coyotes and would provide immediate scoring from the wing position. At 35-years old, he is quietly approaching his 1,000th game and 600 points for his career. He’s only two years removed from a 30-goal performance for the Vancouver Canucks and leads the Coyotes this season with 42 points in 59 games. On top of that, his cap hit is only $1 million + bonuses.
So what’s not to love?
The biggest concern when it comes to the Czech-winger is how streaky he has proven to be throughout his career. He followed up the aforementioned 30-goal season with an atrocious 27-point, minus-30 performance the next year. Basically, you just don’t know which Vrbata you’re going to get.
He’s also not highly regarded as a two-way player considering he makes the most impact in the offensive zone. Given that, it’s unlikely that any team willing to cough up a high draft pick for Vrbata would stick him in a third or fourth-line checking role. With the Wild’s top-six forwards more or less locked in, I just don’t see Bruce Boudreau disrupting the chemistry of his top lines just to legitimize a trade like this
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Winter in Minnesota would be awful without hockey.