Wild Maximizing 2023 Trade Deadline by Making Low-Risk Moves

While most the hockey world was focused on the flurry of trade action yesterday (Feb. 28), the Minnesota Wild quietly dropped the New York Islanders in a shootout thanks to an otherworldly performance from Filip Gustavsson. The win brings the Wild to a season-long seven-game point streak in which they have gone 6-0-1, the only overtime loss coming against the all-in Toronto Maple Leafs and the silky hands of William Nylander.

The recent streak has not only pushed the Wild to second place in the Central Division, but they are also just two points back of the top spot in the Western Conference. If the Wild were in the same position in the Eastern Conference, they would likely be dumping every asset they have to acquire some big-name superstars in an attempt to keep pace; and yet, they are doing something even more difficult: being cautious and smart.

Wild Trades to Date

They may not have acquired any superstars or made any mind-numbing moves, but the Wild have been active in the last couple of weeks. They capitalized on a rare surplus of cap space by acting as the third team in two separate trades, collecting a fourth-round pick and a fifth-round pick for retaining salary from the Ryan O’Reilly and Dmitry Orlov deals. They have now flipped that fifth-round pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Gustav Nyquist at 50% of his cap hit and salary.

Gustav Nyquist Columbus Blue Jackets
Gustav Nyquist, Former Columbus Blue Jacket (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Nyquist has been out with a shoulder injury but should be available for the playoffs. To get a bit of a boost for the remaining 21 regular-season games, the Wild also acquired a familiar face in Marcus Johansson. Johansson played with the team during a COVID-shortened 2020-21 season and cost them a 2024 third-rounder. Both players are unrestricted free agents at the end of the season and will likely not be re-signed.

Johansson & Nyquist Bring Veteran Presence

Nyquist and Johansson may not directly fill the Wild’s need for an elite scorer to help bolster a floundering offense, but they do bring a veteran presence in the form of speed, skill, and smarts.

“We have enough grit, we have enough toughness, size,” general manager Bill Guerin said. “These two players I think are what we were missing, what we needed, and that is they’re both highly-skilled guys.”

from ‘Wild deals: What they mean and what’s next as NHL trade deadline approaches ,’ The Athletic, March 1, 2023

Johansson brings 478 points in 916 career NHL games and 43 points in 103 playoff games. His 13 goals in 60 games with the Washington Capitals already rank fifth on the Wild, and over half of them have come at even strength, where the Wild have struggled this season. If he can maintain his 57.12 Corsi-for percentage (CF%) and 57.21 expected goals-for percentage (xGF%) -and stays healthy- he could be a very good addition down the stretch.

Marcus Johansson Minnesota Wild
Marcus Johansson, Minnesota Wild (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

Nyquist is a consistent 40-50-point producer, including 53 points in 2021-22. His 444 points came from 765 NHL games, 65 of which were in the playoffs. While it is unlikely we see him play in a Wild jersey until the very end of the season, the price paid was minuscule, considering they can now add an extra point-producing forward at such a critical time.

Wild Could Be Done

The net gain is two players with over 1500 NHL games of experience and a fourth-round pick in exchange for a third-round pick and some extra cap space, but there is a strong possibility they aren’t done yet. With two days remaining and over $7 million of cap space still available, the Wild are primed to be patient and hunt for another steal and are fully prepared to not make another move.

Related: Wild Trade Deadline Roster Ranking: Untouchable to Unwanted

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Keeping in mind that there is no limit to the roster size past the deadline, the Wild’s new acquisitions – and assuming Dakota Mermis is sent back to the Iowa Wild once Jonas Brodin is healthy – would bring them to 15 forwards, seven defensemen, and two goalies. My guess is that Johansson slots in on the second line for Marcus Foligno, who, in turn, bumps down Brandon Duhaime, making Sam Steel and Mason Shaw the healthy scratches:

Kirill Kaprizov – Ryan Hartman – Mats Zuccarello
Marcus Johansson – Joel Eriksson Ek – Matt Boldy
Jordan Greenway – Frederick Gaudreau – Marcus Foligno
Brandon Duhaime – Connor Dewar – Ryan Reeves

This lineup might not be as star-studded as the New York Rangers or Maple Leafs, but it has some solid offensive potential with deep defensive depth and will only get better with a healthy Nyquist. As the Wild continue to roll in the points, seem to be getting depth scoring again, and have an elite goalie in Filip Gustavsson, they are primed to catch fire at the perfect time and could be a very strong playoff team.

*Salary Cap information from capfriendly.com, player statistics from naturalstattrick.com

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