The Minnesota Wild struck arguably the most significant trade on deadline day, acquiring the reigning Vezina Trophy winner in Marc-André Fleury in exchange for a conditional second-round draft pick. There’s an awful lot to love about this trade if you’re a Wild fan, so let’s see why they might be the big winners in this deadline blockbuster.
Fleury Should Stabilize the Crease
Fleury has been one of the NHL’s best goaltenders for over a decade now. He’s one of three NHL goaltenders ever to record 500 wins (currently sits at 511) and has a career save percentage (SV%) of .912.
Even last season, at 36 years old, Fleury put together one of his best campaigns ever with a .928 SV% and a 1.98 goals-against average (GAA). His numbers are down to a .908 SV% with a 2.95 GAA this season, but he was with the rebuilding Chicago Blackhawks, who have struggled all season defensively.
Due to their recent struggles in the net, primarily from Cam Talbot (before his 28-save shutout Monday night), the Wild eventually realized that going out and acquiring a goaltender at the deadline was a priority. With Fleury, they easily got the best one available.
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This has to be an all-in year for the Wild. Their upcoming cap situation because of the buyouts to Zach Parise and Ryan Suter will make it very hard for the team to maximize their chances of winning a Stanley Cup.
Wild Pay a Fair Price
It was clear that the Wild didn’t want to give up a first-round pick for Fleury, but that was the asking price from the Blackhawks. Eventually, a fair compromise was reached, as they dealt a conditional second-round draft pick to the Blackhawks.
For the second-round pick to become a first, the Wild will have to reach the Western Conference Final, and Fleury would have to win four games during the first two rounds. So, essentially, the only way this turns into a first-round pick is if the Wild go on their deepest playoff run in franchise history. In which case, no one will be sad about losing a first-round selection.
The Wild also didn’t have to subtract from their prospect pool, which is one of the best in the entire NHL. They secured a trade that will only see them pay a first-round pick if Fleury has a massive impact on the Wild having their deepest playoff run ever. If they don’t achieve that, as disappointing as it would be, a second-round pick isn’t a crazy price to pay for a player of Fleury’s calibre.
Fleury Deal Helps Another Trade
With Fleury and Talbot being the Wild’s goaltending duo the rest of the season, they found themselves faced with a decision on what to do with young goaltender Kaapo Kähkönen. The 25-year-old netminder is currently 12-9 on the season with a .910 SV%.
Luckily for general manager Bill Guerin, Kähkönen did have value, and he wasn’t someone the Wild wanted another team to take for little in return. So, they flipped him and a fifth-round pick to the San Jose Sharks for defenceman Jacob Middleton shortly after the Fleury deal was announced.
Jacob Middleton is yet another solid depth defenceman who’s having a strong season, playing 15-20 minutes a night. No team can ever have enough quality NHL defencemen on their roster, and the Wild have more than enough now in preparation for what promises to be a deep playoff run.
Middleton doesn’t provide much offence, with just nine points in 46 games this season. He also takes his fair share of penalties, with 69 penalty minutes this season. However, that’s sometimes what you get with a physical defenceman, as he currently has 91 hits and 90 shot blocks, which are qualities that teams value in the spring.
Overall, the Wild must feel confident with their moves on deadline day, primarily with the acquisition of Fleury. By adding him for a reasonable price, they are gaining a massive upgrade in a year in which it makes complete sense to go all in. They were also able to move their former backup goaltender for additional depth on the blue line right away. Guerin did what he had to do at this deadline, and now we will wait to see if these moves will pay off for the franchise in a few months’ time.