Expansion is coming. On Wednesday, the Vegas Golden Knights will announce their roster for the upcoming season. This announcement will also bring with it the reveal of who was poached from each NHL team. Every team can protect players of course, but the Minnesota Wild are blessed (or in the case of expansion, cursed) with plentiful depth throughout the lineup.
The looming expansion draft combined with the question of which players should be protected and the need to make moves after a disappointing playoff exit led to Wild GM Chuck Fletcher making his first move of the offseason: he flipped center Tyler Graovac to the Washington Capitals for a 2018 fifth-round pick last week.
Although relatively minor, the trade helps the Wild in two key ways. Firstly, it allows the Wild to get rid of an expendable player. Graovac is an unnecessary asset because of the presence of young centers Joel Eriksson-Ek and prospect Luke Kunin. Even if he was exposed, Vegas would most likely not have taken Gravoac either, especially with the presence of players like Jason Zucker or Erik Haula.
Add to this the fact that Graovac no longer fits with the Wild’s plans, and it was easy to ship him out. He has good size (6-foot-5) and a decent skill set to succeed, but he just couldn’t make the most of the opportunities given to him in the State of Hockey. Now he has a chance to succeed in Washington.
Graovac was drafted in the seventh round, 191st overall by the Wild in 2011. He mostly remained in the minors until the 2013-14 season, where he managed to play three games for the Wild but did not record any points. He won a fourth-line gig to start the 2015-16 season in training camp, but got injured shortly after and was unable to play for the remainder of the season.
He got another chance at a fourth-line role this past season under Bruce Boudreau, but he was benched in favour of Zac Dalpe. He ended up playing 52 games with the Wild this season but didn’t show much in that chunk of playing time. He scored nine points (seven goals, two assists), but other than that, he didn’t have a major impact on the team. Watching Graovac play, it appeared he wasn’t built for Boudreau’s offensive system, which revolves around speed and transitions. Graovac isn’t an awful skater, but skating is something he could work on over the offseason to try and have an impact in Washington.
The trade is also helpful because it allows Minnesota to restock the prospect cupboard a bit. Sure, a fifth-rounder is nothing special, but the Wild will take any picks they can get as they look to the future, especially since they’ve been left with no picks in the first two rounds of this year’s draft and traded away their second-rounder in the 2018 draft to acquire Martin Hanzal.
With an opportunity to succeed for both sides, this trade makes the Wild a winner and is a good start to what should be a very interesting offseason.