The Minnesota Wild have been motivated to keep their defensive core mostly intact. With a deal made between the Wild and the Vegas Golden Knights, the Wild will no longer have to worry. According to Michael Russo of the Star Tribune, the Wild are sending prospect Alex Tuch to the Knights. In exchange, the Knights will select Erik Haula with their expansion pick, leaving the Wild’s defensive core alone.
In exchange for Haula/prospect, it's believed VGK will lay off exposed Dumba/Scandella/Staal, which means MIN could still trade a D in CHI.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 21, 2017
Haula Finds a New Home
This will be the first time in his NHL career that Haula will be playing for a team other than the Wild. He spent a majority of his time as a third or fourth-line center, typically playing under 15 minutes a game. Haula scored 42 goals and 89 points in 266 career games as a member of the Wild, including 13 points in 24 playoff games.
For the Knights, they landed themselves a talented young center who is looking to take the next step in his career. Haula is solid at the face-off dot, where he’s won over 53 percent of his draws in the last two seasons. He’s a solid penalty killer and has excellent speed. Nothing is confirmed, but one has to believe that the Knights will give Haula an opportunity to play top-six minutes and prove how valuable he can be to his new team. Haula is still only 26 years of age. He has room to grow as a player and should with a fresh start.
Alex Tuch Departs
Along with Erik Haula, Wild prospect Alex Tuch will be on his way to Vegas. The Wild had to either sacrifice a draft pick or a prospect to keep Knights’ general manager George McPhee away from their defensive core. Having very few picks, the Wild had to deal a prospect, in this case, was Alex Tuch. It could have been much worse for the Wild. McPhee could have demanded they give up a Luke Kunin or Kirill Kaprizov, but instead was content with Tuch.
Tuch was drafted 18th overall by the Wild back in 2014. He played two seasons for Boston College of the NCAA. There he accumulated 32 goals and 62 points in 77 career games. He officially turned pro last season, where he spent the majority of the year playing for the AHL affiliate Iowa Wild. He did appear in six NHL games this season, but didn’t register a point in any games.
A Wild Week Ahead
Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher has been busy. He first traded Tyler Graovac last week to Washington and now has made a deal with the Knights. Even though the Wild part ways with Tuch and Haula, they were able to receive a 2018 third-round pick in return and didn’t lose any of their quality defensemen. However, the Wild GM has more work to do. Fletcher was attempting to trade one of his defensemen in hopes to add a forward and/or shed some cap space. The Wild still need to sign Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund to new deals. They also need to add another center with the departure of Haula. Despite the cap increase, the Wild only have $13.4 million in cap space to sign Granlund, Niederreiter and other free agents. If Fletcher was trying to make a trade before, it’s more than likely he may try again.
The Wild has shown interest in Alex Galchenyuk recently and could be a target for Fletcher. The Canadiens are looking to move him, especially after acquiring Jonathan Drouin from the Tampa Bay Lightning. The problem with Galchenyuk is that he is also a restricted free agent. Just like Niederreiter and Granlund. If the Wild were to trade for him, they would have to move at least one big contract to make room for the three RFAs.
The Wild may look elsewhere to add a player and create cap space. Teams like the Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Colorado Avalanche and Boston Bruins are all in need of a quality defenseman. If the Wild want to add a quality forward and make room to re-sign Granlund and Niederreiter, it may be necessary to move more than one contract.