After laying out who the Minnesota Wild should keep for a rebuild, there remains a deep list of players who could be moved for future assets should the Wild choose to overhaul its roster. For part two of this three-part series, here’s who Minnesota should be looking to move on from.
Who should go: Jason Zucker (28), Jonas Brodin (26), Victor Rask (26), Marcus Foligno (28), Devan Dubnyk (33), Eric Staal (35), Mikko Koivu (37)
Average age: 30
Note: Ages are where they’ll be at the end of the season.
With Minnesota stuck in salary cap purgatory for the past few seasons, the upcoming trade deadline is an ideal time for the Wild to part ways with core players to get younger. Some of these players (a la Rask) won’t bring much value back but players like Zucker, Brodin and Foligno could be hot commodities for other teams looking to make a playoff push.
After nearly being traded three times in the past year by former general manager Paul Fenton, Zucker’s name should still warrant interest. He’s a speedy winger who regularly puts up 20 goals per season. While he has been criticized for no-shows in the postseason and one-dimensional play, Zucker scored a career-high 33 goals in 2017-18 when the Wild surrounded him with talent. His contract may be seen as favorable for buyers. The 27-year-old winger is owed $5.5 million for the next four seasons but his contract does have a 10-team no trade list for the duration of the deal, so that limits where he can go but teams should still line up for his services.
Brodin is one of the most under appreciated blue liners in the league. He’s a stay at home defenseman with limited offensive upside but is as reliable as they come defensively. After pairing with Ryan Suter in the beginning of his career, he’s spent the majority of the past three seasons being Matt Dumba’s security blanket. But he’s also spent time with Jared Spurgeon too and would fit in on any team’s top four. The 10th overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft has one year remaining on his contract after this season at just $4.1 million, which makes him a solid rental option in a league with a shortage of solid shutdown defensemen. Brodin, who will be 28 years old by the time his contract ends, will likely be due for a raise so it’d be wise for Minnesota to get something for him at the deadline or next summer.
For Rask, a buyout might be more likely than finding a trade partner. Acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes last year for Nino Niederreiter (in what might be the worst trade in franchise history) Rask hasn’t had resurgence in Minnesota. He’s due $4 million in each of the next three seasons and it’s going to be a hard sell to convince another team to take on that contract. Buying him out after this season gives the Wild $2.6 million in cap space from 2020-2022 but then his dead money will be on the books through 2024. So this is a tricky situation and if GM Bill Guerin is able to find a trade partner to take on Rask, he should be considered executive of the year for pulling it off.
Foligno has really come into his own the past two seasons on and off the ice. After failing to live up to the early hype when he was a Buffalo Sabre, he’s developed into a solid role player. He has arguably been the Wild’s most consistently strong forward this season. Foligno has a cap hit of just $2.8 million, which is very manageable for teams in need of some grit but the one drawback is that he will be 33 by the end of his contract. We have certainly seen teams overpay for this type of player when they are headed for a playoff run.
Dubnyk’s days of being the rock between the pipes for Minnesota seem to be dwindling. His numbers last year dipped from his previous stellar production when he was acquired in 2014 and this season he’s been even worse. In eight games, Dubnyk has a GAA of 3.65 and a save percentage of .885. He should still have some value, however. Dubnyk has one of the best contracts in the league for full-time netminders. The 33 year old makes just $4.3 million and even with his bad start to the season, teams are always looking for goaltending help at the deadline so he’s still marketable. It also wouldn’t be surprising to see Minnesota receive another goalie in return.
When the Wild signed Staal in the summer of 2016 for just three-years, $10.5 million, they got a steal of a deal and Staal found his game and averaged 30 goals per season, including a 42-goal campaign in 2017-18. The former Stanley Cup winner was nearly traded at the deadline last year with his contract was set to expire at the end of 2018-19. Instead he survived the deadline and was then given a two-year $6.5 million extension on the same day, which was a puzzling move. Staal finished last season with 22 goals and you could tell the 35 year old started to slow down. After a rocky start to this season, Staal has seven points (4 goals and 3 assists) in his past five games. If Staal shows he has legs back, the Wild should go through with a trade this time and try to get a younger player back.
Speaking of older players, Koivu is in a similar boat as Staal. The Wild’s only full-time captain in franchise history is in the final year of his contract. After suffering an ACL tear last season, Koivu was able to return for opening night this season. The Finish center turns 37 in March and if he wants to chase a Stanley Cup before he hangs it up, it’s not going to be in Minnesota. It certainly would be tough to part with the franchise’s all-time leader in nearly every major statistic but he’s not part of Minnesota’s long term future.
Obviously it’s unlikely the Wild trade seven players in the next nine months but if they want to get younger and receive pieces to turn things around, these would be the ones to start with.
Stay tuned next week for the final part of the three-part series of which players are in limbo of being part of the future rebuild with the Wild.
Or on the SKOR North mobile app.
— Declan Goff (@DexsTweets) October 3, 2019