In the midst of a rollercoaster season, the Wild find themselves at the bottom of the Central Division and six points out of a playoff spot.
Minnesota is currently in the middle of a season-defining homestand. From now until February 19, the Wild will play just one game (11 of 12 on home ice) away from the Xcel Energy Center. Although they started off the homestand with an impressive win over a surging Tampa Bay Lightning team, the Wild seem to be tracking as sellers by the Feb. 24 trade deadline. Despite their win over Tampa Bay, Minnesota has just two wins in their last eight games and names are starting to surface in trade talks.
The most marketable asset on the Wild’s roster, is steady defenseman Jonas Brodin.
He isn’t a flashy player but he’s a stay at home, well-rounded player who any team would love to have in their top four. The 26-year-old has 18 points (17 assists) in 46 games while averaging over 21 minutes a night and is a staunch penalty killer and can play the power play if needed.
Brodin is under contract through 2021 at a bargain of $4.1 million. Michael Russo of The Athletic noted one team who may have interest is the Carolina Hurricanes, who have a surplus of draft capital, including two first rounders in this year’s draft and just lost Dougie Hamilton to a broken leg. The Wild face a tough decision with Brodin since next season will be the last in his contract. Meaning if they want to talk extension, it would come this summer. However with the team already committing $18.4 million a season through 2023 to Ryan Suter, Matt Dumba and Jared Spurgeon, it’s going to be tough to keep Brodin around for the long haul. So if a team comes calling for a first-round pick and potentially more in return, the Wild would be wise to strike a deal sooner rather than later.
It’s no surprise to see Zucker’s name has resurfaced in trade talks. He was nearly traded to Pittsburgh and Calgary last year when Paul Fenton was in charge as GM. Zucker was on track for another 30-goal season before fracturing his leg on December 15. He returned to the ice on January 12 and appears to be back at full strength. In 36 games, Zucker has 24 points (12 goals and 12 assists) but a relatively high shooting percentage of 19.4% this season, while averaging the fewest shots per game (1.72) of his career. It’s likely regression could be coming and the Wild should consider going through with a deal this time around.
The tricky part, is Zucker has a 10-team no-trade list. SportsNet’s Rory Boylen has Zucker as one of his 20 trade candidates at the deadline, “The 27-year-old Zucker’s scoring pace this season is rivalling his career best,” Boylen noted. ”Far from a rental, Zucker has another three years after 2019-20 on his contract with a $5.5 million cap hit, but he does have partial trade protection — he can submit a no-trade list of 10 teams.” Russo also noted the Penguins (who he was nearly dealt to last season) remain interested since winger Jake Guentzel is likely done for the season and playoffs with a shoulder injury.
At one point the undersized power-play specialist was the leading scorer on the Wild. Since then, things have cooled off but Hunt is still worth dangling at the deadline for a team looking for help on the man-advantage. Hunt, 31, is an unrestricted-free agent this summer. With Greg Pateryn back from injury, Nick Seeler looking for more playing time and prospects Brennan Menell and Louie Belpedio knocking on the door in the minors, Hunt is someone the Wild should move on from, even if the return isn’t world beating.
Foligno has always been a solid role player and has also matured into a leader in the Wild’s locker room. After being promoted from his fourth-line spot, Foligno has seven points (five goals) in his past six games and his nine goals this season are a carer high since arriving in Minnesota. He’s under contract through next season at just $2.8 million. It would be a tough sell in the locker room to move someone of Foligno’s character but if he continues to score a contending playoff team would love to have him.
First-year general manager Bill Guerin has been patient with this Wild roster and rightfully so. Younger players like Kevin Fiala, Joel Erikkson Ek and Luke Kunin have taken significant steps forward in their development, with others like Ryan Donato and Jordan Greenway not far behind. Even if the Wild go another run during this homestand, it more unlikely for them to be buyers with limited assets to pull off such a move. Maybe Guerin waits until the summer to swing of a big-time trade, but if the Wild continue to free fall or remain out of the playoff picture, he’ll have no choice but to sell off a few assets.