With the NHL trade deadline exactly a month away (Feb. 24), the Wild need to figure out which direction they are going to take.
Minnesota enters the All-Star Break five points out of the final wild card spot in the Western Conference. Although they’re still in the midst of a long homestand, it’s going to be a tall task for the Wild to find themselves in playoff contention with their current group. First-year general manager Bill Guerin is already fielding calls from teams looking to boost their rosters for the playoffs.
Here’s three potential trades the Wild should consider making at the deadline.
1. Defenseman Jonas Brodin to Carolina for a first-round pick and forward Martin Necas
Fresh off a run to the Eastern Conference finals last season, the Hurricanes are poised to be a threat in the playoffs once again. They’re one of the younger teams in the league and they’ve received balanced scoring from their offense and solid goaltending between Petr Mrazek and James Reimer. The one area Carolina needs to address is its defense, especially after losing Dougie Hamilton to what appears to be a season-ending leg injury. Although he’s a different style of player, Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin would be an ideal fit in Carolina. His shutdown mentality would give the Hurricanes a more-rounded blue line.
Also, Brodin is having a big-year offensively and is on track for a career high (33) in points. Now, from Carolina’s perspective, this is a lot to give up but at the same time, they have two first-round picks at their disposal for this year’s draft and Brodin isn’t a rental. Guerin shouldn’t be selling low on Brodin and a first-round pick, plus a promising established player like Necas – who has 27 points (12 goals and 15 assists) in 46 games – should be the asking price. What’s funny is Matt Dumba (who reportedly has been made available despite a down season) brings more of what Hamilton did with a shoot-first mentality. So maybe the Hurricanes are more interested in his services but Brodin is the safer bet to make.
2. Forward Jason Zucker to Pittsburgh for a first-round pick and forward Alex Galchenyuk
After former general manager Paul Fenton did everything possible to try to move Zucker last season, it’s a bit ironic that Guerin might be the one who pulls the trigger. Pittsburgh has already reported interest in the 27-year-old winger, who has 14 goals and 28 points in 40 games. After losing Jake Guentzel to a season-ending injury, the Penguins need someone to replace him and Zucker is an ideal candidate.
It’s very likely Zucker would flourish in Pittsburgh playing alongside Sidney Crosby and that’s going to be a tough thing for Wild fans to see. However, Zucker’s offensive contributions this season have been unsustainable. He has a career-high shooting percentage (20%) on a career low of shots per game (1.75). Zucker, who’s a former 30-goal scorer, is a streaky player and is making $5.5 million through 2023, plus a limited no-trade clause. The Penguins likely will have one of the last picks in the first round of the draft. If Pittsburgh were to acquire Zucker, they would have to make room for him.
Galchenyuk is having a rough season with 16 points (five goals and 11 assists) in 41 games and is in the final year of his contract. But he scored 30 goals with Montreal in 2015-16 and he plays center, which is a position of need for the Wild. With his value decreased, maybe he would take a team-friendly deal this summer. Some might think this an underwhelming return for Zucker but it might be the best Guerin can do. Or maybe the GM has other prospects or players in mind, since Guerin spent eight seasons in the Penguins’ front office.
3. Forwards Marcus Foligno and Victor Rask and a second-round pick to Columbus for forward Alexandre Texier and defenseman Ryan Murray
The Blue Jackets are in an interesting position. After mortgaging their farm system at last year’s deadline to acquire Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel, they have next to no draft capital with which to work. Columbus occupies the first wild card spot in the East, but is still in the thick of the race for one of the top three spots in the Metropolitan Division. Foligno would thrive in John Tortorella’s system. Plus, he would have the opportunity to play with brother Nick Foligno. The Wild would sweeten the deal by sending a second-round pick, too.
In return, Minnesota would take on Murray, who is currently injured but is candidate to be moved at the trade deadline and is making $4.6 million per season through 2021. If the Wild could get a younger player, such as Texier in return, it would be a win-win for both teams, and if they are able to dump Rask it’s an even bigger win.
Columbus has a ton of cap space ($17 million) to work with, so maybe they can take on Rask and put him in a similar fourth-line role that has made him succesful in Minnesota. Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets get an ideal forward plus a draft pick. Columbus could counter and asks for Jordan Greenway or Ryan Donato so it can also have a younger controllable player for the future.