With the NHL trade deadline arriving at 2 p.m. Monday, who else might Wild general manager Bill Guerin be willing to move? After getting a first-round pick, a top prospect and winger Alex Galchenyuk from the Pittsburgh Penguins for Jason Zucker, Guerin still has a few other players drawing interest from contenders.
When you factor in Minnesota being outside the Western Conference playoff race and the recent firing of coach Bruce Boudreau, clearly the Wild are sellers. Although the team could continue to stockpile more picks, let’s explore a few trades that only involve players and not draft capital.
The 35-year-old Staal is having a productive season with 41 points (17 goals and 24 assists) in 59 games. He’s the Wild’s top-line center by default but on any contending team, he would be more suited on a second or third line. The Islanders are an ideal landing spot for the veteran. New York is top heavy with Matthew Barzal and Brock Nelson but Staal would give the team three legitimate centers down the middle.
At this point in his career, Staal likely would only command a second-round pick. Guerin instead should instead ask for prospect Otto Koivula. Koivula, 21, has put up decent numbers in the AHL, registering 68 points (30 goals and 38 assists) in 105 games. He only has had a cup of coffee in the NHL, playing in only seven games with the Isles. Scott Wheeler of The Athletic ranked Koivula their fourth-best prospect last month and had this to say about the Finnish forward:
“Koivula’s huge and that size (roughly 225 pounds these days) slows him down, creating a heavy, lumbering stride. Everything else about his game is impressive considering he’s 6-foot-4, though. Though he’s not the type to drive a line or generate a ton of shots on goal, he does have a good finishing touch, which has typically helped him score at a higher shooting percentage than the average. He also uses his size effectively and makes just enough plays to look like he might have middle-six, contributing upside rather than bottom-six, depth upside.”
Koivula not a finished product yet, but he’s clearly on the door step to being a full time player in the NHL.
The Canucks have seen the Wild a lot over the past month, having played each other three times in the past five weeks. After watching Galchenyuk skating circles around defenders the last time out, it’s obvious Vancouver needs help on the blue line. The issue is that the Canucks surrendered a ton of draft capital to acquire Tyler Toffoli from the Kings this week, suggesting Vancouver is going all-in for this season.
A steady defenseman like Brodin could be the final piece to the puzzle for Vancouver to make a deep run. Considering teams are giving up a ton for defensemen, Wild fans would probably like to see a first-round pick attached to his name but instead a player-for-player with Adam Gaudette would be a better option. Gaudette is Vancouver’s third line center right now with 27 points (10 goals and 17 assists) in 50 games and his name has been “whispered” around the trade deadline, according to team reporter Patrick Johnston. He was a prolific scorer at Northeastern University and the Wild should be in the market for young controllable players, especially centers.
OK, this is a big one. The Blackhawks are in such an interesting position at this year’s deadline. They could buy, sell or stand pat. However, they face some big-time decisions this offseason and will have multiple free agents. One of their biggest hurdles will be trying to lock up the 22-year Strome, who will be seeking a big pay day. After arriving in Chicago via the Arizona Coyotes in November 2018, Strome has 82 points (27 goals and 55 assists) in 106 games with Chicago.
With last year’s first-round pick Kirby Dach having a big year, Strome has been relegated to the third line but looks to be a player who could be a top-line center. The biggest hurdle is the Blackhawks trying to fit him into their salary cap. Strome likely will be looking for a contract that pays him $4-to-5 million AAV at the very least.
Let’s say Chicago decides to sell off veterans Brandon Saad and Erik Gustafsson, that will create additional cap space. They also have to figure which goaltender they want to lock up as Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner are both headed for unrestricted free agency. Obviously, Chicago won’t be selling low on Strome and the Wild would have to give up equal value. So that would probably mean shipping out Dumba. They likely would have to throw in a top prospect, too, so that means Boldy, last year’s first-round pick.
Would the Blackhawks consider this equal value? That remains to be seen. Regardless, Strome is the exact top-line center the Wild need. With KHL standout Kirill Kaprizov expected to sign with Minnesota this summer, pairing Strome and Kaprizov would accelerate the Wild’s turnaround and put plenty of fans backs in the seats at Xcel Energy Center.