With the trade deadline looming, teams around the league are solidifying their status as buyers and sellers.
The Wild remain outside of the playoff picture and it appears Minnesota will be sellers by the February 24 trade deadline. They have plenty of pieces available that teams around the league will come calling for, which means Wild general manager Bill Guerin has to decide which players are worth parting with immediately and which players would he’d rather move this summer. One team that’s looking to be buyers to salvage their season is the Toronto Maple Leafs. With a ton of firepower on offense but question marks on the opposite end, Toronto (28-19-7) is currently out of the crowded Easter Conference playoff field.
Maple Leafs starting goalie Fredrik Andersen has a neck injury that forced the Leafs to acquire goaltender Jack Campbell from the Los Angeles Kings but that doesn’t solve all of their issues. The next need for Toronto is addressing their blue line. Morgan Rielly broke his foot last month and will likely be out for at least another month. Meanwhile Wild defenseman Matt Dumba has been attached to the Leafs in trade rumors in recent weeks. Although Jonas Brodin hasn’t been linked to Toronto, his name has come up in trade talks for other teams around the league looking for help. So let’s take a look at what Toronto has to offer and see if we can strike a deal:
Of the names listed above, Nylander is probably the least likely to be moved, considering he’s having a career season and is still just 23 years old. However, he does have a hefty cap for four more years and Toronto is already paying three other star forwards in Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner — all set to earn north of $10 million per season through 2024.
“It’s not an easy price even though he hasn’t had a great year,” said NHL insider Elliote Friedman about Dumba to The Fan in Calgary. “I think Minnesota recognizes he’s a better player than he’s shown but it’s going to cost them probably one of the Kapanen, Johnsson, Kerfoot trio, maybe a young D and I don’t know if it’ll be a high pick, but I think it could be a pick.”
The problem with orchestrating a trade with Toronto is that they have limited draft capital to work with, including being without a first and third-round pick in this year’s draft.
Kapanen might be the best bet for the Wild to target. He scored 20 goals last season and is on pace for 45 points, which would be a career high. The former first-round pick has some baggage off the ice, as he was scratched earlier this month after oversleeping for practice on more than one occasion. Still, he’s under contract for a reasonable price of salary of $3.2 through 2022 and there might be something more to his game with elevated minutes.
Johnsson is another young piece who is a season removed from a 20-goal campaign and is under contract for through 2023 at $3.4 million. He battled injuries earlier this season and is on pace for just 34 points (12 goals and 22 assists).
Kerfoot is the oldest of the three at 25. He spent the past two seasons in Colorado where he put 42 and 43 points respectively. This season he’s on pace for just 33 points (13 goals and 20 assists).
Here’s what the Wild have to offer to orchestrate a deal.
Dumba seems to be their primary target but the question is whether Minnnesota willing to part with him with his value at an all-time low. Brodin is a safer option but probably not Toronto’s first choice. Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas is on the record that he wants players with terms on their contracts and Dumba’s locked up through 2024, where Brodin will be a free agent after next season.
The one wild card the Wild could throw in a trade is Jordan Greenway. Former North Stars general manager Lou Nanne joined Judd’s Hockey Show this week and said he wouldn’t be surprised if he’s someone Minnesota moves on from.
“You got to be very careful when you trade a guy (Greenway) like that unless you’re sure that he’s never going to hit a level past ‘X,’” said Nanne. “I would be interested in seeing what they’re willing to offer because we’re talking about rebuilding the Wild and you have to build by getting really quality high value. If you want to make a determination, he could bring quality high value.”
Greenway had a nice showing to start the season, but despite his 6-foot-6, 220-pound frame, he doesn’t put himself in front of the net as much as he should to not show up on a consistent basis. The former Boston University standout has 19 points (6 goals and 13 assists) in 50 games this season and just 44 points in 137 career games since debuting with the Wild in 2018.
Here are three potential trades the Wild and the Leafs could pull off.
The third option still might not be enough to land Nylander but it’s a starting point. Boldy was Minnesota’s first-round pick (12th overall) last year and has been slow out the gate with just 10 points in his freshman season at Boston College but his ceiling is high. So Toronto would be getting a top prospect, a first-round pick in this year’s draft and a coveted right-shot dynamic defenseman they desperately need. The other two trades are still plausible while still giving the Maple Leafs cap relief. From the Wild’s perspective, they’d be receiving young, cost-effective players who might have more to their games.
Players such as Jason Zucker and Marcus Foligno are others who could be shipped off at the deadline too, but Minnesota and Toronto are two teams to watch in on as we approach the deadline.