The Wild are the top wild card team in the Western Conference — three points ahead of Vancouver — but are 0-1-2 since returning from the All-Star break and their bye week.
With the NHL trade deadline approaching on Feb. 25, the question for new general manager Paul Fenton is whether he thinks he is running a team that can not only make the playoffs, but also a run in the postseason, or if he’s overseeing a roster that has a few pieces that can be dealt away in the name of improving for the future?
The direction in which Fenton elects to go likely was impacted in a big way on Wednesday when the Wild announced that center Mikko Koivu will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his right knee during Tuesday’s game at Buffalo. Koivu is expected to have surgery to repair his knee on Friday. Koivu was injured in the first period when he and Buffalo’s Tage Thompson had their right legs collide near center ice.
We can debate Koivu’s exact value to the Wild but this much is certain: He isn’t going to be replaced. Charlie Coyle shifted from wing to center when Koivu went out and it sounds like the disappointing Joel Eriksson Ek will be back in the lineup on Thursday when the Wild plays host to Edmonton.
But Fenton almost certainly isn’t going to look for outside help to replace the Wild’s captain in the name of making any type of playoff push. It doesn’t make sense and it now will be fairly easy for the Wild to explain why they are shopping a player like soon-to-be free agent Eric Staal. Others could be on that list.
The Wild dealt Nino Niederreiter to Carolina for center Victor Rask last month and Rask could move up the depth chart. Coyle also could be moved back to center for the rest of the season. Koivu had eight goals and 21 assists in 48 games this season and often played on a line that was matched up against the opponents’ top line.
Boudreau: "Somebody's going to have to step up and say, 'OK, I'm the faceoff guy now here, and I'm going to be that guy.' And then you're going to have to step up and say, 'I'm going to be the guy. You want me to play against Connor McDavid? I'll play against Connor McDavid.'"
— Sarah McLellan (@sarah__mclellan) February 6, 2019
The already inconsistent Wild will now find out what life is like without Koivu.
If it’s as bad as many expect, Fenton should have no issue with deciding that selling is the right call as the trade deadline approaches.