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Zulgad: Zucker, Staal among those whom Wild should move at deadline

The Wild’s feeble performance in a 4-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center provided general manager Paul Fenton with more reason to break up the team’s current roster.

We’ve been pushing for that in this space for a while and it’s making more and more sense by the loss. The Wild are 0-2-2 since the All-Star break and the ridiculous bye week that each team gets — if this league dealt in reality that’s 0-4 — and coach Bruce Boudreau did not hold back in his postgame press conference after losing to an Oilers team that hadn’t won in six games.

“In between the second and third period I said, ‘Boys, your best players have got to be your best players or we’re never going to win and it’s simple as that,'” Boudreau said.

Shortly thereafter, Boudreau said, “there are some guys that are just a shell of the player that I’ve known for two-and-a-half years.”

That last comment is concerning and not because it means more losses are likely on the horizon. The Wild still hold the first wild card spot in the Western Conference with 57 points but are now only two points up on St. Louis, which is in the second wild card spot, and Vancouver and four points ahead of Colorado, Edmonton and Chicago.

Fenton shouldn’t worry about any of that. The Wild is without veteran center and captain Mikko Koivu and their top-scoring defenseman in Matthew Dumba and the season is pretty much finished. Trading away anything that isn’t bolted down, or part of the future plan, makes perfect sense for Fenton. The concern is what Boudreau brought up about certain players being a shell of themselves.

Executives scouting the Wild certainly see this and, if this trend continues, one has to wonder what the Wild might get in return for a guy like Eric Staal or Jason Zucker before the Feb. 25 trade deadline. There is at least one selling point for Fenton, who was hired last offseason to replace Chuck Fletcher.

That’s the performance of once-slumping winger Nino Niederreiter since he was traded to Carolina for center Victor Rask on Jan. 17. Niederreiter, who had nine goals and 23 points in 46 games with the Wild this season, got his sixth goal in eight games with the Hurricanes on Thursday night as he scored in a 6-5 overtime victory at Buffalo.

Niederreiter has thrived thanks largely to the fact he was put on the  Hurricanes’ top line with Sebastien Aho, but also because the change of scenery likely has been beneficial. Each Niederreiter goal in Carolina has been greeted by a sarcastic tweet or two (or 20) from Wild fans upset that Rask isn’t producing the same offensively, or because they simply liked Nino. Fenton can point out that any player he might trade could get a similar spark from a move.

Here’s a list of a few more Wild players who almost certainly are being shopped and could be gone before Feb. 25, assuming Fenton can find a taker who will give him the necessary return. (Just to be clear, Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and the injured Koivu have no-move clauses and aren’t going anywhere.)

JONAS BRODIN, DEFENSEMAN

Age: 25

Contract: Making $5.75 million ($4.167 million cap hit) in the fourth season of a six-year, $25 million deal.

2018-19 stats: Four goals, eight assists in 54 games

The skinny: The veteran averages 20 minutes, 34 seconds of ice time a game and is a minus-10 this season. In his seventh season, Brodin hasn’t lived up to the expectations that surrounded him when he arrived in Minnesota after being the 10th pick in the 2011 draft. Nonetheless, he probably is far from being atop the list of players that Fenton wants to unload. Just because he isn’t flashy doesn’t mean he isn’t contributing. But if someone really wants Brodin, Fenton is certain to listen.

Will he be moved at the deadline? No

CHARLIE COYLE, CENTER AND WING

Age: 26

Contract: Making $3.75 million ($3.2 million cap hit) in the fourth season of a five-year, $16 million deal.

2018-19 stats: 10 goals, 18 assists in 54 games

The skinny: Is he a center? Is he a winger? At 6-foot-3, 218 pounds, there was a time when it appeared Coyle could be a dominating power forward for the Wild. But there have been far too many occasions on which he has simply disappeared. This was true under the previous coaches in Minnesota and has been true under Boudreau. One game, Coyle will look like he has the ability to be a force and then you won’t see him for the next five games. A fresh start, could be exactly what Coyle needs. Fenton might not get what is considered a fair return for Coyle but at some point — perhaps on Feb. 25, perhaps this offseason — he almost certainly will be sent packing.

Will he be moved at the deadline? No, but he will be traded this offseason

DEVAN DUBNYK, GOALIE

Age: 32

Contract: Making $5 million ($4.333 million cap hit) in the fourth season of a six-year, $26 million deal that includes a list of 19 teams to which he can be traded.

2018-19 stats: 20-18-4 with a 2.60 goals-against average and .912 saves percentage

The skinny: It seems unlikely Dubnyk will being going anywhere this season, but Fenton could look to shop him this summer and there is no guarantee he is in the Wild’s long-term plans. Kaapo Kahkonen, the Wild’s fourth-round pick in 2014, is currently playing for Minnesota’s American Hockey League affiliate in Iowa and could be Fenton’s choice to eventually become the primary netminder in Minnesota.

Will he be moved at the deadline? No

ERIC FEHR, CENTER

Age: 33

Contract: Making $1 million on a one-year deal.

2018-19 stats: Five goals and five assists in 44 games

The skinny: The perfect fourth-line player. He isn’t flashy but he who can kill penalties and provide stability. The type of guy who could fit right in with a contending team. He already won a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2016. Fehr wouldn’t get much back in return but a draft pick could do the trick.

Will he be moved at the deadline? Yes

MARCUS FOLIGNO, LEFT WING

Age: 27

Contract: Making $3 million ($2.875 million cap hit) in the second season of a four-year, $11.5 million deal.

2018-19 stats: Four goals, seven assists in 54 games

The skinny: A disappointment in his first season with the Wild in 2017-18, Foligno has seemed to be a much more engaged player this season and has transitioned between the third and fourth lines. A tough winger with some ability, Foligno provides quality depth and seems like a good character guy. The fact he is showing up on a nightly basis this season is a big positive.

Will he be moved at the deadline? No

MIKAEL GRANLUND, RIGHT WING

Age: 26

Contract: Making $5.5 million ($5.75 million cap hit) in the second season of a three-year, $17.25 million deal.

2018-19 stats: 12 goals, 32 assists in 54 games

The skinny: There are stretches when Granlund looks like an All-Star who could be a key to this Wild team for years to come and deserves to get paid. Then there are stretches, long ones, like what Granlund has been going through in which he drives Boudreau and everybody else crazy and pretty much plays hockey like Andrew Wiggins plays basketball. Talk about wasting talent. Since scoring five goals in November, Granlund has one goal in 29 games. The apologists will tell you that Granlund is a play-making winger– he has 19 assists in those 29 games — but even Boudreau isn’t buying that. Granlund appears afraid to shoot and when he does he buries the puck right into opposing goaltenders. Here’s the problem: Fenton isn’t going to give Granlund away and no rival GM is going to pay what Fenton is going to want. Granlund’s situation will have to be addressed at a later date.

Will he be moved at the deadline? No

JARED SPURGEON, DEFENSEMAN

Age: 29

Contract: Making $5.5 million ($5.188 million cap hit) in the third season of a four-year, $20.75 million deal that includes a list of 10 teams to which he will not accept a trade.

2018-19 stats: 10 goals, 22 assists in 54 games

The skinny: I included Spurgeon on this list because teams are certain to ask about him, but the 5-foot-9, 176 pound (wink, wink) defenseman likely isn’t going anywhere. Spurgeon’s goal total is one off his career high and his play is only appreciated by those who watch him on a nightly basis. If Fenton were to entertain an offer for Spurgeon, it only would be because he was being offered an incredible deal. Suter is the highest paid defenseman on this team, but Spurgeon is the star on the blue line.

Will he be moved at the deadline: No

ERIC STAAL, CENTER

Age: 34

Contract: Making $3.5 million in the final season of a three-year, $10.5 million deal.

2018-19 stats: 17 goals, 20 assists in 53 games

The skinny: His value is declining in rapid fashion and that’s a concern. In his 15th season, Staal would appear to be an ideal rental for a contender to plug in as their second or third line center but he’s looked old and slow of late. Is he injured? Are the miles catching up with him? It’s hard to say, but any general manager dealing with Fenton likely isn’t going to give the Wild as much in return as they could have gotten a few months back. The 34-year-old has one assist in four games since the Wild returned from their break. Staal had 42 goals last season — his most since he had 45 in his second NHL season with Carolina — and the hope was he might come close to that again. If that was the case, Fenton would have no problem moving Staal for a nice return. Still, Fenton likely will get something in return (draft picks, a prospect) for him.

Will he be moved at the deadline: Yes

JASON ZUCKER, LEFT WING

Age: 27

Contract: Making $5 million ($5.5 million cap hit) in the first season of a five-year, $27.5 million deal.

2018-19 stats: 14 goals, 14 assists in 53 games

The skinny: Right now, Zucker can be traded to any team to which the Wild elects to send him. Starting next season, he can submit a list of 10 teams to which he can’t be traded. Fenton is likely to take advantage of the lack of a no-trade clause and send Zucker to a contender at the deadline. The winger has speed and he can score, but he has been inconsistent and is another guy who disappears at times. (The Wild have far too many of these guys.) He has two goals in his past 11 games and while Wild fans will be upset if Zucker goes elsewhere and gets on a roll (as Niederreiter has done), this is the exact type of player Fenton can turn into assets for the long term. Fenton isn’t here to win popularity contests with the fans or players, he’s here to build a roster that can make the playoffs and still be going deep into the springtime. Trading a guy like Zucker now could land Fenton what he needs to make that happen three or four years down the road.

Will he be moved at the deadline: Yes

*Source for all salary information is CapFriendly





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