The trade deadline is quickly approaching, and some teams have already gotten a jump on the frenzy that surrounds February 27th. Defensemen, in particular, have been moving around. Teams looking to take that next step are loading up on the blueline, as there is a shortage of top-6 forwards on the market thus far. Prices are being inflated by the lack of sellers versus the high amount of buyers.
Enter the Wild. The team from Minnesota seems to have a few extra defensmen that could use a new home. There are teams that could use some help on the blueline. Make the jump with me as we look at deals that have been struck, defensmen the Wild might move, and what kind of value the fans should expect.
Nicklas Grossman traded to Philadelphia
In what was the first important trade near the deadline, the Philadelphia Flyers acquired Nicklas Grossman from the Dallas Stars. In exchange, Dallas received a 2012 2nd-round pick (from Minnesota) and a 2013 3rd-round pick. Grossman won't wow anyone on the scoresheet with points (41 in 333 games), but he'll give steady, reliable minutes, help a team's PK, and keep the opposition's middle-six forwards off the board.
Hal Gill traded to Nashville
In a move necessary to improve their playoff fortunes, the Predators sent Blake Geoffrion, undrafted prospect Robert Slaney, and a 2012 2nd-round pick to Montreal in exchange for Hal Gill. Also included in the deal was a conditional 2013 5th-round pick to Nashville if Geoffrion plays 40 or more games for Montreal next year. The Canadiens got a 2nd-round pick and two mid-level prospects for a pylon that has playoff experience. Gill will help relieve some PK stress off of Suter and Weber while helping with deep offensive teams. Like Grossman, Gill won't be called on to add offensive support. He's really a 3rd-pair, PK guy with size.
Pavel Kubina traded to Philadelphia
Adding Grossman wasn't enough for a Philadelphia team that has had some defensive struggles. Once GM Steve Yzerman announced he was a seller, the Flyers went out and swapped a conditional 2nd-round draft pick (2012 or 2013) and a 2013 4th-round draft pick. Unlike the first two, Kubina does have some offensive game that he can bring to the table. He probably won't be asked to play too much powerplay time with Kimmo Timonen and Andrej Meszaros on the top pair, but he could slot in on the 2nd PP unit with Carle.
Who the Wild can deal
He's the first name that fans want shipped out. The public airing of grievances has destroyed any good will that may have been left. Zidlicky wants out slightly less than the fans want him gone. The questions then become:
1) Who takes Zidlicky in a trade?
2) What value does #3 have?
Well, there are plenty of teams that need a powerplay specialist/quarterback.
GM Dave Tallon is looking for extra offense for the Panthers, and the shortage of top-6 forwards at the deadline might force him to look at adding offensive defensmen. The Detroit Red Wings are still looking to replace the points and puck-moving abilities of Brian Rafalski, and have an unusually mediocre powerplay. The Los Angeles Kings are hanging on by a thread and need more points. For a team that was a pre-season favorite after the addition of Mike Richards, the Kings struggle worse than the Wild to score goals. Their powerplay is abysmal considering the talent. The New York Rangers, the top team in the NHL, need a lot of help on the powerplay. At 14.3%, the Rangers boast the 4th worst powerplay in the NHL.
These are just a few of the playoff contenders that could use an offensive minded defensman who can quarterback a powerplay. There are more teams that could use a guy like Zidlicky, so now we have to find out what he's worth. The three above trades do offer some insight, but to get a good market value of a guy like Zidlicky, it's smarter to look back one year at the Thomas Kaberle deal to Boston. The Bruins had to give up prospect Joe Colborne, a 2011 1st-round pick, and a conditional 2012 2nd-round draft pick.
Now, you might be saying at this point that Zidlicky is damaged goods and has ruined his value. That may be so, but let's look at some recent deals involving less than savory characters. Mike Richards was sent to L.A. in exchange for Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, and a 2012 2nd-round draft pick. Jeff Carter was dealt to Columbus for Jakub Voracek, a 2011 1st-round draft pick, and a 2011 3rd-round draft pick. Kyle Turris, who flat-out refused to join Phoenix, was dealt to Ottawa for David Rundblad and a 2012 2nd-round pick. These three had character questions surrounding them, yet desperate teams will run the risk for the potential rewards.
Based on how the prospects and trades that I mentioned above, a 1st-round pick and a prospect are well within range for a player like Zidlicky.
A player like Zanon is probably closer in value to Hal Gill. He can play as a 3rd-pairing defensman, block shots, and help improve a weak penalty kill. Zanon lacks the Stanley Cup Final experience that Gill has, but Zuperman has still seen postseason action. He's a tough veteran who has played on a cracked foot, so teams know that the drive and heart are there.
For Zanon, a 2nd-round pick and a late pick at the deadline isn't totally out of the question. Both Grossman and Gill got back at least a 2nd-round pick (in the Gill trade, that would be Geoffrion). Asking for two picks for a guy like Zanon seems reasonable. He is usually that final defensive piece teams need. Teams like the Sharks, Capitals, Blackhawks, and Panthers could all use a major boost on the PK, so Zanon could easily find a home with any of these teams making a late push.
Looking at Lundin's style, body of work, and age, you have to believe the asking price is basically the same as Grossman's. Lundin may be a little less of a specific PK specialist, but he is a little better than Grossman in 5-on-5 hockey. Lundin has been the victim of the youth movement and circumstance in Minnesota, but he could easily find a home as a #4 defensman on a team like Florida. Chicago could also come calling in an attempt to replace either Scott or O'Donnell with a younger player who skates better.
Based on the Grossman deal, a 2nd and a 3rd has to be the starting asking price. He gained valuable playoff experience with Tampa Last year, so he has youth and experience all rolled into one. While that could get talked down considering that Lundin isn't as good on the PK, two picks can't be out of the questions. I believe, to the right team, Ludin brings back a 2nd-round pick and a conditional 3rd or 4th round pick.
What should the Wild do?
If I were Chuck Fletcher, I would place a call to the Florida Panthers. GM Dave Tallon is known to covet puck-moving defensmen, and the Panthers have two rookies (Tyson Strachan and Colby Robak) in their starting lineup. The Panthers basically need to win the Southeast to have a realistic shot at making the postseason. Package a deal including Zidlicky and Lundin. In return, get a 1st-round pick, a 3rd-round pick, and a high prospect. Denver Pioneer captain Drew Shore would be a welcome addition to the Wild.
I would also hang on to Greg Zanon. The Wild have had health problems all year, and having an insurance policy isn't the worst idea. Zanon's age and limited skating makes him the least valuable of the three defenders. He can stay and insure that the Wild blueline doesn't completely fall apart.
Your turn, Wilderness. Angry fan bias aside, what do you see as the market value for the extra blueliners the Wild are carrying? Who (if anyone) bites on the guys the Wild can deal away? Aren't you glad that the trade deadline has artificially inflated value?