The ink likely isn't even dry on whatever paperwork needs to be filed with the league to make a trade complete, and already Wild fans are all over the map. Most of the negative comments are those ticked off because Chuck Fletcher didn't trade Casey Wellman for Zach Parise, so you know the type that are upset.
Many are excited, which anytime a new player comes in is expected. Most, are somewhere in between and just want to see what the kid brings to the table. That's where you should be. To quote Brian Rolston, never too high, never too low.
The question I am getting is how Erik Christensen fits in the long term. It seems like a simple question, until you start to analyze the situation in Minnesota. Which we do. After the jump.
Where does he fit right now?
Right now, Christensen looks to be slotted in on the third line. With Mikko Koivu hurt, Matt Cullen and Kyle Brodziak are outside their normal roles, and playing up a line. This also moves Darroll Powe into a third line role, something he capable of, but was not hired to do. With Jed Ortmeyer up to center the fourth line, and Powe's ability to shift to wing rather easily, Christensen fits well in that position.
What happens when Koivu returns?
This is where is gets tricky. Obviously, Koivu centers the top line, Cullen the second, and Brodziak the third. That only leaves the fourth line to work with. From what we can gather from the Rangers fan base, Christensen is not a grinder. He needs top six talent to work with, just like our feelings were with Wellman. There will be some competition to be had, to be sure, for TOI, but with Guillaume Latendresse and Pierre-Marc Boucahrd out, and not coming back anytime soon, my bet is Christensen or Cullen slide to wing and both play second line minutes.
This is an educated guess, and my educated guesses almost always end up wrong. So take that with a grain of salt. Or the whole shaker. Up to you.
Where does he fit next year?
This is where it gets messy. If Christesen is a second line player, there is a log jam with everyone healthy. Certainly it adds some interest to the Kyle Brodziak negotiations, which Russo reported will be firing up shortly. Christensen is also a pending UFA, but has a lower price tag than Brodziak. All of this could be positioning, but Fletcher is certainly not playing games. You don't trade to create a better negotiating position with a third line center.
Koivu is here long term. Cullen is singed through next year. Powe is here through 2014. The Wild also have prospects coming through the system. Mikael Granlund is a center, with strong play at the wing as well. Charlie Coyle is a center. Zack Phillips, a center. Each of these players could make strong cases top be here next year. Christensen being in the fold increases that competition to be sure.
What does this say about the other centers in the organization already?
To be blunt? They aren't good enough. Cody Almond has missed the mark a couple times. Ortmeyer is a great fill in, but isn't meant for sustained NHL time. Chad Rau is still developing, and played well, but doesn't look to be the solution. David McIntyre performed well, but is likely the next Ortmeyer. Joel Broda is there, but he is an after thought at this point. They also have several players listed as centers already moving to wing to get them time. Guys like Carson McMillan and Jeff Taffe aren't going to disrupt the succession plan at pivot.
Plenty of centers in the system, and they traded one to bring another in. That has to send a message to the rest of the depth chart.
OK, OK... long term. Is he here to stay or not?
Depends on your definition of long term. I can't see Chuck Fletcher trading Casey Wellman for a rental, no. I don't think Christensen is here for the super long term, but I can see him sticking around for a two year deal, absolutely. Seems to be a guy being brought in to jump start a team that needs a jump start, to add some talent on the shootout, and possibly find a home with a team that needs top six talent. Is that top six talent Christensen? Rangers fans say no, and they've watched him much more than I have. I'll leave it up to him to prove it to the team.
Will he be here next season? You can bet he has been told that is a possibility, and he can earn that chance. If he performs, he'll be back. If he doesn't, not a chance. That hunger enough will be enough to show us if he deserves to be here or not.
I cannot see him around after two years, unless something happens with the prospects that is unforeseen. Stranger things have happened, to be sure. Don't write him off, but don't sign him to that seven year max deal in your fantasy leagues, either. After all, you can never have too many centers.