There's something that bothers me about the current lineup. Something that was an eyesore to the Minnesota Wild faithful two seasons ago: Too much passing, not enough finishing. The solution was sending Martin Havlat off to San Jose for Dany Heatley, a move that didn't prove immediate results, but one could not argue there there wasn't an improvement in shooting the biscuit.
Now, in the dawn of the 2012-2013 season, the problem is there once again. No, it isn't glaring you in the face. If you haven't figured it out, here it is spelled plainly:
Pierre-Marc Bouchard-Mikael Granlund-Devin Setoguchi
Sorry PMB, I've enjoyed the years but you gotta go for the sake of scoring.
Simply put, reasons for trading PMB:
1) The Wild have great talent up front, yes, but lack true talented depth outside of a pool of rookies and prospects who are far from proven. The Wild are a bit young to be even considered to be a contender for a deep playoff push, much less a Cup. We simply cannot afford to have PMB and his $4+million cap hit bouncing up and down from the roster to the IR.
2) Bouchard is a playmaker in all facets of the word. He has scored 20 goals on one occasion. And it was exactly 20. If Granlund's ability to score goals at the highest level was a certainty, this may not be much of an issue, but Granlund is both unproven and all indicators of his performance put him in the playmaker category as well. I give Mikey a generous 1-2% chance he scores 20 goals. That leaves Setoguchi who is in all sense of the word, a goal scorer. Pretty tough tactics to preach when there is only one forward who is at all comfortable with shooting the puck.
3) Size. The second line doesn't have it. Both PMB and Granlund are considered "undersized" at the highest level and neither will be confused with Tie Domi on the ice. A second line power foward looks really nice right about now, but isn't necessary. The fact Bouchard and Granlund will likely skate on the same line will probably make opposing grinders salivate at the opportunity to push around some little skill players.
Yes indeed, Bouchard is coming off of two rough seasons, a myriad of concussion issues and there isn't a single GM out there who will pay his peak career's worth for him. So is it even worth it to trade him? The answer is yes, and it happens more than one may imagine.
Often times you'll hear of trades containing players who at some point, maybe it was last year or five years ago, who are traded for a player in either a similar situation or one that many have written off as past his prime and on the decline. The words "change of scenery" is often used. Considering Bouchard's recent bouts with concussions, two pretty rough season-ending scorecards and the Wild obviously looking for a new identity, PMB could probably use a change of scenery to try and find the "prime" of his career.
So what are our options. There aren't too many but as they say, if the shoe fits...
Change of Scenery for a Change of Scenery (In order of my preference)
Brenden Morrow - Dallas Stars
Morrow is coming off what one could say is the worst season of his career. Not only was he riddled with injuries, he, like Bouchard, did not perform to his $4.1m salary, with 11 goals and 26 points inside of 56 games. Dallas is a team riddled with Veterans with the likes of Jaromir Jagr, Ray Whitney and Michael Ryder. If Dallas is in for a little more finnesse in their lineup, Bouchard may be a great fit to feed the likes of Jaromir Jagr and Michael Ryder. Morrow also has a No Trade Clause, which of course, would have to be waived.
Simon Gagne - Los Angeles Kings
Classic case of neither team has much to lose but plenty to gain, truly a little-risk, high reward for both teams. Both Gagne and Bouchard are coming off serious concussions which have hampered success in their careers. LA could use another playmaker in their top-six with gifted scorers such as Jeff Carter and Justin Williams, along with centers who can both dish and score like Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards. LA has a decent amount of cap space left over so the approximate 500K addition is acceptable (and welcome for Minnesota) and neither team will cry over a poor performance for a pending UFA in 2013.
Alexander Steen - St. Louis Blues
Another concussion-for-concussion trade. Steen is a guy who about 8 years ago, Toronto thought would blossom into something like Mikko Koivu. Instead, he turned out to be a decent two-way forward who often straddles the line between the top and bottom six strictly due to inconsistency. However, when its all said and done, Steen can be counted on the better side of 65 games in the 82 game schedule and 40-45 points is a confident estimate with a fair nod to around 20 goals. On the receiving side, St. Louis isn't exactly in desperate need of a playmaker, but it definately doesn't hurt their team, and if their looking for upside over Steen, Bouchard has it in spades.
Matt Stajan - Calgary Flames
Do we dare trade to a division rival??? In this case it's a risk I'd be willing to take. Stajan is a center with the ability to play on the wing who put up some very respectable numbers in Toronto but was never able to put it together in Calgary. So long as the Flames would be willing to swallow and extra 500k and be willing to trade to a division rival, Stajan is also a player who, given the right environment, may be able to put up 45-50 points with 15-20 goals as in the past he's shown he isn't afraid to shoot when given the assignment.
In the end, trading Bouchard at this point will probably not earn you "fair" returns when you consider his potential numbers in a healthy season, but when it comes to a contract year and building a winner, I'm all about taking a risk here and there, especially when the return is also a pending UFA.
Butch, you're one Hell of a player, but when the chips are down and the depth chart is analyzed, ya gotta go. Sorry bud.