Captain Hindsight: Did the Wild Make Best Deadline Deal?

As tough of a post-season Matt Moulson has had, should the Wild have gone in a different direction? - Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The price was right, but did the Wild leave better opportunities than Matt Moulson on the table?

There's no doubt that in a buyer's market, Minnesota Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher made a savvy move when he landed Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick in a deal that saw the Wild give up only the very expendable Torrey Mitchell, and two second-round picks. It's worth noting that neither of those second-rounders were in 2015, which is anticipated to be a fantastically deep draft.

There's nothing wrong with that price. It was a great deal. And it even worked out well in the regular season, as Moulson scored 6 goals and 13 points in 20 games, being a part of the Wild locking down a playoff spot.

But once the playoffs started? That's where things get a bit disappointing. He performed well in the first part of the Colorado series despite not having any points, but his possession game (while still very good on the whole) has slipped since the first few games, and is still not making an impact on the scoresheet. His 1 goal and 2 points now have him bouncing anywhere from the second to fourth lines, as he's struggling to find his game.

It's not hard to look at other teams and wonder what might have been. Marian Gaborik in Los Angeles and Thomas Vanek in Montreal are flourishing after being acquired at the deadline.

So, let's take a look through our Captain Hindsight goggles, see what these players have done since the trade deadline, and ask if the Wild made the best decision they could have.

Marian Gaborik

Elephant in the room here: Given the ugliness that transpired between the Minnesota Wild and Marian Gaborik after 2008, it's entirely possible that the two sides have burned their bridges irreparably. To really make this deal in hindsight, we must assume that A#1) Fletcher hadn't soured on Gaborik, and B#2) Gaborik would have been willing to return to the Wild.

Let's assume both are true.

Marian Gaborik came to Los Angeles in exchange for Matt Frattin (a "meh" player), and a second-round pick in 2014 or 15, as well as a conditional third-rounder.

Marian Gaborik GP Goals Assists Points Shots G/60 S/60 CF% CF% Rel
Reg Season 19 5 11 16 51 0.89 10.0 60.0% + 2.4%
Playoffs 9 6 3 9 25 2.41 10.0 48.4% - 3.2%

Gaborik has been very productive on the Kings, scoring 11 goals and 25 points in 28 games, racking up an excellent 10 shots per 60 minutes, and in the regular season, he made a positive contribution to the Kings' already good possession game.

The playoffs have seen Gaborik take his game to especially great heights, as not only have his goals been many (a playoff-leading 6), but impactful for the Kings' hopes of advancing. None were bigger than his game-tying and overtime goal in Game 1 against the Ducks. He's been all kinds of studly for the Kings, there can be no doubt.

Thomas Vanek

The Montreal Canadiens made a last-minute deadline deal to acquire Vanek, giving up a second-round pick and prospect Sebastian Collberg.

Thomas Vanek GP Goals Assists Points Shots G/60 S/60 CF% CF% Rel
Reg Season 18 6 9 15 61 1.10 11.2 46.4% - 0.2%
Playoffs 6 3 2 5 14 1.68 7.8 51.7% + 5.8%

With Vanek, we're dealing with a much smaller sample size, as the Canadiens were fortunate enough to dispatch Tampa Bay in 4 short games. After leading the three players in the regular season (post-deadline) in shooting, he's slumped in that area since the playoffs had started. However, he's been a very positive influence on the Habs possession game in the playoffs, and he has scored 3 goals. As for the mediocre possession numbers in the regular season? A lot can be forgiven when you throw 11 shots on net every 60 minutes.

Matt Moulson

Matt Moulson GP Goals Assists Points Shots G/60 S/60 CF% CF% Rel
Reg Season 20 6 7 13 43 1.09 7.8 52.9% + 5.0
Playoffs 9 1 1 2 20 0.43 8.6 60.6% + 4.2

Matt Moulson is an interesting case. He arguably made the least impact of the three post-deadline, scoring the least amount of points, and generating the fewest amount of shots by far. But in the post-season? Getting it out of the way, the points are unimpressive, and the shots are good, but not incredible. But he's possessing the puck better than Gaborik, and out-shooting Vanek in the playoffs. The points aren't there, but the fancy stats tell us that they should be, at least to a much greater extent than we've seen so far.

Conclusion / The Eye Test

For me, it's hard to believe the stats at times, because a lot of what we can see can be attributed to Moulson's lack of production. For example, we can see that Moulson isn't particularly fast, and we've seen occasions where lack of speed has been a problem, against both the Avalanche and the Blackhawks.

I still believe that Moulson has been better than what he's been getting on the scoresheet. I still think that acquiring Moulson as a rental at the deadline was a good move. But was it the best move?

I would probably lean towards no, looking at everything. Moulson is a very good hockey player, and he does score goals (these last 9 games notwithstanding). But Gaborik and Vanek do something that Moulson can't: Score easy goals. The Wild have plenty of guys who need to grind for goals, and Moulson adds to that. He doesn't match the element of speed and sniping ability Gaborik can bring, nor the overall offensive creativity that Vanek has. Those are the type of game-breaking qualities the Wild could really use against a team as skilled as the Blackhawks.

Maybe it wouldn't have been worth the extra cost to obtain Gaborik or Vanek as a rental. Perhaps the Wild's young players aren't ready enough to have an "all-in" move like potentially giving up a Jason Zucker for Vanek. Maybe the Blackhawks are too skilled, and too deep for the upgrade from Moulson to Vanek or Gaborik to matter.

But it's hard to see the performances the other trade deadline acquisitions have made, and then look at Moulson's lack of points, and wonder if things could have turned out differently with a different deal.

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