Out of all the potential trade targets that the Minnesota Wild could obtain in a trade, Jordan Eberle is my favorite.
Don't get me wrong, I'd be very happy to see either of the remaining two players on the Wild. Both of them would fill needs that the Wild have. But I feel that Eberle offers the perfect combination of present value, future value, and team need to the Wild.
Jordan Eberle is a 24-year-old Right Winger for the Edmonton Oilers. He's a shifty player who almost always seems to know where to be on the ice. He gets to prime scoring areas with ease, and once he's there, he has the shot and puck skills to capitalize on it. He doesn't have blazing speed, and he doesn't play a very physical game, but his scoring touch and all-around offensive game have placed him in the NHL's Top-30 in scoring two of the past 3 seasons.
More impressive than his raw point totals are the rate at which Eberle scores. His Power Play statistics over the last three years are impressive (44th on this list). Eberle has put up points at a greater rate than NHL superstars Patrick Kane, Thomas Vanek, and Corey Perry. His rate also puts him just ahead of Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu. For a team that's been starved for production on special teams, Eberle provides another threat.
But he's hardly a special teams wonder. When you look at his 5-on-5 stats over the last 3 years, they're eye-popping. Only 8 players have produced more than his 2.40 Points/60 at 5-on-5. It's well ahead of what any Wild player produced at 5v5 (Jason Pominville led the Wild with 2.04 P/60). Even this year, with Eberle "only" scoring 1.94 P/60 at 5v5, it beat everyone on the Wild but Pominville and Mikael Granlund. His possession numbers are also good, with him being one of the top possession players in the league during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.
What I like most about about Eberle is that he provides something that the Wild severely lack: Shooting talent. Eberle has a career shooting percentage of 14.3%. For the sake of context, that not only obliterates Parise's career shooting percentage (11.3%), but is a mark unsurpassed by Parise in any one season. The only Wild player to beat a 14.3% shot percentage was Justin Fontaine. The Wild badly need someone who can score at a high rate like Eberle can.
So why would Edmonton trade him? On most teams, a player of Eberle's skills and talents would be considered untouchable. Edmonton has the blessing of being deep at forward. Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Nail Yakupov. Unfortunately, they're also cursed with having a woefully unbalanced team. Their lack of defensemen and two-way players has them stuck near the bottom of the standings, despite having four supremely talented forwards.
Taylor Hall and RNH aren't going anywhere, and Nail Yakupov's trade value is much lower than Eberle's. With Eberle's production, age, and contract situation (he has 5 years at 6 million per remaining on his deal), Edmonton's best hope of improving their team could be parting with him.
Though Eberle is a favorite of mine on the trade market, it doesn't mean he's perfect. Eberle's shot generation is at a respectable level, hovering from 7.7 to 8.8 shots per 60 minutes the past three years, but it hasn't been elite. Whether it's an elite free agent option like Thomas Vanek (9.3-10.2 S/60 in the last 3 years), or trade options in Evander Kane (11.7-13.3) or Jeff Skinner (10.3-13.5), there are players that the Wild could acquire that would shoot more often than Eberle. Though there are plenty of elite players at Eberle's level and below, so this is strictly a nit-pick.
Eberle also doesn't make the team any bigger, as he's only 5'11", 180. I know there are people who feel that getting bigger should be a priority for the Wild, but I'm not necessarily of that belief. Adding size would be helpful, of course, but Nino Niederreiter, Mikko Koivu, and Charlie Coyle all have big bodies, and there's plenty of size among their AHL prospect depth. Obtaining Eberle makes the Wild a more skilled offensive team, closer to the mold of the Blackhawks than the Blues.
Eberle won't be a buy-low opportunity for the Wild, Edmonton knows Eberle has value and will only part with him if they know they'll be getting an upgrade in another area. But if the Wild can make a deal for him without crippling their blueline, Eberle will be a dramatic upgrade for the Wild, both now and in the years to come.