There are more ways to improve the Minnesota Wild than signing Thomas Vanek, Ryan Miller, or Matt Niskanen this offseason. So, leading up to the draft, Hockey Wilderness is going to look at 15 potential trade candidates around the league for the Wild to target.
If there's one thing that GMs love to do, is steal a diamond in the rough. They like to stick their thumbs under their arms, flutter their fingers, and say to each other: "Gotcha!". Chuck Fletcher has done that to Garth Snow and the Islanders with Jared Spurgeon and Nino Niederreiter. It is possible that Fletch could buy low on another Swiss product in Damien Brunner.
Damien Brunner was a 27 year old rookie with the Detroit Red Wings in the lock-out shortened season. On a good, but not one of the elite Red Wing teams that we've come to know in the past two decades, Brunner used his 5'11" frame to accumulate 12 goals and 14 assists (26 points) in the regular season and another 5 goals and 4 assists in the post season that year.
The undrafted free-agent from Kloten, Switzerland was able to make a contribution in the playoffs in his first year in the NHL. The right winger then turned down a two-year and a three-year contract from the Red Wings to test free agency, where he'd land in Jersey and play for the Devils. This came to the chagrin of Red Wings fans, although JJ From Kansas had to attempt to straighten the fanbase out.
Lou Lamoriello took a chance on this "unproven" commodity and Brunner was placed into a top six role in Peter DeBoer's line-up. The Devils struggled mightily in the first month of the regular season - losing their first nine straight. However, the right-handed shot of Brunner was able to net four goals and three assist during October. Two of his four goals came on the power play. November was awful for Damien. He went pointless for the month and he struggled even in March. All in all, Brunner was a positive Corsi player at 52.9 percent at 5v5.
His contract with New Jersey has one season left on it with a reasonable cap hit of $2.5 million. The guy is still within his prime and wouldn't need to have on the books for any real length of time. Eliteprospects.com has Brunner scouted as:
"A slick offensive forward who can shoot as well as pass the puck. Has great wheels and hands. Plays a gritty game."
The Wild aren't in much need of the gritty guys, but they are in need of a "slick offensive forward." Nino Niederreiter is another Swiss player that's on this Wild roster that took time getting used to the league. Nino has played 145 games in the NHL so far and really only started coming on as of late. Brunner just may need more time in the league to find his bearings as he has only played 104 games. The Wild could also buy low on him. I doubt that it would take much more than current AHLer or fringe player waiting to make the jump. Plus, highlight reel shootout goals like this would be awesome!