clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

2015 NHL Trade Deadline: The Wild's Young Assets

New, comments

Taking a look at the Wild's good, young assets, and looking at who could be moved in the right deal.

Zucker and Scandella are two players that have too much value to the Wild to be traded. But other players?
Zucker and Scandella are two players that have too much value to the Wild to be traded. But other players?
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

With the NHL trade deadline less than three weeks away, we're seeing the Wild contemplating doing something unexpected by everyone a mere month ago: Actually be buyers. Sure we knew the Wild had a Devan Dubnyk trade in them ("Like that's going to save the season." we thought), but at the deadline? We all expected the Wild to sell off guys like Kyle Brodziak, and maybe Matt Cooke, try to pick up a 2nd-3rd rounder, and tank the season away.

Not anymore. The Wild have been the hottest team in the NHL over the last month, as Devan Dubnyk has been an unlikely savior for the Wild. Still, the Wild are still two points out of a playoff spot, competing with about 4-5 other teams for 3-4 playoff spots. Not an easy feat, especially since every team in the Central Division thought, "You know what we need? To make this division even more of a nightmare."

Winnipeg tried strengthening their hold on a playoff spot by trading the laid-up Evander Kane (as well as PMB Hunter Zach Bogosian) for Tyler Myers and Drew Stafford. Then Dallas, on the fringes of playoff contention, also went for an upgrade by acquiring Jhonas Enroth, who's .902 Sv% is actually miles better than their former backup, Anders Lindback. Next, Nashville made it's move, acquiring Minnesota Wild trade target Mike Santorelli and Trade Deadline Darling Cody Franson.

These moves are probably giving the Wild some motivation to make another upgrade. If those moves aren't enough to motivate them, the knowledge that a team like Calgary, Los Angeles, or Vancouver could make a move of their own might be.

My concern with the Wild at the trade deadline is that I'm not sure who is out there that will benefit the Wild to a degree greater than their cost. Antoine Vermette was listed as a player the Wild had interest in, but his reputation as a two-way player doesn't quite match his production. Even a guy who fills needs like Andrej Sekera- a defenseman who can play the left side, ease Suter's minutes, drive offense, and slot into the Top-4 in case of injury- doesn't guarantee the Wild a playoff spot.

A trade I'd be happy with would be something similar to the Jason Pominville trade. That trade cost the Minnesota Wild a significant amount; Johan Larsson is the big, two-way center the Wild could sorely use in their system. However, the reward was great for a 2012-13 Wild team that was fighting for it's playoff lives. Pominville was an impressive player who not only was able to help the Wild down the stretch, but was able to pay off for the Wild even if the Wild failed to make the playoffs, as he was under contract for an additional year.

But in order to make a trade like that, the Wild would have to give up a good asset or two. If another Jason Pominville is out there for the taking, the Wild can't get him with Kyle Brodziak. So, let's look at some of the Wild's assets, and see who could be expendable in such a deal.

Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon

Now that Dubnyk is here, and apparently a superhero, what's the Wild's biggest flaw as a team? Lack of defensive depth. I can't see any deal that includes shipping out a Brodin, Scandella, or Spurgeon out improving the team's defensive depth to any meaningful degree.

Not only does it not make sense as a roster standpoint, but in terms of value, they're sky-high now. Brodin is 21, and Scandella and Spurgeon will both be 25 at the end of this season, and they're blossoming into excellent Top-4 options that complement each other. Add up the fact that Spurgeon is signed until next season (where he'll be under Wild control), and Brodin and Scandella are signed long-term, I'd say they're untradeable.

Jason Zucker

Zucker's injury obviously makes him unmovable now- he's not regarded as the potential franchise-changer Evander Kane is- but even if he weren't injured, I'd be loath to see Zucker leave. Prior to being injured, Zucker was electric this season, scoring at one of the highest frequencies in the NHL, and doing it while out-shooting even the likes of Zach Parise (only counting 5v5 minutes). On a team that perpetually struggles to generate offense, how do you trade the guy who out-shoots Parise? Untradeable, even if healthy.

Nino Niederreiter

Niederreiter deserves better than what he's gotten. He gets unfavorable zone starts, unfavorable assignments, and unfavorable minutes. Despite this, he trails only Pominville, Parise, and Koivu in FF Rel% (meaning that the Wild out-chance their opponents when he's on the ice), and his scoring numbers aren't far off from what they were last year, when he got considerably more offensive zone starts.

But is he ever going to get a chance to show he can be a Top-6 winger here? After Zucker went down, Nino looked primed to step right into Zucker's role, which he did. For about, what, two periods? Yeo breaking up the Nino-Koivu pairing was disheartening, especially since they've controlled over 60% of shot attempts when together in the last two seasons. Will Yeo ever come around on Niederreiter? We hope he does, but if they trade him, he needs to get significant value back.

Alex Tuch, Mathew Dumba, 2015 1st, 2nd round pick

These are the best assets the Minnesota Wild have to offer in their farm system. After graduating most of their young depth to the NHL, there's not too much left over in terms of high-upside, good-probability players. In the short term, this doesn't seem like much of a problem, but down the road?

With players being signed to long-term extensions, to go with extensions for Mikael Granlund, Jared Spurgeon due in the next 18 months, the Wild may have to make tough decisions with their roster. Being able to replace a player you have to make a tough decision on with a Dumba or Tuch is what makes teams contend for a long time. The Wild have, from 2013-16, traded one first-round pick, and two seconds. You can hit on all of the Haulas, Graovacs, and Reid Dukes you want, but the Wild need to stop trading those top picks in order to try getting young stars back in their system. If they trade any of these assets, they need to get significant value back.

Charlie Coyle

I'm finding myself liking Coyle's game a lot this season. He's frustrated many with his lack of substantial improvement, but other than shooting less than he did last season (which could be merely a product of his deployment), he's made all-around improvements. He's scoring more frequently than he did last season, and his possession numbers have improved quite a bit.

That said, while I would be afraid of Niederreiter, Zucker, or Granlund going to another team and blowing up, I don't have that fear with Coyle. Coyle has a low floor, at worst, he's going to be a high-end third-liner, but I don't think his ceiling is as high as the three I just mentioned. That's not to slight Coyle, a team needs players like him to win. But in the right move, he's tradeable.

Justin Fontaine

Nothing about Fontaine's game seems to stand out to people, but here's a list of Wild players (400+ minutes) with a higher 5v5 Points per minute: Zucker, Parise, Pominville. He's done this with, by far, the worst zone starts and teammate assignments of any Top-9 option on this team.

Despite this, he never seems to get an opportunity to get a run with the Top-6, or even the Top-9. Fontaine's been a healthy scratch at times this season, even while playing well, and the Wild were perfectly willing to healthy scratch him in the postseason last year, even though it meant risking losing him as a UFA. The Wild haven't seemed to value Fontaine all that much, but if another team values Fontaine properly, he's tradeable.

Erik Haula

It's an understatement to say Haula has been very disappointing this season. Whether the reason is rooted in a head injury sustained at the World Championships last season, or something else, he just hasn't shown that he can be the dynamic, speedy two-way player he was last year. As a result, he's been a popular, expendable name to throw around in trade rumors.

It is for that precise reason, however, that the Wild should keep Haula in the fold. There's absolutely no way that a team is going to see Haula's 5 goals and 3 assist and will be willing to pay anything resembling full value for him. Seeing as the Wild will have him under team control as a Restricted Free Agent in the offseason, the Wild would be very wise to keep him.

Mikael Granlund

Granlund has been just as, if not more disappointing than Haula this season, when you consider the expectations and opportunities laid on Granlund. He's been in a top-line role most of the season, playing significant amounts of minutes with Parise and Pominville. Yet, he has only 20 points in 41 games.

Granlund may carry some value based on what he was able to accomplish last season, and his pedigree as a first-rounder. The Wild and Granlund haven't hashed out a long-term extension as of yet, and Granlund's health woes and disappointing play can't have inspired confidence in Granlund.

Could Granlund perhaps fetch good value at the deadline? Perhaps. There may be teams out there who'd like to take a chance on the young center, as his scoring potential is still very much there. But as disappointed as I am in Granlund's season, I'd be very hesitant to move him out. Much like Haula, his value is relatively low, and like we saw with the Nino Niederreiter trade, making an impulsive decision on a potential young star can turn out to be incredibly disastrous. If the Wild were to make this move, it'd only be smart if they were absolutely certain about Granlund. There's no rumblings the Wild are considering moving Granlund, and as of right now, that's the right move. Particularly since you don't have a lot of center depth, you gotta keep him. For now, at least.