Nate Prosser gets a lot of flak here at Hockey Wilderness, and it's not his fault. By all accounts, he's a good guy, he plays hard, and yes, is a serviceable NHL depth guy. He's done nothing deserving the snark that gets thrown his way. It's not his fault. But since the Wild have yet again brought Prosser back into the fold (2 years, $625K cap hit), I'm in the position where I, yet again, am going to argue against the Wild's evaluation of Prosser for reasons that are largely out of his control.
Simply put, this deal doesn't make any sense at all. None. Here's why:
1. Prosser Offers No Upside
We know what Nate Prosser gives you. We've seen it for the last 4 seasons. Prosser will be an OK defender, a fine penalty killer, but a non-factor offensively. He's also 29, meaning that in all likelihood, there aren't going to be any major improvements in Prosser's game.
To borrow from baseball terminology, Prosser is "replacement-level". You're never going to have a hard time finding a Nate Prosser, there's usually a guy like him on your AHL roster, or in Free Agency in September, or on waivers. Case in point- last season, the Wild let Prosser walk last summer. The Blues signed him to a two-way deal, then released him during training camp, when the Wild picked him up on waivers.
And it's not like there aren't decent defense options available for a low amount of money- On Tuesday, I profiled a few inexpensive options the Wild could target for their blueline. Given the options out there, as well as the fact that the Wild only trusted a healthy Prosser with 4:02 of ice time in a 10-game playoff run makes the Wild's unwillingness to consider an upgrade a bit confounding.
2. Two Years for Prosser is Unacceptable
There's nothing wrong with signing a replacement-level player- teams are always going to need some extra depth. But most deals with such players are short-term and flexible. There's a reason for that- since you can find these players quite easily, you don't have to make a big commitment to any one of them.
Again, Prosser himself proves this. Prosser wanted to get a one-way deal with the Wild last summer, and the Wild refused. When Prosser signed with St. Louis, it was on a two-way deal. A player of his caliber doesn't warrant more than a short-term, cheap commitment.
The money's irrelevant. Inherently, committing to Prosser for longer than you have to is just bad business, especially considering...
3. Prosser Will Block Better Players
Now, the Wild were going to want to have a veteran defenseman at the bottom of their roster to ensure that a young player like Christian Folin doesn't have to sit in the press box every night. If Prosser was brought in to do that, that'd be one thing.
But why would the Wild sign Prosser for two years just to stash him in the press box? Will Mike Yeo really be able to resist the temptation to put Prosser, a known quantity and one of "his guys", over an unproven young player in Christian Folin or Mike Reilly?
History suggests not. And if Prosser is frequently in the lineup as he has been (63 GP last season), it'll likely be at the expense of good prospects (Folin, Reilly, Gustav Olofsson) having a shot to prove themselves in the NHL.
Even on a one-way deal, it's not hard to bury $625 K in the minors, so this may not be a big deal. But if the Wild treat Prosser as a part of their team for the long-term, rather than a fine 7th defenseman option, then there's potential to do harm, cheap cap hit be damned.