Right now, everybody in the NHL is looking for that magical trade that will put their team over the top and bring them all the glory that comes with Lord Stanley's Cup. It doesn't matter if you're contending for the Presidents Trophy right now, or you're sitting in the cellar looking to bolster your lineup in seasons yet to come. The Dallas Stars are looking for depth on defense, while the Oilers would settle for anything resembling a defense.
It's a great time of year for fan GM's and their endless supply of potential trades they want to see to take their team to the next level. Unfortunately for Wild fans, a blockbuster trade is just not in the cards. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but GM Chuck Fletcher just isn't going to make any moves as the trade deadline looms larger on the horizon. It's still a lot of fun to think, "What if...". I just don't see it happening for the Wild this season, and it goes beyond how strapped for cash this team is right now as they sit (as of publication) with less than a million dollars of cap space available.
Don't get me wrong. The salary cap situation for this team is a big part of why Fletcher is sitting on his hands up in his cozy office and not answering the phone. Any trade for a real game changer for the Wild right now would require the team on the other end of the phone line to likely retain a lot of salary if the object of Fletcher's affection is a seasoned vet. If a budding star is on his radar, it's going to cost not only a highly touted prospect, but probably some NHL level talent as well, or maybe some draft choices as compensation.
That's all fine and dandy on the surface, but when you ask another GM to retain some salary, they're going to want a little something-something on the side. The real question that remains there, is how much of the Wild's future are you willing to mortgage right now? Is it even worth it?
At this time last year, the Wild were reeling. Coming through a terrible month of December and waiting for that magical game against the Buffalo Sabres to turn their fortunes around. (The arrival of Devan Dubnyk certainly helped) Yet, here we are, on cusp of the anniversary of the Wild acquiring Dubnyk, and coming out of a December that was actually decent for once (9-3-2). Overall this season, the Wild are 22-12-8, good for 52 points through 42 games. Last season through 42 games, the Wild were 18-19-5 worth just 41 points.
The Wild are an improved team this season, and despite some of our grievances about lineup choices and players under-performing, we are sitting a full 11 points higher in the standings than a year ago at this time. While there is always room for improvement, Chuck Fletcher has to like what he is seeing out of this team right now. Unless the team is due for a massive downswing (and being a Minnesota team, we're all waiting for that collapse) there is really no reason to break up the continuity this team that is enjoying a second season with nearly all the same cast, certainly the same primary players.
We also didn't see Fletcher make any significant moves this past offseason. This indicates to me 2 things. First, the obvious. He doesn't have the cap space, or roster space to bring in any names of note to help bolster this lineup. Second, he's confident in the group he has out there. Nothing is impossible, and he could've made some moves if something came up in the offseason. He didn't. He's looking towards the future and just isn't willing to bet on a long shot right now.
Fletcher has spent the last several seasons putting this team together, and he's happy with the product on the ice. 52 points is good enough for 2nd in any division but the Central and is only 3 and 4 point out of 1st in the Pacific and Atlantic respectively. Throw the Wild in either of those divisions, playing against those opponents regularly, and those 3 or 4 points fade into the ether and the Wild could very well find themselves the dominant powerhouse in those divisions.
Fletcher also doesn't have a whole lot to offer. Lets be realistic for a second here. Nobody is going to do the Wild any favors and take Niklas Backstrom off our hands. Raise your hand if you want a 37 year old netminder who has yet to play a game this season. (Put your hand down Chris.) Sure, Fletcher has some prospects that might garner some interest around the league. Trading those kids though isn't going to shed enough salary to bring back any players you might be pining for. Most of them are not proven commodities, and would struggle to be valued at much more than a decent depth pickup at best.
The Wild also don't have a 2nd round draft pick for the next 2 drafts. In fact, they only have 5 picks in the upcoming draft, a 1st, a 4th, a 6th and 2-7th round picks. Fletcher isn't going to part with his 1st round pick this summer, and I can't expect he'd be willing to give it up next season too. He's blown his assortment of draft picks the last few seasons to bring in new players, and with as terrible as Iowa has been this season, Fletcher really needs to sit back and start restocking the cupboards before considering anything this seasons trades might have to offer.
It's not to say Chuck won't make any trades. I could see something along the lines of a depth move, but it's a bit short sighted to think he's got the assets and cap space for much more than that. It's also not to say we can't fantasize about potential trades. Maybe Chuck is reading through all the comments, and really likes your idea of how to bring in Jonathan Drouin or Leon Draisaitl. Maybe you open his eyes to how it could be done, but I just think, with the position this team is in on so many levels, a trade that brings in anything more than some forward depth is ill-advised and would be so tough to get done that it just doesn't make much sense.