After signing Christian Ehrhoff to a low-risk, 1 year, $1.5M deal this offseason, the Kings have officially decided to part ways with the 33-year-old defenseman, putting him on waivers today. Ehrhoff wasn't very productive at even strength with the low-scoring Kings, but he wasn't a possession boat anchor, and he was productive for LA's power play. Ehrhoff isn't what he once was, but it's possible that he could step in and be a nice depth signing for a playoff bubble team.
Like the Minnesota Wild, perhaps? Minnesota has lost 11 of their last 12 games, falling from being in the playoffs by a comfortable margin to being on the outside, looking in.
There are quite a few reasons for the Wild's slump, but most of their issues are related to their offense being a non-factor. The Wild haven't been able to move the puck up the ice, haven't been able to generate scoring chances, and are prone to massive slumps on the power play.
Ehrhoff isn't the top-tier offensive puck-mover he once was, but there's still reason to think that he has something left in the tank to offer a team like the Wild. In fact, his mobility and offensive contributions tend to match up with what the Wild tend to look for in a defenseman.
I'm sure a few of you will ask "Do the Wild really need another defenseman?" I mean, no. They don't necessarily need one. They've got a solid defensive corps in the NHL as it is, and they've got a few decent options at the AHL level. It's true that with the Wild struggling to score, Minnesota's priority is to upgrade at forward.
But the Wild haven't been able to upgrade up front, and losing Jonas Brodin to injury has eliminated the Wild's hopes of using their glut of young defensemen to make a deal. A trade for the kind of forward the Wild need may not be possible, not without giving up prospects and picks the Wild can ill-afford to part with.
Speaking of injuries, Ehrhoff would represent insurance to a team that lost Brodin for 3-6 weeks and had a health scare with Jared Spurgeon this week. It just goes to show you how a team can go quickly from a lot of depth to barely scraping by.
The Wild are fighting for their playoff lives, and are just two points away from being able to break back into a Wild Card spot. Any upgrade can only help this team, and at less than $750K for the rest of the season, it's a low-risk proposition. Especially since a Wild claim will ensure that Nashville and Colorado (two teams the Wild are chasing) won't be able to get him.
There's precedence for the Wild to make a move like this. Despite having an defensive corps almost identical to this year's group, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher was actively trying to upgrade his blueline. After missing out on David Schlemko, Fletcher dealt a 6th-round pick to acquire Jordan Leopold at the deadline. Leopold then supplanted Prosser down the stretch and for 9 of the Wild's 10 playoff games. If the Wild were willing to do a move like this with Leopold, they should be chomping at the bit to get Ehrhoff, who is a superior player to both Prosser and Leopold.
It just makes too much sense for the Wild- who are looking for any sort of spark to get them back to winning- to take a flier on Ehrhoff. And they may just get him, too. Of teams with a 35% or greater chance to make the playoffs, the Wild will be first in waiver priority. For a team that's had great success in finding decent performances off the scrap heap, Ehrhoff represents another opportunity for Minnesota to get better and deeper without much risk.