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Early Season Panic Button: Are there trades in the future for Minnesota?

We’re only a month in, but there are some players in the system that might be headed elsewhere if Minnesota continues to commit to their “win now” approach

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2012 NHL Entry Draft - Rounds 2-7

Edit: This has already not aged well. Cam Atkinson signed a seven year extension last night and Zac Dalpe was placed on waivers during the day. Minnesota won their fourth straight, albeit in the most stressful way possible. And Craig Custance did a little piece on the 2018 UFAs. Still think some kind of trade is in the future, but now we’ve seen how that door for potential change can close very quickly (at least I have).

It may have just been an off-hand comment, but when writing about Sam Anas, a lot of the conversation with Iowa head coach Derek Lalonde was centered around scouts having some success picking up undrafted free agents.

Minnesota has given up a lot of draft picks in recent years as part of the “win now” mentality held by GM Chuck Fletcher and the front office, and Lalonde mentioned that there was a possibility that this might happen again this season as well.

On the prospect front, it’s maddening, but with potential diamonds in the rough like Brennan Menell, Zack Mitchell, Justin Kloos, and the aforementioned Sam Anas performing in Iowa, it doesn’t appear that the scouting staff has had challenges going after guys that were passed up by the, now, 31 other NHL franchises.

The Wild sit at dead last in the Central, and if you check out CapFriendly, they have three third round picks in their possession for 2018 and $20k in petty cash to spend. However, once Charlie Coyle comes off of LTIR, Fletcher & Co. are going to have to answer some tough questions about the roster (or maybe not so tough given Joel Eriksson Ek’s play).

Unless you’re confident that Minnesota can call up players from Iowa to be effective after a possible 2-for-1 deal with another team to alleviate some cap woes, there are going to be some draft picks lost to sweeten a deal; meaning that that scouting staff will once again be busy perusing the junior leagues and Europe.

If there is a move, it’s going to cost Minnesota money. If there’s an idea rattling around your brain right now that Minnesota can give up player rights and a draft pick alone for somebody, get it out of your head right now.

The Wild literally cannot afford a trade without losing a regular roster member.

Leverage

After the trade that sent the Mayor back to Buffalo with Marco Scandella, Minnesota was able to gain a third round pick for 2018. In some pre-expansion draft finagling, Alex Tuch was sent to the desert and the Wild were also able to get Vegas’ third rounder in the upcoming draft.

What the Wild have now as far as draft picks are all of their 2020 selections, all but their fourth-round pick in 2019, and eight picks for 2018, though none in the second or fourth.

With there being a necessity to move a player as well to become cap compliant, here’s a list of players acquired with third round picks + other deal sweeteners in the last two seasons:

Marcus Johansson to New Jersey from Washington - 2018 third-round pick + 2018 second-round pick

  • $4.583 AAV for Johansson

Alexei Emelin to Nashville from Vegas - 2019 third-round pick

  • $4.100 AAV for Emelin

Mike Smith to Calgary from Arizona - 2019 conditional third-round pick, Chad Johnson, and prospect Brandon Hickey (what a likely Minnesota trade could look like)

  • $5.667 AAV for Smith
  • Chad Johnson was on an expiring contract

Nathan Beaulieu to Buffalo from Montreal - 2017 third-round pick (Scott Walford)

  • Expiring contract

Scott Darling to Carolina from Chicago - 2017 third-round pick (Evan Barratt)

  • Expiring contract

Thomas Vanek to Florida from Detroit - 2017 conditional third-round pick (Kasper Kotkansalo) + Dylan McIlrath

  • $2.600 AAV for Vanek on an expiring deal
  • $800k AAV for McIlrath playing in the AHL on an expiring deal

Viktor Stalberg to Ottawa from Carolina - 2017 third-round pick (which was traded to Chicago - Evan Barratt)

  • $1.500 AAV for Stalberg on an expiring deal

Brendan Smith to New York Rangers from Detroit - 2017 third-round pick (Zachary Gallant) + 2018 second-round pick

  • $2.750 AAV for Smith on an expiring deal

Tomáš Jurčo to Chicago from Detroit - 2017 third-round pick (Keith Petruzelli)

  • $900k AAV for Jurčo on an expiring deal

Michael Stone to Calgary from Arizona - 2017 third-round pick (Stuart Skinner) + 2018 conditional fifth-round pick

  • $4.000 AAV for Stone on an expiring deal

What you’ll notice here is that Johannson and Emelin are the only deals where a current contract was traded. Everyone else was on an expiring deal and coming from teams in rebuild mode (note all the moves out of Detroit).

You’ll also notice that a lot of these trades are fairly unattractive with the focus being on a third-round pick with names like Vanek (sorry) and Stalberg.

Where Minnesota has leverage is that they have picks and they’re not in a rebuilding phase as a franchise since they’ve been a perennial playoff contender since the 2013 post season. They’ve traded away first-round selections before, and they’re the perfect candidate for a rent-a-player situation.

Unfortunately, the names that were available to be moved this summer aren’t producing like expected; looking at you, Jonas Brodin. He was an assist machine last season, and through 16 games played he hasn’t contributed a single apple. It’s a hard sell with a $4.166 AAV through summer 2021.

The Dream List

With the benchmark being the Matt Duchene trade (one that involved a third-round pick), these are the types of players that are the unrestricted free agents going into summer 2018.

John Tavares - New York Islanders ($5.500 AAV)

He’s 27, been a name constantly thrown around as a player in want of a change in scenery (even if not explicitly said by the man himself), a solid player down the middle, and has 19 points (13G/6A) through 17 games for the Islanders.

As of right now, the Islanders are in a Wild Card spot at 9-6-2 (20 pts), so it would be a hard sell for a team hoping for a postseason berth while already having a laundry list of issues in terms of hockey operations while trying to keep a team in Brooklyn.

In terms of organizational development, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers haven’t made it past the first round since 2002-03. The Islanders, if they’re looking towards a post Tavares world, have four picks in the first two rounds of next summer’s draft.

He also currently has an eight team, No Trade list in his clause.

James van Riemsdyk - Toronto ($4.250 AAV)

If you’re a listener of the Steve Dangle Podcast, there is a lot of speculation that JVR will not be a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs by American Thanksgiving. He’s been to the mountain top, but was unable to plant the flag with the Flyers back in 2010. He also has 15 pts (9G/6A) through 18 games with the Leafs.

Toronto has completed their rebuild. They have more prospects than they know what to do with and they have a pick in every round of the draft for the next three seasons (save a sixth-rounder this year). What they don’t have is cap space, as they have a projected total of $0 in cap room.

The Maple Leafs would hold all of the leverage if Minnesota were to inquire about JVR, but I’m not so sure it would take a king’s ransom like a move for Tavares. He also has a ten team No Trade Clause.

Cam Atkinson - Columbus ($3.500 AAV)

The Blue Jackets are another club that look to be in the playoff hunt as they’re competing with the New Jersey Devils at the moment for the top spot in the Metropolitan division.

Atkinson is an older winger, has just 5 pts (4G/1A) in 14 games to start this season, but is the only player mentioned thus far without a No Trade Clause on his current contract. He has been on the upswing, having scored fifty or more points the last two seasons, and set a career high with 62 (35G/27A) last year.

After seeing Columbus’ AHL club, the Cleveland Monsters, in person this weekend, the development side of the organization is struggling to find offensive weapons, but they have a lot of youth in the system. Columbus isn’t in need of draft picks, as they are only missing a 2018 fifth-round and a 2019 second-round pick in the next three drafts.

What the team does have is cap space, $4.357 worth of it and a couple of guys on IR as well.

Teams in Need

I’m not a big fan of trading within the division. It’s messy. If I can make a football related note, Brett Favre going to the Minnesota Vikings was heresy, even if it wasn’t a trade that got him there.

Same principles when it comes to hockey.

The only problem with this is that a lot of teams have their draft pick situation under control, and there are a few teams that have a whole lot of nothing when it comes to possible players to pick up. This list is a short one that stays in the Western Conference:

Calgary Flames (9-7-0, 18 pts)

The Calgary Flames gave a up a lot when they traded with the New York Islanders for Travis Hamonic this summer that included their first- and second-round selections for the 2018 draft and a conditional second rounder in either 2019 or 2020.

They also have some spending room with cap space around $2.578 to make a deal. What is also tempting about a deal with Calgary is a name like Mikael Backlund, whose contract is expiring this summer. However, it is also just as likely that the Swede re-signs with the team that drafted him in the first round back in 2007.

Michael Ferland is an interesting name, and not necessarily a star-power one. He would have another year on his contract, but it would be a hit of just $1.750 for 2018-19. Statistically speaking, he’s looking to turn out a decent season with his 8 pts (6G/2A) through the first 15 games (he scored 25 pts in 76 games last season).

Possible bait

I’ll leave the speculation up to those who actually watch Minnesota night in, night out when it comes to people you’d want to see moved, so I’ll speak to what I know, which is the prospect pool.

There was a FanPost regarding the movement of Kirill Kaprizov. It’s a tempting prospect to dangle in front of other GMs, but if I were on the other end of a line with Fletcher, I’d be weary about giving up players for a kid that just signed a contract in Russia. The uncertainty is was also exacerbated as his arrival date has already been pushed back from where Fletcher expected him.

He’s killing it in the KHL for CSKA (28 pts in 24 games), was the captain for Russia’s WJC squad last winter, and was just on Team Russia for the Karjala Cup.

In a perfect world, I wouldn’t want to give up any of their developing players that aren’t already in the AHL.

If there was one name that I would throw out there at the developmental level, it would be Zack Mitchell. Through nine games to start the AHL season, he has 12 pts (3G/9A) while playing on the wing; when he gets his cups of coffee, he plays center. He’s dominant below the net, setting up a lot of scoring opportunities, no matter who he is on a line with.

Last year was his worst season in the AHL, but that has more to do with the level of players surrounding him rather than his skill, and the introduction of prospects like Alex Tuch and Teemu Pulkkinen getting the top minutes. He was a 35+ point producer in the previous two seasons.

Obviously with a rooting interest in Iowa, I wouldn’t want to see him go. He does everything Lalonde asks of him, gets down in the dirty areas, and is a key member on the power play. But the AHL is a developmental league, and it looks like he’s outgrown it.

The dynamic nature of his play as a center/wing hybrid would be a great depth move. For his growth as an NHLer, I feel like he has a real opportunity to move up in a different system in the same way as Tyler Graovac in Washington or Zac Dalpe playing in Columbus.

Or maybe Bruce Boudreau will give him the opportunity to unseat JEE as a bottom six centerman.