Looks like Guerin is having a hard time getting to a long-term agreement as he ended up filing Fiala for arbitration as he can choose to sign either a one year deal or two year deal. This isn't Fiala's first time going through arbitration. It seems weird that Guerin cleared all this cap space to get both Fiala and Kirill Kaprizov signed, but nothing has gotten done. Here's the opportunity for Guerin to make a hockey trade and improve his scoring depth as well as center depth. With a very difficult Central division to compete in the Wild will need to have better center depth. So since Guerin's not going to trade for Jack Eichel, who is the shiny piece to the puzzle, but will cost a hefty load who is too much we look at a player who can make an impact. So let's talk about how Tomas Hertl will impact this Wild team and make the Wild a better contender.
To SJ: Kevin Fiala, Kaapo Kahkonen, Vladislav Firstov, and a 2022 3rd round pick
To MIN: Tomas Hertl and Alexander Barabanov
Why this trade works for both teams?
First let's talk about the Wild. The Wild are "ready to compete for a Cup" and Guerin made it clear that's what he wanted to do by buying out Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. He needs to have a core in place along with a good blueline and goaltending. The Wild have a nice upcoming core. I even consider Joel Eriksson Ek and Jordan Greenway core pieces. Not to mention Marcus Foligno as our true captain even though Spurgeon wears the C and rightfully so. Eriksson Ek finished 3rd on the team with 19 goals and Greenway finished 1st with assists. That's worthy of attention. Both of them are going to have their roles elevated and this is where we see them blossoming into key contributors on a playoff team. Matt Dumba was kept because the team needs more blueliners who can bring excitement to the table. He's a core piece like Jonas Brodin and Jared Spurgeon. Alex Goligoski is probably a better locker room guy and a better leader than Suter. He can play the minutes and do his job. Think of how Ian Cole and Nick Bonino were better locker room and veteran presences than their production. He can be additional leadership help for Spurgeon. Cam Talbot is still our number one and brings stability to the net. He needs a better scoring team in front of him and a blueline who will sacrifice their bodies. So all they're missing is a top center and a depth scoring piece. We did it in one trade. Let's see where everyone slots.
Mats Zuccarello - Tomas Hertl - Kirill Kaprizov
First time in franchise history this team has a real top line that can fill the net, but play smart in both ends of the ice. Hertl is a good two-way player with power and dynamic skill. His game is backed up by smarts and a strong skating stride. Hertl has been a fairly consistent player throughout the years. He reached his peak and his prime years are going to be wasted on a Sharks team who is rebuilding at this time. This is where we get Hertl to complete the group. He can both be the setup man and a shooter. He really gets a lot of his goals around the net and thanks to great size and hand-eye coordination for deflections Hertl will fit in perfectly as our 1C. He may not be Eichel, but at least he's healthy. Hertl is a high-end player. Kaprizov and Hertl should feed off each other. Both are very strong on their skates and posses tons of creativity. Their work ethic speaks volumes as well. Zuccarello's playmaking presence should fit in nicely. Hertl can create more space as it will open up passing lanes for Zuccarello. Something Victor Rask can't do (NO MORE). We should see plenty of production all around.
Jordan Greenway - Joel Eriksson Ek - Marcus Foligno
This line gets to stay intact, but will see elevated minutes to stretch the depth out. Here's a chance for Greenway and Eriksson Ek to prove themselves worthy of being core players. They will see more time against heavy competition and will be expected to bring secondary scoring. Foligno is a power forward who brings a mix of everything who is a well-rounded player. Not to mention a great leader as mentioned before. He will be ready for a bigger task and play his role. This line should be better this coming season. Greenway may not have the shot to produce high goal totals, but he can make the right play with the puck on his stick to get plenty of assists. Combine that with JEE's shot and you will see JEE hit 20 goals for the first time in his career without high-end talent around him. Foligno had a solid year finishing with 26 points in 39 games which was a career high. In a regular season setting when healthy that would've been 55 points on the year. Even though I don't expect Foligno to produce a lot of points he's capable of providing secondary scoring.
Matt Boldy - Marco Rossi - Alexander Barabanov
Here's where the rookies get to play and adjust to the NHL. They won't be thrown into the fire as they will play a depth role to start their NHL careers. Barabanov has pro experience playing in the KHL and is familiar playing with Kaprizov for team Russia. Even though Barabanov doesn't have much NHL experience he can thrive in a secondary scoring role on a 3rd line who can shutdown teams as well as provide offense. If Rossi and Boldy become studs right away then this team is a legitimate contender. Boldy provides size who will go into the hard areas to win puck battles and cause havoc around the net. He will be expected to make crisp passes in the slot for scoring chances thanks to elite level vision not to mention finishing on plays himself. He has a variety of tools and can play a shutdown role. Same goes for Rossi who will be in charge of making plays happen at a high level. He is a two-way plug who is dynamic offensively. He will play with an edge and will help produce. Him playing with a big bodied winger in Boldy should do wonders. They are fine where they are. Barabanov finishes this line.
Here's a scouting video of Barabanov. He's #94. He has played with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Sharks. He doesn't have much NHL games played, but during his stint with the Sharks he's seeing more ice time and having a role instead of playing limited time with the Leafs. In 9 games he has 7 points which is a small sample size, but looks promising. He's an older pro player coming from the KHL like Kaprizov. He can blend in with the two rookies. Barabanov brings a winning pedigree. He does everything on the ice. He's highly skilled too. If you see timestamp 1:08 his skill is put on display. He gets into the corner to strip the puck away and then lifts the puck in the air on his backhand to get pass the next defender to keep play going. So he has natural skill. He thinks the game at a high level and he always keeps his feet moving. You won't see him coast often. Rossi and Boldy have great work ethic so these 3 should mesh incredibly well. They could be quite the scoring line. More depth to go around in the support of Kaprizov. Barabanov is 27 and would rather be on a team who is ready to compete instead of rebuilding. He could be someone who can be a cheap scoring forward to keep around until prospects are ready to come up. He's the perfect stop-gap player. More offense!
Frederick Gaudreau - Nico Sturm - Ryan Hartman
We see that we got a good looking 4th line. They will be trusted to play well more than 10 minutes a night. If we can get 15 or more minutes then our depth is well equipped for the playoffs. This line can bring a lot of energy and will be in everyone's faces on the ice. Not to mention being reliable defensive players and contributing in the offensive end more often than not. Hartman was maximized last season which is why he's sticking around. He can play up and down the lineup and will play center if needed. He will bring work ethic, grit, and scoring depth. Sturm scored 11 goals which was tied for 4th on the team while playing a sheltered role. With him earning more responsibility and wingers to support him this line should gel nicely. Gaudreau is a versatile player who is a good depth signing. Sturm brings size down the middle and speed. This line should be a high tempo line. Now you have all 4 centers who are reliable and can be held accountable due to their responsibility on the ice.
Nick Bjugstad and Victor Rask
I'm keeping Bjugstad as the 13th forward since he can bring a mix of size, offensive ability, and power. He can play up and down the lineup and will work hard. He won't score a lot in his role, but he's going to bring quality depth. I'm moving Rask for a backup goaltender to support Talbot in goal. This is why I'm moving Rask's contract to the Detroit Red Wings for Thomas Greiss. Rask can still provide depth and Yzerman would like more cap relief. Greiss only makes $400,000 less than Rask. So his contract won't hinder us from signing Kaprizov. Greiss is 35 and will be a good backup instead of starter. If we want to move Rask bring some value back. There's no risk in trading Greiss for Yzerman as he's a very smart man who built the dynasty Tampa Bay Lightning. For one year he won't mind having a bottom-6 center for depth. The Wings are rebuilding anyways. They got cap space. Greiss will be a short-term replacement for Kahkonen as Jesper Wallstedt will be coming up 2-3 years from now. He's our new franchise potential starting goalie. A backup goalie isn't hard to find. If we want to save money then we can let Greiss walk in free agency.
The Sharks will benefit from this trade because they got goaltending depth now as Kahkonen represents their future along with Adin Hill. They need to get better between the pipes. James Reimer is a stop-gap starter, but Hill and Kahkonen are the future. The Sharks should be looking better. They drafted William Eklund who could turn out to be a center due to how advanced he is defensively and has a scoring touch. He can center Fiala and Timo Meier who could make a sick scoring line in the near future. So that's something to look forward to if you're a Sharks fan. Fiala finally gets quality offensive linemates and watch him soar. Enjoy Fiala Sharks fans. You are getting a gem who should fit in with your system. A dynamic and elite winger. Here's a good starting point. Both sides should be happy.
When you look at the rest of the Central you see the Wild got their work cut out for themselves. They are no longer going to play bottom feeding teams like the LA Kings, Anaheim Ducks, and Sharks. They will see more of the Dallas Stars, Winnipeg Jets, Colorado Avalanche, and the St.Louis Blues. The Chicago Blackhawks could surprise people. Nashville and Arizona will be competitive too. This will be a harder division to be in and we won't make the playoffs if we stick with our strategy from last season. A move for a center has to be made. Hertl is a playoff performer. He has 42 points in 62 career playoff games. JEE has shown he can be a playoff contributor too when it matters. Rossi can be one too along with Sturm. This will be a lineup fans will be comfortable with making a deep run. By the time Wallstedt arrives and Calen Addison settles in this team could be very exciting. So Hertl is worth it.
Tell me what you think about the blueline and goaltending duo in the comments below:
Alex Goligoski-Jared Spurgeon (Reliable minute eating pairing who can play an all-around game and can produce)
Jonas Brodin-Matt Dumba (Another reliable pairing, but will be more offensive with Dumba needing to be a more consistent offensive player and Brodin emerging in his prime)
Dmitry Kulikov-Calen Addison (A reliable pairing that will play important minutes and provide depth. Kulikov will bring a physical and steady presence while Addison will be the puck mover who will provide offense)
Jon Merrill (Veteran presence who can actually play forward just in case. He will sacrifice his body for his goalie. Will do what it takes to win and will step up for teammates)
Cam Talbot (If things go right expect him to finish within the 91% save percentage which will help the Wild reach the playoffs)
Thomas Greiss (A very capable backup who can split games and play well. Talbot will be energetic for the playoffs. Greiss will back him up in case of injuries or if Talbot has a rough night.
I hate that Fiala isn't going to sign a long-term deal here. We need centers and this is the perfect time to use Fiala to trade for one instead of sacrificing your prospect pool and finances for Eichel. It's too much. If you can get 4 lines clicking and going you are on your way of being successful. Imagine the potential production spread out:
Kaprizov: 80-90+ points
Hertl: 70-80+ points
Zuccarello: 50-60+ points
Eriksson Ek: 40-50+ points
Greenway: 40-50+ points
Boldy: 40-50+ points
Rossi: 40-50+ points
Barabanov: 40+ points
Foligno: 30-40+ points
Hartman: 20-30+ points
Sturm: 20-30+ points
Gaudreau: 20+ points
This is good and quality depth going around the lineup based on minutes played and ability. This is a contender on paper and very likely can be in reality. Guerin needs to bring Hertl over here and sign him to a contract extension. The trade will be a fail if both Hertl and Barabanov walk in free agency. Sign them to extensions now. Hertl 5 years and Barabanov 2-3 years. By the time Hertl is done Rossi will be 25 and will be ready to take over as our 1C. JEE could be our 2C as Marat Khusnutdinov comes in as our 3C.
Things are looking nice now huh?
We have the hungry lion in Alexander Khovanov developing in Iowa...Same goes for Adam Beckman. Things are looking a lot better.
Thanks for reading.