The Minnesota Wild are one of the best teams in the NHL. Flying high and destroying any defense that gets in their way—scoring loads of goals no matter their opponent. It’s a weird thing to see, but we like it!
And now they’re just over a month away from what is no doubt going to be an exciting trade deadline across the league. Philadelphia Flyers legend Claude Giroux might be moved in his pursuit for a Stanley Cup! A team might nab elderly Joe Pavelski to go on a tear! Tyler Toffoli (already moved) and J.T. Miller are two very good forwards with some term that might (and already have) find new homes! Jacob Chychrun will escape Arizona! John Klingberg, Phil Kessel, Max Domi, Mar Giordano; there are enough respected names that will change employers after March 21 to make the next month one that is transactionally tantalizing.
But, I’m not going to expect the Wild to be at the center of it.
Despite having this one single year with a wide-open gap of cap space due to the twin buyouts of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise increasing in cost for the following three years, WIld GM Bill Guerin isn’t hinting at any Big Money Move. The players that he could get—Giroux, Pavelski, etc.—to make that sizeable increase in talent, would cost a lot of future assets that could be helpful down the line.
Just hear from the big man himself.
“What I’ve learned is, that old thing, sometimes the best trades you make are the ones you don’t,’’ Guerin told The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun earlier this week. “I’ve been really comfortable with our team, it’s allowed me to be patient. So stay patient. Don’t jump at just anything.
“We’re not in a full rebuild and I haven’t been just shipping off draft picks just to acquire whatever,” he added. “Because we need those picks, we need to keep building our prospect pool. So I’ve tried to stay pretty disciplined with keeping our picks. So we’re not at one end of the spectrum or the other, we’ve been in the middle.’’
Even when asked about specifically acquiring a center, Guerin doesn’t want to really hear it.
“I think it’s overblown,’’ Guerin said. “That’s one of those things that people have talked about with our organization for years. You know what? Why don’t you just look at how we’re playing.
“Would you rather win, or win a certain way? I don’t feel the need to do anything like that, I really don’t.’’
So, generally, the Wild aren’t prepared to give up anything significant to add talent to this team—and there is a debate even whether more talent means more wins because it could be a wrong fit in a system, or something else—in hopes that they get to build upon one of the best prospect pools in the league, and reap those benefits in the future. And, I would have to say that I don’t disagree.
The Wild are just on the cusp of finally seeing some of their top-tier prospects make the team, and it is just barely beginning. Matt Boldy and Connor Dewar are the two players drafted in the last four years that have more or less been established as full-time players—and there is an argument that the latter has not done that yet. Why go all-in this year, when you haven’t even really discovered what is possible in the future?
Especially for the Wild, where it feels like they have been the victim of small tinkering forever. Making a few decent signings like Mats Zuccarello, but just always on the cautious side. To establish themselves as a dominant multi-year contender, a core of prospects will need to graduate into full-time players, and then get surrounded by some added talent. That certainly isn’t the only way to get to the top, but it feels more substantial than to keep on shedding picks or prospects to just get slightly better.
We’re seeing just the beginning of this core and what this team can look like when development happens.
And honestly, I can be swayed either way. Maybe you can show me how old Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin are getting, and then I’d want to get a high-end rental to make this year worth it. Or you can say that any year with Kirill Kaprizov under contract should be a go-for-it year, and you would be correct. Or maybe you can see that a couple of months and a playoff run with Claude Giroux is worth more than the next several years of Adam Beckman or Jack McBain, and you might be right there as well. There are so many ways you can look at this deadline, it’s dizzying.
But Guerin doesn’t feel the pressure to make a move just because of the open finances this season.
“That part is fair,’’ Guerin said when asked about the cap space this year. “We have some cap constraints (after this season) that we have to think about. But, do you give up all sorts of assets for a couple of months of a player? I don’t know. I don’t know if that makes sense.’’
I have this gut feeling—that coincides with Michael Russo—that the Wild are not going to be splashy, but will opt for just building upon their depth. Maybe a Chris Tierney to make the bottom-six more interesting, or a Calle Jarnkrok, or a Johan Larsson—there are just a lot of rental bottom-six players just to throw out there. Maybe Guerin will decide that Jordie Benn shouldn’t be the seventh defenseman and get someone to supplement the blue line? Who knows!
And will those players even be better suited for the Wild than Dewar just staying in the fully healthy lineup? Again, who knows.
At least we all know one thing: This is just the beginning of the Wild being a consistently good team with this core and there are multiple exciting players on the horizon to make their debuts. No matter what, we get to watch a great hockey team. There’s at least that.