Over the next two weeks, sportsnet.ca will be taking an in-depth look at some key teams and the decisions facing them leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 29. Today: Minnesota Wild.
General Manager: Chuck Fletcher
2016 Draft Picks: 1st (MIN); 2nd (none); 3rd (none); 4th (MIN); 5th (none); 6th (MIN); 7th (FLA and MIN)
Cap space on deadline day: $3,439,410
Team mode: Win now.
Cap, no-move and draft pick data via generalfanager
The Minnesota Wild have fired a coach. Now, with the Trade Deadline looming, it is time for general manager Chuck Fletcher to solve some of the issues that have his Wild on the outside of the playoff picture after back to back appearances in Round 2.
Here’s the problem for Fletcher: his top players — and the ones whose production has lacked this season — all have no-movement clauses. Toss in the fact the Wild own just one draft pick in the Top 100 selections come June, and Fletcher finds himself very low on bullets for a guy whose job must also be on the line.
Minnesota finds itself 12th from the bottom of NHL team scoring, averaging just 2.54 goals per game. Last season they were 12th from the top (2.77). So a few goals is what Fletcher has to find, preferably at the centre ice position, where production has gone dry on this Wild club.
Top centre Mikko Koivu has settled in as a 15-goal player. He’s not a true first-line centre. Second line centre Mikael Granlund has failed to pan out, stuck at five goals this season after posting just eight in each of the past two. Erik Haula centres the third line, and he can’t score either, with 19 NHL goals in three seasons. Jarret Stoll centres the fourth line.
Fletcher needs a true No. 1 centre to push everyone down a notch to a spot where they’re more comfortable. That’s going to be a draft-day deal, likely, not something that can be accomplished at the deadline.
The one bit of bait that could get the job done is defenceman Jonas Brodin, who is out right now with a broken foot. You could perhaps trade him to Toronto, or Edmonton for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but alas, the Leafs don’t have the centre Fletcher needs, and RNH has a busted hand.
It’s an interesting climate in Minnesota, with head coach Mike Yeo having been fired and the Wild in genuine danger of ending a three-year streak of making the playoffs. Owner Craig Leipold has spent mightily on players like Suter, Parise, Koivu, Vanek and Pominville — each with no movement clauses.
This is a team built to win now, and with minimal draft picks and the fact the Wild is virtually capped out, there is only one way to get to improve: through the trade market. The problem is, Minny doesn’t have a bunch of bad contracts. They’ve got underachieving players with no movement clauses — guys you can’t dump on the floor teams alongside a prospect.
Fletcher doesn’t have many options here, with defenceman Jared Spurgeon stepping up into an expensive extension next year. Either he makes a big splash on Feb. 29 to get the centreman this club requires, or he waits until the draft — where his club will likely be drafting in the Top 15.