The Wild must add offense, and that has to come via a trade of one of the team’s young defensemen. Marco Scandella offers the Wild the best flexibility in a possible trade.
The Minnesota Wild must find a way to add offense to a team that often failed to provide the offense needed to consistently win games in the NHL. Given the team possesses, talented young players on the back-end, it is likely that it will take one of those players along with a prospect or two to gain the talent Bruce Boudreau needs to take the next step.
Looking at the current depth chart it is clear the team has a plan. They gave Mike Reilly his first taste of the NHL last year and he responded with an up and down year, but gave hope none the less. He is only going to be 23 next year so the team hopes he will improve and crack the lineup this year.
That means one of the team’s young defensemen becomes an asset that can be used to attract more talent at forward. The most likely candidates to be traded are: Marco Scandella, Jonas Brodin, and Matt Dumba.
Scandella is the oldest of the three at 26 years old , which also makes him the most likely player to be moved. Coming off two successful seasons in a row, his value is high as he enters the prime of his playing career. Scandella provides a proven scoring option on the back-end, an asset any team would be happy to add.
Looking at the cons of losing Scandella, we have to start with his shot from the point. This past season he had only 5 goals and seemed a bit snake bitten. However he is just a year removed from a career high 11 goals. He is certainly capable of close to 10 goals a season as he enters his prime. Even given his lower goal scoring totals last year he still finished with 21 points, respectable from a defensemen.
In addition, Scandella is a positive player, posting a rating of plus 6 this past season and averaging plus 8 over the past three years. Clearly he is not a liability on the back-end.
What the team gains aside from a forward capable of 20 plus goals a season (as should be their target) is better puck possession and the ability to keep younger defensemen capable of stepping up if given larger roles.
Starting with puck possession, where Scandella did not have a good year in 2015-16. His 47.1 Fenwick rating means that the team possessed the puck much less than half the time he was on the ice. That is not a good rating from a player who needs his team to have the puck to let his true value show. His minus 4.8 Fenwick relative percentage to off the ice means the team possessed the puck 5 percent less when Scandella was on the ice.
Moving on to the other defensemen, I have already pointed out the team would like to give Reilly a shot at a full-time NHL gig this winter, but both Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba will benefit from moving Scandella as well.
The fact that both have solid regular season experience, (Brodin, 4 years and Dumba, 3 years) and playoff experience to boot makes them invaluable to the Wild. As veterans of the team, they still have many years in front of them. Brodin is 22 years old and Dumba is 21 years old, meaning that both still have four years to go until they reach Scandella’s current age of 26.
Both also will presumably remain under contract for the foreseeable future (the assumption being that Dumba is resigned by next season, he is an RFA) at a reasonable rate, and still have ten years left before they decline. Brodin endured a rough last year, but is still a solid defensemen who has thrived in a top 4 role in the past. Pairing the two players together on the second pairing would allow both to develop chemistry.
Given that they both have different strengths, Brodin being a responsible defensemen and Dumba being more of an offensive threat, they can cover for deficiencies in the other’s game as they continue to grow. That should serve the Wild well as the years go by.
Both players are younger, possess similar upside to Scandella and have earned larger roles on the Wild next season. When the upside of Mike Reilly is factored in, Scandella becomes the team’s most expendable defensemen. He is a luxury they cannot afford given their current need for scoring depth.