Minnesota Wild Still Looking to Acquire Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

One of the hottest trade rumors at the beginning of the offseason surrounding the Minnesota Wild was a possible swap of a defensive piece for Edmonton center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.  Just as those rumors seemed to be ice-cold, The Hockey Press reported last week that the Wild made another offer that the Oilers could looking over as we speak.

Apparently the possibility of a Matt Dumba for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins trade is not dead.  According to The Hockey Press the Minnesota Wild did in fact make an offer to the Edmonton Oilers for center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins last week.  While the rumor that the Wild want to trade for Nugent-Hopkins is not new, the rumor that they have made a specific offer is.  Apparently the Oilers are listening and it involves a few more pieces than most expected.

The rumor is that the deal would see the Wild send Matt Dumba and Jason Zucker, for Nugent-Hopkins and “more”.  The Hockey Press believes that the “more” piece was Benoit Pouliot.  The Oilers have not responded to the Wild, and it’s furthered rumored by the Hockey Press that the Oilers are holding out for a high draft pick or prospect to add to the pile due to Nugent-Hopkins’ value to the current Oiler lineup.

The trade offer as reported is actually very fair and would be beneficial for the Wild.  With the idea of moving Dumba is not an issue, as the Wild have been preparing the team for life without one of their current defensive lineup.  Add to that the rumored difficulties with Dumba’s signing, and you can see why the Wild would want to move him rather than sign him for a term or number the team is not comfortable with.

Zucker really has been a possibility to be traded after concluding a very down season that saw him uncharacteristically score only 13 goals.  The idea of him having a rebound season under new Head Coach Bruce Boudreau has kept him in the Wild’s game plan and got him a very strong new contract this offseason.  Still in the background the Wild need to re-tool and it seemed that only a few players were protected.  Zucker looks to fall just outside of that protection.

Nov 5, 2015; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba (24) celebrates his goal during the third period against the Nashville Predators at Xcel Energy Center. The Predators defeated the Wild 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 5, 2015; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba (24) celebrates his goal during the third period against the Nashville Predators at Xcel Energy Center. The Predators defeated the Wild 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Furthermore, it just seems that from the start the Oilers have valued Dumba much less than Wild did.  They were interested in acquiring Dumba, but they didn’t see Nugent-Hopkins as equal trade.  So the issue to get the Oilers’ GM Peter Chiarelli to consider a deal was to add something to in with Dumba.  Zucker represents a large piece of a package deal and makes a deal that the Oilers have to consider.  But the combination of two of the Wild’s best young players might be too much value for Nugent-Hopkins.

So enter the “more” or in this case Pouliot.  By asking for a player like Pouliot the Wild are trying to fill a need which is another 3rd/4th line wing.  Right now the organization had options to fill that open spot in the lineup, but most of them are unexperienced.  By using Zucker to sweeten the pot the Wild open up that lineup spot in the forward corps while at the same time compelling the Oilers to offer something more than just Nugent-Hopkins.

Feb 20, 2016; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Benoit Pouliot (67) skates during warmup against the Colorado Avalanche at Rexall Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Salary cap wise this proposed deal will be challenging for the Wild.  Nugent-Hopkins is currently carrying a hefty hit of $6 million annually and Pouliot is currently at $4 million annually.  Dumba currently has no cap hit due to his unsigned RFA status and Zucker just signed his deal that has annual hit of $2 million Additionally, after signing Jordan Schroeder on Saturday the Wild have $4.7 million of cap space remaining, which means that the deal as it is now leaves the Wild $3.3 million over the cap.

There’s only really about two ways they can close this salary cap deficit.  The Wild can offer another player with a $3.3 million or more annual hit, or they can get the Oilers to retain $3.3 million or more of Nugent-Hopkins or Pouliot’s salary.  The first option doesn’t seem likely as the Wild have offered good value and most likely don’t want to lose any more pieces.  The second option is more plausible, as the Oilers currently have $8.3 million in cap space and would have about $13.3 to $14.3 million after the trade is completed and Dumba signs with them for a number expected to be between $2-3 million.  So in this scenario the Oilers would gain cap space and could certainly eat $3.3 million or more to make this deal work.  The only issue is, do the Oilers want to give up that money badly enough to acquire Dumba and Zucker?

Finally, it looks like this deal could end up better for Dumba if it actually happens.  With the Oilers having $16.3 million in cap space after a deal is completed, they would have ample space to give Dumba a pay raise that the Wild are really not wanting to pay for.  Right now the Wild are probably looking to spend somewhere around $2 million for Dumba due to their plans for the cap.  The Oilers offer a relatively unconstrained environment and could be an excellent place for him to get a higher contract number and possibly a longer term.

Of course this is just a rumor for now and it looks like there’s some difficulties, but what makes this one a little more credible is that it names specific players at a time when one of them (Dumba) is having issues signing a contract.  The Oilers want another defenseman and the Wild want another forward or two…this is still a deal that makes sense.  Lots is yet to play out and there could be a counteroffer, but keep your eyes and ears open for the rest of the summer to see how this one plays out.