The Case of the Missing Third Line Center for the Minnesota Wild

ST. PAUL, MN - APRIL 02: Victor Rask #49 of the Minnesota Wild skates with the puck during a game with the Winnipeg Jets at Xcel Energy Center on April 2, 2019 in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)
ST. PAUL, MN - APRIL 02: Victor Rask #49 of the Minnesota Wild skates with the puck during a game with the Winnipeg Jets at Xcel Energy Center on April 2, 2019 in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Free Agency has dried up and precious few names remain. However, one in particular stands out, Ryan Dzingel. Can he plug the vacant 3C hole on the Wild’s roster?

How’s this for a headline? “Minnesota Wild Struggle to Score and Fall to Team XYZ”

A pretty familiar headline for a team that was shutout 11 times, tied for 27th most in NHL history with 21 other teams. At any rate it is not a list any NHL team wants to find itself on. This is where my big question comes from “are the Minnesota Wild better suited trading Rask and signing Dzingel?”

Now the obvious answer may be yes. Dzingel had 26 goals and 30 assists, a wide margin better than Rask’s 9 points total. Now because of Rask’s point totals this season, a lot of writers, Michael Russo included, have Rask penciled in as a 13th or 14th forward entering the season.

At a 4 million dollar cap hit, it makes little to no sense to keep him on the roster. If that’s his role, it would be ideal if both player and team parted ways. But is he only a 13th forward? Furthermore, is Dzingel’s impact on an NHL roster that much better than Rask’s?

Victor Rask is a Solid Player for the Minnesota Wild, Offense aside

Call me biased (I wrote this in April, and like most people, I do not like being wrong), but Victor Rask is not that bad of a player. In fact he’s still a very consistent player. I know it sounds contradictory seeing a player go from a consistent 35-45 point player to a 9 point player, but I can prove it.

2018/2019 was a season of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde for Victor Rask. His time with Carolina prior to being traded was nothing short of nightmare fodder. in 26 games he scored 1 goal and added 5 assists for 6 of his 9 points. On top of that his Corsi for percentage went from 51.9% in 2017/2018 to 46.9%. His Fenwick for percentage similarly tanked as it went from 51.5% to a horrid 44.9%  His numbers tanked and he lost the ability to properly carry or even hold possession on his own line.

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Following the trade that sent him to Minnesota his numbers improved back to his career average. he rebounded to a 52.8% Corsi for percentage and a 53.4% Fenwick for rating. That 53.4% is tied with Jason Zucker, and is better than Eric Staal’s (53.3%), Mikael Granlund (53.3%), and Zach Parise (53.2%), among others. That means that when Victor Rask was on the ice he was getting the same ratio of Fenwick (shots on net and missed shots) that the Wild’s premier and formerly premier players had in the same season.

The only issue is Rask’s shooting percentage which was a whopping 6.6% with the Wild. His career average prior to 2018-2019 was 9.8%. if he posted his average shooting percentage with the Wild he would be tied for 7th with Jason Zucker and ahead of Spurgeon, Fiala, Koivu, and Donato.

How Much of an Upgrade is Dzingel for the Minnesota Wild?

Well looking at offense alone it’s very black and white, Dzingel is a substantial upgrade to Rask. Dzingel has a solid history of posting offense, having steadily improved in each season on a depleted Ottawa team. Going from 9 points in his first 30 NHL games, to 32 points, to 41, and finally posting 56 this season. This steady improvement is indicative of a player entering his prime years. So where’s the counter argument? A young player entering his prime posting 50 points or better seems like an easy bet.

Well it’s not that simple.

Dzingel for all his offensive talents is not the complete player Rask is at his best. Rask, at his best is a utility player that can play power-play, penalty kill, drive possession on a line, etc. Dzingel’s downfall is that he is purely an offensive player. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you’re an NHL team that needs a shot in the arm of offense, Dzingel is a good option.

However, if you need a player that can carry a third line you may need to re-consider the investment. With the Minnesota Wild’s situation, having a lot 3rd line options under the age of 23 (Donato, Eriksson Ek, Kunin, Greenway, to name a few) there’s logic in thinking twice.

Dzingel is not a possession player. In his career so far he has not posted either a 50% Corsi rating or a 50% Fenwick ratio. Not with Ottawa when they made the conference finals in 2016/2017, and not with Columbus in his 16 regular season games with them. In fact in 2018/2019 Dzingel had a 44.6% Corsi for percentage and a 44.9 Fenwick for percentage in his 57 games with Ottawa.

There was a little improvement in Columbus posting a 47.5% Corsi and a 46.7% Fenwick. However this overshadowed by the -3.4 Corsi relative and -4.7 Fenwick relative. Meaning that even though there was improvement in Columbus, he was noticeably worse than his teammates at driving possession. His team suffered with him on the ice.

Final Thoughts

Victor Rask, for all his offensive struggles, can carry a 3rd line if need be. Having him on the roster means cover for the Wild’s younger players. In fact the argument can be made it would be wise to have a center depth of Staal, Koivu, and Rask as your 1-2-3. However, Minnesota needs offense.

If it makes more sense to sacrifice possession in order to have a little more offense, Dzingel is a good option. What do you think? does it make sense to try to replace Rask with Dzingel? let us know in the comments!