Who Could Be The Minnesota Wild’s Next Franchise Center?

BUFFALO, NY - FEBRUARY 23: Jack Eichel #9 of the Buffalo Sabres looks to make a pass during the second period against the Winnipeg Jets at KeyBank Center on February 23, 2020 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NY - FEBRUARY 23: Jack Eichel #9 of the Buffalo Sabres looks to make a pass during the second period against the Winnipeg Jets at KeyBank Center on February 23, 2020 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images) /

Examining the potential options to acquire a franchise center.

The Wild are currently towards the end of a “retool” as the Wild’s veteran core shifts from the old guard to a newer younger core. We saw the departures of Mikael Granlund to Nashville, Nino Niederreiter to Carolina, Charlie Coyle to Boston, and Jason Zucker to Pittsburgh.

Veteran Captain Mikko Koivu is on the last year of his contract and his career is (likely) coming to a close, the “play-in” series may be his last opportunity to compete for a Stanley Cup. Eric Staal, Devan Dubnyk, Greg Pateryn, and Brad Hunt all have one year remaining on their contracts. Assuming none of those remain after next season, that would leave just five players over 30 years old which would include Zach Parise, Mats Zuccarello, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, and Alex Stalock to remain in 2021-2022.

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The Wild have two needs, a need for a goaltender and more importantly, a need for a number one center to replace Mikko Koivu who was one of the best defensive centers in the past decade. The question at hand is whether the Wild decide to go for a number one center or a franchise center.

For this article, I will be proposing trades strictly for franchise centers. Franchise centers don’t grow on trees, an overpayment may be necessary. All the centers I chose are 24 and younger.

Just for some context so readers can understand how much you have to pay to acquire a franchise center, in most cases, likely an overpay. Boston Bruins and NHL insider Joe Haggerty explained that the Bruins would have to trade winger Jake Debrusk, defenseman Charlie McAvoy, prospect John Beecher, and multiple drafts picks to be able to acquire Eichel. That displays how much it would take to get a franchise center.

The Big Fish: Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres

Jack Eichel would be a perfect franchise center for the Wild. Eichel is 23 and has six years left beyond this season at 10 million. Eichel had a career year in terms of goals and points per game, if not for the pause, Eichel would have surpassed his career-high point total. I am not sure if this would get the deal done but it is at least a start and should get Buffalo’s attention nonetheless. There has been trade speculation for a while now regarding RD Rasmus Ristolainen and him wanting out of Buffalo. So assuming a trade finally circulates and Ristolainen gets out of Buffalo, Dumba would be a perfect addition.

Jordan Greenway would also be a perfect addition along with center prospect Damien Giroux along with two first-round picks, one in a depth-heavy draft. I chose Greenway due to us already having a surplus of wingers including Fiala and Adam Beckman who will hopefully be ready within the next couple of years. Its unlikely Greenway would get a top 6 role in the future due to the depth chart. Again, I doubt this would be enough but it is at least a starting point.

Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers

Just like Eichel, Aleksander Barkov would be a phenomenal acquisition and could be the Wild’s next franchise center. Barkov is 24 and had a career-year last season where he amassed 35 goals, 61 assists for 96 points. It is a no brainer that Barkov would be a great addition, he has two seasons left after this season at just under 6 million, then he will be looking for a lucrative long-term contract. With Ekblad and Weegar already on the right side, the Panthers would wish for Brodin rather than Dumba. Brodin would solidify the Panthers’ top 4 defensive core.

Other than the likes of Barkov, Huberdeau (LW & C), and maybe one could argue Acciari, there aren’t any top 6 centers available other than their prized prospects which is why I chose to include defensive center Joel Eriksson Ek to jump right in. I threw in Mason Shaw and a first-rounder as well. I don’t know if this gets Barkov out of Florida but it should at least get the Panthers’ attention.

Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings

I added Larkin on here because I think he has the potential to be franchise center quality soon. Larkin would be another great addition and could be the Wild’s next franchise center. Larkin is 23 with three seasons remaining after this season. Last season, Larkin accumulated 32 goals, 41 assists for 73 points on the worst team in the NHL. Just like Barkov, he will be looking for a pretty hefty contract when it’s done.

Brodin would be a perfect first-pairing defenseman and would be a perfect compliment to Hronek’s offensive game. Damien Giroux would be another center prospect to add to the Red Wings pipeline with the first and second-round picks to help the Red Wings get back to relevancy. The Red Wings are still years away from being a playoff team, so maybe a big enough offer could get the Wild a center like Larkin.

It is really hard to value these kinds of high-end franchise centers, and since franchise centers don’t grow on teams, you have to grossly overpay. These trades are a start but it would likely take more to get Eichel, Barkov, or Larkin out of Buffalo, Florida, and Detroit respectively.

If you were GM of the Minnesota Wild, are you going for a young center like Cirelli, the first-line center like Duchene, or a franchise center like Eichel?

All Stats and Information via NHL.com, CapFriendly, Hockey Reference, & NBC Sports.

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