Minnesota Wild Trade Eric Staal to Buffalo Sabres for Marcus Johansson

Marcus Johansson of Buffalo Sabres with the puck during the NHL Global Series Ice Hockey match Tampa Bay Lightning v Buffalo Sabres in Stockholm on November 9, 2019. (Photo by Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP) (Photo by JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images)
Marcus Johansson of Buffalo Sabres with the puck during the NHL Global Series Ice Hockey match Tampa Bay Lightning v Buffalo Sabres in Stockholm on November 9, 2019. (Photo by Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP) (Photo by JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images) /

General Manager Bill Guerin Traded Eric Staal to Buffalo for LW/C Marcus Johansson. Johannson is about six years younger than Staal, and since the Minnesota Wild were eliminated from the Play-In Round, the message has been to be Younger and Faster.

Just about a day after the Jonas Brodin Extension was announced, Guerin made more waves trading Fan Favorite Eric Staal for Marcus Johansson. There was undoubtedly less excitement for this decision than the Brodin Extension, most fans loathing that it was a One for One deal, but let’s discuss some things.

I’m going to preface this with the fact that I loved Eric Staal in Minnesota. He was dynamic and exciting, really helped the Minnesota Wild with his skill set and the Contract he took. In the 2018-2019 season, teams were making calls wanting Eric Staal, but GM Paul Fenton decided to honor Staal’s request to stay in Minnesota, not trade him, and even extend him.

This was a shortsighted move by Fenton. He knew that the Wild needed to get younger and faster and reports say that Boston was willing to pay Sean Kuraly and a First Round Pick for Staal. What Fenton should have done is ship Staal out for draft capital and maybe a prospect, and bring him back when he’s a UFA in the Summer.

However, he didn’t. It’s another instance of hindsight and shortsightedness to the detriment of the Minnesota Wild.

So, with the news from Wednesday, what is Bill Guerin accomplishing trading Eric Staal now?

First, he’s changing the culture. He’s previously said in Media Availabilities and appearances on Michael Russo’s Straight From the Source, that he feels a shift inside the locker room is needed for this team to make steps. Feels like some of the Veterans have gotten cozy and comfortable like it’s a country club, and he tried to shake that foundation.

Second, the Play-In Series against the Vancouver Canucks taught him that the team needs to get younger and faster to be successful in the future. There were plenty of times Eric Staal looked lethargic and like lost a step or two throughout the year. When that would happen, he would be less disciplined on defense and hardly make the transition to the offensive zone with the rush.

That was always the concern with resigning Staal. Had to think the decline was coming sooner rather than later and I believe we were seeing the early stages of that this season.

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Third, Marcus Johansson is a decent player. He’s a  6′ 1″, 205 lbs LW/C, just finished his tenth year in the NHL, makes $4.5M for this next season, and his career-high came in 2016-2017 with the Washington Capitals when he scored 24 goals and 34 assists for 58 points.

Bill Guerin expects him to be the second-line center… as the roster is constructed now. This caused major concern through the Wild fanbase because Johansson looked like he was forced at Center for the Buffalo Sabres last year and performed awfully. Looking at his career Face-Off Win Percentages, he was never really exceptional on the dot. He only has one season where he’s above 45% Win Percentage (minimum 100 Face-Off Attempts).

MoJo is younger and a bit quicker than Eric Staal, but who knows if he’s truly better. This has the optics of another Prove-It situation like Alex Galchenyuk. If he performed well in the Regular Season and the Postseason, he may have played himself into a new contract. A decent regular season performance but a disappointing Play-In Series likely left Galchenyuk without a contract from the Wild.

The same could be said about MoJo. If he has a good season, maybe he gets another contract with the Wild.

I wasn’t overly surprised that Staal was moved, but I would have guessed it would have been for draft capital, like a second or third-round draft pick/prospect for a contending team.

I will leave you with this. I would be absolutely shocked if Bill Guerin was done making moves this offseason. As it stands, the Minnesota Wild Center’s are Joel Eriksson Ek, Marcus Johansson, Nick Bjugstad, Victor Rask, and Nico Sturm. Both Luke Kunin and Ryan Donato could also play center in a pinch, but I doubt they are the first option.

That’s really shallow and incredibly concerning. If they were to leave the center group in that state, it would be fairly concerning for the outlook of the season. However, it would allow Joel Eriksson Ek to get a real opportunity as a first or second-line center, which could be interesting. Maybe it influences a bit more development on the offensive side of the game, but who knows.

However, I don’t believe Bill Guerin will leave the Center Group like this for next season. They’ve invested over $27M into their top-four defensemen and with expansion next year, Bill Guerin has to decide whether he would like to keep the Top Four together and lose a young forward (like a Kunin, Greenway) or be willing to let go of Matt Dumba.

This option could be avoided altogether if Dumba is traded, likely to address the Center issue. Tampa Bay could be an option, they only have one Right Defensemen under team control after the Stanley Cup, and that’s RFA Erik Cernak. Could Anthony Cirelli be had? Who knows.

Everyone has been chalking this trade as a massive loss for the Wild based on the ability of the Players. While I won’t disagree that Eric Staal is a better player than Marcus Johansson, I believe Bill Guerin made the difficult decision to trade away aging and declining Eric Staal and get value for him. Personally, I would rather have received draft capital (whether later rounds with MoJo or a 2nd/3rd on its own).

This is the first somewhat puzzling move Bill Guerin has made, but I am not concerned whatsoever. He’s noticed and acting on the issues Wild fans have known for some time and criticized the previous regimes for not addressing: This team is too old and too slow.

Have faith and be patient.

I’ll leave you with this. Here’s a little nostalgia trip for you:

What are your thoughts on this trade? What do you think Bill Guerin’s next move is going to be? Leave a comment down below, or tweet at us @FSGonePuckWild.