Minnesota Wild Mailbag: Trade Deadline, Matt Boldy, and Reverse Retros!

Mail Time! We asked for your questions about the Minnesota Wild and Site Expert Lake Martin is going to provide his thoughts.

Before we dive into the questions, I want to elaborate on some of the enthusiasm I have with the NHL Broadcasting Rights for the next United States TV Contract owning the “A Package” by ESPN. When I saw the news, I tweeted via the GonePuckWild account:

I think getting the NHL back onto ESPN will make it more visible in the sports landscape in numerous ways. We’ll get to see hockey highlights in the daytime highlight packages rather than the late-night shows when the highlight occurred the day of. There’s even the opportunity to listen to more debates on hockey topics on shows like First Take.

Here’s something to think about: Alex Ovechkin is soaring up the all-time goal-scoring list in NHL history.

Can anyone remember any recollection of the Worldwide Leader in Sports discuss whether or not the Great Eight can actually surpass the Great One? If he doesn’t pass the numerical total, is he still the greatest goal scorer of all time?

I can see it now. Stephen A. Smith on the side of Ovi and Kellerman, who is a fantastic heel (to borrow a wrestling term), taking the side of Gretzky. Here’s how it plays in my head:

Stephen A: YOU CAN’T TELL ME GRETZKY IS A BETTER GOAL SCORER THAN OVECHKIN WHEN THE GUYS WAYNE WAS SCORING ON COULD BARELY MOVE AND WERE 5 FOOT 9

Kellerman: Stephen A c’mon. Gretzky’s number is retired league wide. He’s clearly the best goal scorer of all time. Hockey was its best in the 80s. The two line pass still existed. It was harder to get in the zone and the players were way tougher.

Repeat.

These two (and ESPN in general) can keep Basketball, Tom Brady, and SEC football in its discussions every single day. It’s a fantastic talent and ability. They know what they’re about and what will get viewed. If, and that’s larger if then I would care for, they can help hockey grow.

I mean how can you not like this:

Think of it this way. What did NBC really do to help grow the popularity of hockey and keep it in regular sports discussion? In my opinion, it’s really just the Winter Classic…

Greg Wyshynski of ESPN said this on a recent episode of Puck Soup:

…You get pushed to the moon if you’re apart of the Family (ESPN)… Issue with the previous contract was that you were severely limiting your audience by making a monolithic deal with one property… When you are on multiple networks, there is sort of a competitive spirit in trying to be better than the other guys. We would make stuff in theory, that other guys in contract would want to make too. It ups everyones game. NBC rested on its laurels because it didn’t have any competition. What’s a new thing they made in the contract? A podcast nobody listens too? They brought on Bobby (Bob McKenzie) and Dreger (Darren Dreger), which was good, but it wasn’t like they created a new weekly show around the NHL.

The podcast Greg refers to is Our Line Starts which is 47th according to Podbay.FM, well behind all the National Podcasts and even several team-specific podcasts, not to mention locally created Straight from the Source and Worst Seats in the House.

If the time and energy are made into making the NHL visible on ESPN platforms and streaming, I think it would be fantastic for the popularity of the game. I think players will love it too because it makes their highlights more visible and gives them more ample opportunity to talk about specific games/plays and show their personality a bit.

Before the highlights of every NBA game, what do we typically see? The star(s) of the teams walking in from the parking garage with the fashion statement of the day. This could be fantastic for Hockey.

I even think we could see a trickle-down into College Hockey getting a bit more visibility and play on networks like ESPNU. Potentially. I would love to see that happen. May just be me dreaming.

Okay, that’s more than enough on part of the new TV Contract. To the readers’ questions.

This is a fantastic question because I truly don’t know the answer to this question. There’s plenty of reason to do it, look at his stats this year. In nineteen Games Played this season (playing both Wing and Center by the way), he has ten goals and fourteen assists for twenty-four points, which leads all Boston College Eagle Skaters.

Let’s widen the range, in his entire Collegiate Career of fifty-three Games Played, he has nineteen goals and thirty-one assists for fifty points. Nearly a point per game.

There is a really compelling case for it and I don’t hate it. The Eagles could make a bit of a run, but the Frozen Four is going to be on April 8th and 10th. The NHL Trade Deadline is April 12th and The Stanley Cup Playoffs will start May 11th.

Barring catastrophic injuries, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the Minnesota Wild will make the playoffs this season. I don’t see the Coyotes or the Kings making a significant push to take a spot from any of the current top four in the West (Vegas, Wild, Blues, Avs), and the Ducks and Sharks might already be too deep in the hole to climb out of it.

I don’t expect the Wild to be all in buying/selling at the deadline (will elaborate later) but let me pitch this idea to you. What if the addition the Minnesota Wild add at the Deadline is Signing Matt Boldy to his Entry-Level Contract?

First question, where would he fit? Let’s work with a healthy roster, which would look like this:

Greenway-JEE-Foligno

Zuccarello-Bjugstad-Kaprizov

Parise-Hartman-Fiala

Sturm-Bonino-MoJo

Now who knows what deals GM Bill Guerin could be working on for the deadline, I suspect one if not two of these forwards to probably be gone at the deadline. That opens up a spot for Rask to draw back into the lineup and leaves one more open spot that Boldy could fill.

The concern would then be his ice time. One interesting trend that we have seen from Dean Evason as head coach is that he is willing to roll four lines, and if you are playing well, you will get more ice during games.

Sturm and Bonino both got above 12 minutes of ice time as fourth-liners, and Rau only got less because of that massive McNabb hit, which knocked him out of the game for a bit.

I think if the opportunity is available for Matt Boldy to join the Minnesota Wild, it’s feasible he does it this season. Unlike some prospects, like Marco Rossi for instance, he’s been in Hockey Shape and playing hockey games because of NCAA Hockey.

He is only a Sophomore and could utilize more time to cook/develop in College. Not to mention the marginal benefits of burning the first season of his ELC on, at most, 11 regular-season games (Boldy would almost certainly have to quarantine, so even this number isn’t probable) is a factor you have to take into consideration.

But I don’t hate the idea of rewarding this team for performing well by adding Boldy this season. And, if they do sign Boldy to his ELC, it’s almost certain to have him on the NHL roster. Don’t waste what will count as a full year of his inexpensive deal to play a shortened season in the minors.

What a great question. I started not knowing what the answer was and I talked myself into how it could work (and how exciting it could be) by the end.

Next question:

I don’t see the Wild trading for any specific additions when it comes to the trade deadline. I’m unsure how many teams are really going to buy this year. What the Wild need is evident: Center, but who’s available as a rental? Eric Staal could theoretically make a return to the State of Hockey, but I doubt Guerin will pay near what a Stanley Cup contender could pay Buffalo for his services

(For my money, my bet is Staal ends up in Toronto or Boston)

The Wild won’t add someone to the current roster that is near the top of the “Trade Bait” boards. The contenders will eat those guys up.

However, I could see the Wild making move to pick up a guy I’ve talked about in the past that could make sense in Minnesota. Vladislav Namestnikov.

This offseason, Vlad Namestnikov signed a two-year contract worth $4M total with the Detroit Red Wings.  The Wild could make this move this Trade Deadline as an addition for the rest of the season/playoffs and as insurance, in the case they aren’t able to bring back Ryan Hartman, who will be an RFA with arbitration rights.

Namestnikov isn’t shabby, four goals and five assists in twenty-five games on the actively bad Red Wings, but in recent years has been able to put up about 30 points a season, on weaker teams like the Rangers and Senators. After joining Colorado as a rental last year, had four goals and two assists in nine games during the regular season and contributed another four goals and one assist in twelve games during the postseason.

He wouldn’t be your new second-line center by any means, but it’s a thought.

Other than that, they don’t need to add a defenseman, winger, or goalie. If it’s a position, it’ll be center, and it won’t be a blockbuster.

In terms of who commands the Crease right now, Evason has shown that the skaters that are playing better will see more and more time, and I bet that’ll follow for the goaltenders. Kaapo is riding an eight-game win streak, but I bet we see Cam Talbot for the next game against Arizona.

It isn’t like Kahkonen did anything wrong or played poorly, I just think Talbot needs the chance to find his groove again after it being interrupted by injury and the Wild COVID pause. I’d bet the split the rest of the way will be anywhere from 60/40 in favor of Talbot to a pure 50/50.

It may not even be because of the performance. The Wild will not have had more than ONE day off between games for FORTY DAYS (Valentine’s Day to March 27th) to make up for their two-week pause. They’ll have played twenty-one games by the time that stretch is over. By splitting the games more evenly, you ensure that one guy isn’t getting overworked and possibly injured. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to see them go in every other game or switch in on two-game blocks.

I do understand where this question is coming from, Kaapo Kahkonen has been one of the pleasant and awesome surprises this season. He is playing very well and it’s really enjoyable.

Penultimate Question

I certainly hope so. I bet they will. It shouldn’t be a one-off. On a national level, NHL personalities, reporters, broadcasters are huge fans of the Wild Reverse Retros.

I think we’ll see the NHL follow the path that the NBA has in respect to jerseys, and move away from the true Home/Away/Alternate system, and have a rotating cast of jerseys you could wear at any time. It boosts jersey sales and keeps a fresh and unique look.

If I was coordinating this new system, I would keep the Standard Wild Home/Aways, keep the Reverse Retro as a mainstay, and then moving forward have one jersey that is different either every year or every two years. PLUS the Wild are still due for a Winter Classic which comes with its own styled jersey.

Also, tangent to this conversation. Wear the Road Jersey at home sometimes. It’s a solid jersey and it’s a different look for the fans (when they return to the stands) than what they’re always used to.

Or just wear the Reverse Retro. That thing should come with a fire warning on it.

Final Question for the Mailbag today.

So let’s hit the quick ones. I see near to no reason as to why the Wild should bring back Nick Bonino to Marcus Johansson. They were acquired very specifically to create cap space after this season was done, it is evident.

Nick Bjugstad is a bit more difficult to simply write off. Four goals and five assists in twenty-four games are ok. The Wild are only paying him $2.05M this season because the Pens retained half his salary. If he takes a team-friendly deal, about the same number as $2.05M (perhaps even less to stay local) I could see him sticking around.

Ryan Hartman is much more complex. He’s an RFA with Arbitration rights, which gives him more power on what his next deal will look like, and he’ll certainly make more than his current $1.9M AAV.

He had twenty points in sixty-nine games last year and sits at nine in nineteen this year, and has shifted from Wing to Center rather successfully. If the number is manageable, I would certainly keep him. If it cost Bjugstad to keep Hartman, I’d do it. He’s under the radar sometimes, but it’s well documented how big of a fan GonePuckWild is of him. We loved him in the Bubble and felt he had a very strong start to the season this year.

Finally of the guys you mention, Matt Dumba. Simply put, I don’t want him to be moved off our team. I think he’s a fantastic personality, does fantastic work for the community, and I think he’s well loved by the team. Just look at his friendships with Jonas Brodin and Kirill Kaprizov.

But I also understand that the Wild are spending an incredible amount of cap space on their defense and that limits what and how they can improve the offensive group.

The issue with a Trade involving Matt Dumba is that the team acquiring him can artificially lower his value by evaluating him as the 4th best defenseman on this near league best group of defensemen.

The Wild would want a center back, but who does that involve? Eichel would cost you a lot, and it seems destined that he is departing for LA or NYC at some point in the future. Barkov could be a target, but the Panthers have significantly improved and I don’t see GM Bill Zito making that move right now.

It’s not unreasonable to believe that the Wild will be without Matt Dumba after this season, which would shatter hearts. The man is an absolute gem.

There are a couple of paths to him remaining on the Minnesota Wild after this season.

First, the Wild could simply protect eight skaters, going four defensemen and four forwards. The four would look like: Zach Parise (NMC), Mats Zuccarello (NMC), Kevin Fiala, JEE, Ryan Suter (NMC), Jared Spurgeon (NMC), Jonas Brodin (NMC), and Matt Dumba.

This would notably expose Jordan Greenway, Marcus Foligno, Ryan Hartman, and Carson Soucy. With the improvements he made this year, I don’t feel comfortable exposing Greenway and Foligno just signed an extension to stay in Minnesota. I don’t think the Wild plan on losing him to expansion. But unless someone waives their NMC and allows themselves to be exposed, or they go the 7-3-1 route, he’s vulnerable.

The second option is to make a side deal to protect Matt Dumba, ala Alex Tuch and the Vegas Golden Knights. This could drive Wild Fans crazy, losing another quality prospect to extend protection over the roster. I think teams saw how much those deals benefitted Vegas and will be wary to give another gift away.

The final option I feasibly see is one of Parise, Zuccarello, or Suter waive their NMC, allow themselves to be exposed because it’s unlikely they get taken, which allows the Wild to protect Dumba. In my view, this is a longshot because these veterans value their security and certainty on where they will be playing hockey, but I don’t think it’s out of the question.

In an ideal world, its Suter waiving his NMC for expansion so that the Wild could still go 7-3-1, but still unsure how likely this is. He is getting up their in age, but he hasn’t severely regressed, and while his AAV might be stout, the amount of actual cash he is paid in the final three years of his deal are $2M for one year and $1M for two years, which is valuable in the eyes of cash-strapped teams.

The Minnesota Wild won’t just trade Dumba to avoid losing him for nothing in expansion. Guerin has shown that he won’t make a trade to simply make a trade. He acts with a purpose and to benefit the Minnesota Wild. I trust he’ll either get a proper package/player for Matt Dumba or make it possible for Minnesota to retain him

Thank you for the fantastic questions! I hope I provided some engaging and thoughtful answers and I’m really excited about ESPN adding Hockey back into its platter of Broadcasting. The Minnesota Wild returns to action tonight at 7:00 pm against the Darcy Keumper-less Arizona Coyotes.