Minnesota Wild Trade Deadline Primer: Expect Little Noise

The NHL Trade Deadline is today and if the Minnesota Wild want to make a trade, it has to be done before 2 pm Central. Here are our thoughts on what could happen and what will likely happen.

From the expectations set at the beginning of the season, the Minnesota Wild are likely in a better position than they thought they would be at the Trade Deadline. Through forty games played, they have fifty-one points and currently sit in third in the West Division, seven points ahead of the St. Louis Blues and six points behind the Vegas Golden Knights.

Many had thought that, to their detriment, the Minnesota Wild would make the postseason as the 4th seed in the West, simply because somebody had to. Instead, the Wild have shown to be a stout, difficult team to play most nights- especially when the roster is healthy.

Recently, the Wild have seen a regression in performance because of an unhealthy roster and I had openly wondered if it was really due to key players being out, like Marcus Foligno. Earlier today, Michael Russo retweeted a pretty jarring graph showing how the Wild’s Expected Goals For Percentage has plummeted in the games since Foligno has been out of the lineup.

It sounds as if the Minnesota Wild expects Marcus Foligno to return to the lineup somewhat soon, which will be like a quasi-Trade Deadline acquisition for the team. He traveled with the team on the road trip, even if just to stay in skating shape and be with the team.

So knowing the current state of the team, will the Wild do anything at the trade deadline?

It was reported on SportsNet’s Headlines that the Minnesota Wild were interested in the Columbus Blue Jackets Nick Foligno, but TSN’s Frank Seravalli reported that several teams had offered a first-round pick for him. Bill Guerin has been rather adamant that he wasn’t going to sacrifice future assets to win now, especially with giving away first-round picks. This fact likely meant that Minnesota wasn’t going to win the sweepstakes for Nick Foligno.

Who else might the Minnesota Wild be interested in? The 31 Thoughts Podcast with SportsNet’s Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman hypothesized that the Wild may be in on Taylor Hall, especially with the Buffalo Sabres seeking a first-round pick and Minnesota having two firsts.

I personally couldn’t see that working at all, with Guerin’s aforementioned aversion to dealing first-round picks currently and the surplus of wingers they currently have in the lineup. Add in that Russo threw frigid water on the theory, and it is very unlikely that Hall is Minnesota Bound. (Late Sunday, Hall was traded to the Boston Bruins.)

Will the Minnesota Wild move any of the Big Names? It could very easily be a silent deadline for the Minnesota Wild front office. Unless a deal approaches them that is an absolute No-Brainer, it’s difficult to see any core pieces be moved. For instance, I think it would be absolutely gut-wrenching for the Wild to trade Dumba before the Deadline unless they got the Scoring/Skill Center they seem to need.

I also doubt we see any noise about a Zach Parise trade like we did last year. Despite the vocal frustration with his current role on the team, it seems the Wild-Islanders Parise trade is amongst the longest of long shots. Lou has found a replacement for the injured Anders Lee in two (now former) New Jersey Devils, Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri. Boston just won the sweepstakes for Taylor Hall, so maybe the losers of the sweepstakes check on Parise, but I really doubt it.

Alright, what could the Minnesota Wild do? If I’m the General Manager, I’m looking to get draft capital for several of the expiring UFAs, namely Nick Bonino and/or Marcus Johansson at least.

Nick Bonino was brought to Minnesota so Nashville could clear some salary that was short-term (for the Wild benefit) for Luke Kunin and a 4th in 2020. With Bonino, a 2nd and 3rd in the 2020 Draft for Judd Brackett to use, which ended up being Marat Khusnutdinov and Daemon Hunt. His $4.1M deal expires after the season and is only owed just under $1M ($954k) on the season. That matters this year with many teams working tight to the cap or internal budgets.

Marcus Johansson was acquired from Buffalo in the offseason for Eric Staal. Johansson carries an AAV of $4.5M but is only owed a bit under $1.05M for the rest of the season. Both he and Bonino have 9 points on the year, a near-even split (5G/4A for Jojo and 4G/5A for Bonino), but Johansson has been getting an opportunity higher in the lineup- seeing success recently with Fiala – and has played 17 fewer games than Bonino.

I doubt the Wild would get much for either player, but I think GM Bill Guerin would be settle on selling lower than preferred on either asset, even retaining to make it work more properly under others’ cap hits. They could even copy what the Leafs have done to acquire Nick Foligno, get another team involved to retain after Columbus had already retained, making the contract worth as little as 25% of the original value for the team that ultimately acquires them.

I think it’s less likely that they move out Nick Bjugstad or Brad Hunt, but for different reasons. Bjugstad has been one of the better value acquisitions in the offseason, only paying a conditional 7th round (that has been prorated from its original standards for the shortened season, Games Played or Points Produced) and Pittsburgh retained half the salary. I don’t think Bjugstad gets moved and has been a solid depth forward in the bottom six.

I simply don’t think there’s a market for Brad Hunt. He’s inexpensive but hasn’t brought much in his opportunities in the lineup. One point (a goal) in eleven games.

I don’t see the Wild trading Ian Cole. He’s been a solid addition to the bottom pair of the defensive group and pretty reliable. If a team drastically overpaid for him, maybe he gets moved, but I don’t see that happening.

Teams may make calls on Zuccarello, but the term and price of the contract is a detractor. Plus, he would have to approve of any move because of his No Move Clause. The Wild would also likely have to retain to make the contract more appetizing, but empirical evidence shows that teams often don’t like retaining on a contract for 2+ full seasons. His return to the lineup came with a hot start, but he’s since cooled off. I don’t expect the Wild to be moving Zuccarello tomorrow.

If the Minnesota Wild are going to add, where is it going to come from and who is it going to be?

I think one of Nick Bonino or Marcus Johansson is traded for mid-to-late round draft capital after the Wild retain, which creates vacancies in the lineup. From there, I believe the Wild will make their Deadline Additions internally. Marcus Foligno will return to the lineup from injury and the Former Boston College Eagle/Newest Iowa Wild Forward, Matt Boldy should make his NHL debut this year.

In his first two games in Iowa, Boldy has two goals and an assist. The first year of his ELC is already going to be lost to the shortened season, so if Management thinks he can contribute to the NHL lineup, he could be an inexpensive option to fill in and bolster the forward group coming down the stretch. Having a young, strong puck carrier and dynamic playmaker for someone like Kevin Fiala or Kirill Kaprizov could be beneficial.

What are your thoughts on the Minnesota Wild as the Deadline arrives later today? Keep an eye out on Twitter and Facebook for updates on what is heard relating to what Bill Guerin may do.