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  • Can the Wild Hit A Home Run With A Bargain Bin Trade?

    Tony Abbott

    Last year's trade deadline was a seller's market. Not many big names were available. The few who were, like Taylor Hall, were considered somewhat damaged goods. So the few relatively untainted names on the market fetched high prices.


    What was the price for an aging Nick Foligno amid his worst NHL season? That'll be a first-round pick, please. The Tampa Bay Lightning surrendered a first for a good-not-great defensive defenseman in David Savard. A two-for-one package of washed-up forwards in Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac also cost a first-rounder.


    This year may still be a seller's market, with plenty of contenders looking for upgrades. But at least there'll be some big names to meet the demand. Tomas Hertl, Claude Giroux, Joe Pavelski, Mark Giordano, and Marc-Andre Fleury make for headlining rentals. In addition, teams could add Jakob Chychrun or J.T. Miller past this summer.


    Those players will all cost a hefty package of prospects and picks, though. The Wild have amassed a ton of talent in their prospect pipeline. They also have a pick in all but one round for the next three years (seventh-round in 2022). The problem here is that they'll need that pipeline to have hopes of competing soon. We all know about the coming cap apocalypse, and it will take as much talent on entry-level contracts as possible to make up for $15 million in dead cap space.


    So maybe Minnesota can't make a gigantic splash at the deadline. Still, can they find a move to help them without sacrificing too much future value? With gigantic names potentially available, we took a look at some players who could slip through the cracks and give the Wild a potential bargain. Are they worthy pickups, or is Minnesota better off staying away?

    Nick Leddy, Defenseman, Detroit Red Wings

    Hey, fun fact: Did you know the Wild drafted native Minnesotan Leddy in 2009? Huh, you did? Well, did you know Chuck Fletcher shipped him out in the infamous Cam Barker trade? Oh, you knew that, too? Well, get this, it turns out he won a Cup with the Chicago... Oh, you know? Fine, I'll stop.


    Leddy departing the Wild isn't exactly a "Curse of the Bambino" type of move. But is it possible bringing him home can restore some good vibes to the State of Hockey? And hey, why would Minnesota even be interested in a left defenseman with Jonas Brodin, Alex Goligoski, Dmitry Kulikov, Jon Merrill, and Jordie Benn on the left side?


    Brodin's recent absence from the lineup tested Minnesota's depth at left defense. The team stayed afloat, but it was clear that Kulikov, Merrill, and Benn were stretched in a top-four role. Meanwhile, Leddy clocked 21-plus minutes on a perennially competitive New York Islanders team.


    The problem with Leddy is that he's probably stretched in those minutes, too. He was never great defensively, and his overall game is dropping off as he's hit his late-20s. He's one of the worst defenders in Detroit while controlling just 46.5% of expected goals, which closely resembles his last few years in Long Island.


    It's possible he could thrive in a sheltered role, but so can Kulikov and Merrill. It doesn't seem like any bargain bin defensemen can provide that Brodin insurance Minnesota wants.

    Joonas Korpisalo, Goalie, Columbus Blue Jackets

    Korpisalo was long considered Columbus' Goalie of the Future, and it looked like he turned a corner in 2019-20. He formed a great tandem with Elvis Merzlikins, sporting a .911 save percentage in the regular season, before seizing the net, bouncing the Lightning, and rocking a .941 in the postseason.


    However, he's been pushed to backup status and hasn't thrived since then. He's posting a .887 save percentage in 18 games after having a .894 season the year before.


    Could a change of scenery re-gain his form? You've got to ask: What form? Throughout his entire career, Korpisalo has a below-average .903 save percentage. Regardless of whether you believe in Cam Talbot or Kaapo Kahkonen, they've been better than that. Remember: John Tortorella's Blue Jackets were stingy defenders. A transition to the Wild's defense isn't likely to help him out as much as it has other goalies. Minnesota's better off riding what they have.

    Chris Tierney, Center, Ottawa Senators

    Tierney is one of the few names that are solidly connected with the Wild. He's had a Kyle Brodziak-type career, where he collected two 40-point seasons on bad Senators teams before settling into a better-fitting role as a depth player.


    Tierney doesn't bring much offense but is a reliable defender who plays with some grit. He's a center but a pretty mediocre faceoff guy. You can trust him to play 12-15 minutes a night without hurting you and -- hey, doesn't this sound like basically every depth player on the Wild?


    Basically, Tierney is a version of Freddy Gaudreau who trades a bit of defense for not being a poor offensive player instead of a bottom-of-the-league one. If Minnesota wants more offense in that Gaudreau spot, they can turn to Marco Rossi or even Nico Sturm. If they want more defensive forwards, the best question is, why? Are Gaudreau, Sturm, Brandon Duhaime, and their shut down line not enough?


    Unless general manager Bill Guerin agrees with Anson Carter about his team's depth, trading for Tierney fixes a problem Minnesota doesn't have.

    Jack Roslovic, Center, Columbus or Dylan Strome, Center, Chicago

    These two skilled centers are in similar situations. Both are former first-round picks. Both have been traded once already and are falling out of favor with their current organizations. After the season, they're restricted free agents and making relatively little money (Roslovic, $1.8 million; Strome, $3 million).


    They do offer different skill sets to Minnesota. Roslovic uses his speed and puck-handling to create chances for himself on the rush. Strome's a big center who relies on quick and accurate passing to make up for his lack of footspeed.


    Both have had incredibly similar results over the past three years. Strome has a slight edge on Roslovic in per-hour scoring (2.15 points per hour to Roslovic's 2.04). But Roslovic is trending up, while Strome's production dropped off after moving from a line with Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat.


    Roslovic and Strome have their flaws. Roslovic is a pretty lackluster defensive player, while Strome maybe gives off a few Victor Rask vibes. But Minnesota's in a position to make up for both their issues.


    Either center would likely be the third option on the Wild's third line with Matt Boldy and Kevin Fiala. Roslovic would form a lethal offensive line with those two, and few teams would have an answer for their speed after dealing with Kaprizov and Joel Eriksson Ek's lines.


    Strome may not be fast, but he plays much faster than Rask. Historically, he makes more high-danger passes and shoots more. All Strome has to do is hit Boldy or Fiala in transition and let them gain the zone and create space. He did that once before, to great effect with other star linemates.


    Minnesota can buy now and worry about them later. If either click and want to stay for the right price, Minnesota can do that. They can easily walk away if it doesn't work out, or they become unaffordable. If either is ultimately better suited for the wing, Rossi's eventual promotion can accommodate that.


    This is the place for Guerin to go bargain hunting. They have defensive forward depth in spades, and these two players represent opportunities to upgrade with an offensive center. Their warts and a star-studded deadline should drive their prices down. Both have the capability of producing in a low-pressure, third-line role.


    Is that worth giving up assets instead of calling up Rossi? The latter probably has more upside, but if Minnesota's determined to keep his price down in 2024-25, upgrade for this year's playoffs, and keep their war chest of prospect capital, this might be a way Guerin can have his cake and eat it, too.

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