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  • Guerin's Next Task? Re-Sign Minnesota's Glue Guy

    Mikki Tuohy

    As the trade deadline draws near, all eyes are on Bill Guerin. Will the Minnesota Wild be buyers? Sellers? Maybe just hang tight and go along for the ride? Everyone knows that the Wild have a long-term issue with cap space. They’ve already started the process of extending contracts. Matt Boldy was first with his sweetheart 7x7 deal. And it’s no secret that Filip Gustavsson is the next one Guerin wants to lock down. The big question is how to rank the rest of the free agents.


    The third player to be signed should be a glue guy. It should be a guy who helps the team stick together, can slot in anywhere, and makes plays just to help the team. That's where Freddy Gaudreau comes in.


    Too many fans are quick to jump at Dean Evason's perceived favoritism of Gaudreau. Yes, Evason spent two years on and off coaching Gaudreau in Milwaukee. But Evason didn’t bring Gaudreau to the Wild as some sort of favor. He knew Gaudreau’s skill set and wanted to utilize it in Minnesota. People don’t want to accept that because Gaudreau’s skill set happens to be quiet and understated. But no matter what, he gets the work done.


    In general, Gaudreau might not stand out on the ice, but the stats don’t lie. Gaudreau is currently tied for fourth place in points (22) for the Wild. He’s also in fifth place for goals (11) and eighth place for assists (11).


    He contributes offensively just as much as his teammates. He can flip back and forth from center to wing without any problems. The big difference with Gaudreau is that he’s also there defensively. Playing on a line with Boldy means that Gaudreau can help the superstar player with his production. Gaudreau takes care of the defensive side to try and free up Boldy to score.


    As much as Connor Dewar is the short-handed goal master, he only has one more short-handed goal than Gaudreau. Gaudreau also slightly leads the faceoff win percentage for the team (48.80%).


    But these stats don’t tell everything. Some people want to feel it in their heart instead of in their brain. Good thing Gaudreau can be pretty darn heartwarming when it comes to hockey. In the Feb. 11 game against the New Jersey Devils, Gaudreau scored the game winner with his smooth shootout goal. But it was even more impressive because he had just skated a three-minute shift during overtime when he wasn’t able to get to the bench for a change. Gaudreau spent more than half of the entire overtime on the ice, grinding away to push for a win.


    Every Wild fan probably remembers Alex Goligoski’s overtime winner on the night of his 1000th game celebration. Most people probably also remember that Sam Steel set up the game-winning goal. But how many people remember that Gaudreau made the entire play happen? He was able to skate it out of Minnesota's end of the ice and fire a nice pass across the neutral zone to find Steel on the other blue line. The most memorable part of this season began as an unmemorable play by Gaudreau. But as a glue guy, he was just happy to celebrate the win.


    The Wild are a heavy, physical team who aren’t afraid to throw their weight around, at least when they are playing to their identity. While Gaudreau isn’t exactly an enforcer, he also isn’t afraid to get into board battles with opposing players.


    Gaudreau deserves the next contract because without him, there are too many holes to fill. The team seems to become a sieve without him. Gaudreau plays an integral part of the penalty kill and the second power play unit. He’s been an unexpected key to overtime and is consistently one of the go-to guys for the shootout. The only other player who seems to do the same amount of work is Joel Eriksson Ek, the only difference being Ek’s ability to draw penalties with his seemingly punchable face.


    As much as fans yell for Guerin to sign more big-name, star players, he can’t fill a team with them. Gaudreau is a great Swiss Army Knife player to plug in almost anywhere up and down the lineup because no matter what, he’ll lace up his skates and grind away, encouraging his teammates the entire time.

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