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  • Looking At Depth Options For the Wild At the Trade Deadline

    Aaron Heckmann

    All signs are pointing to the Minnesota Wild staying relatively quiet at the upcoming trade deadline. Acquiring a player like top centers Claude Giroux or Tomas Hertl, will likely not be in play. Despite the pending cap crunch, an “all-in” mentality doesn’t seem like the best approach, especially considering the Wild don’t want to sacrifice the future by surrendering premium assets for a rental center.


    However, Minnesota may feel inclined to add some depth players at the deadline, such as a center who can win faceoffs, a physical forward, or acquiring a defenseman to add more depth for the blue line. The challenge here is finding the right fit. The Wild have limited options because they likely won't want to add players with term on their contract.


    With that in mind, 10KRinks identified over a dozen targets who could be explored at the trade deadline.


    Adding a depth center and/or toughness


    One of the Wild's biggest needs at the trade deadline is more center depth, specifically a center who can win faceoffs. There are several options at their disposal that could help in this area without moving any top prospects or their first-round pick.


    The best target is veteran center Paul Stastny. The 36-year-old is scoring at a 50-point pace while winning over 56 percent of draws in the faceoff circle. He's having a strong season with the Winnipeg Jets overall, and his offensive impact would be a huge addition to the Wild. Imagine the potential he could have as the No. 2 between Kevin Fiala and Matt Boldy.


    But would the Jets trade Stastny?


    It's possible since they remain out of the playoff picture, and it's no guarantee he re-signs with them this summer. Murat Ates of The Athletic reported that he believes the Jets will be all over acquiring the rights to center Jack McBain. Perhaps there could be a deal here centered around McBain and Statsny.


    Although he's not Statsny-caliber, Derick Brassard is another candidate to add depth down the middle. He's been limited to just 26 games this season with the Philadelphia Flyers and is a cheap option at just $825K. The 34-year-old has notched 13 points and is over 50 percent in the faceoff circle, besting the Wild's current group of centers in the dot. With the Flyers clearly out of the playoff picture, the acquisition cost should be relatively low.


    Calle Jarnkrok is another target the Wild could consider. Jarnkrok is nearly 50 percent in the faceoff circle and has recorded 26 points in 48 games for the Seattle Kraken this season. In the last year of his deal, he would add more secondary scoring and aggressive forechecking to the middle of the lineup.


    The Wild could also look at either Nick Paul or Chris Tierney. Both Ottawa centers could provide more depth down the middle, especially on the defensive side. Are they big enough upgrades over Freddy Gaudreau, though?


    Cody Eakin and Ryan Carpenter are two more options they could explore, who have won 56 and 52 percent, respectively, of their draws this season. Both are strong defensively, too, but neither will provide much offensively.


    Furthermore, Minnesota's recent skid revealed there is still a need for more Marcus Foligno-type physicality. Nicolas Deslauriers, Cal Clutterbuck, and Tyler Motte are three options who could provide more toughness in the postseason. All three are on teams that are likely to miss the playoffs, and the latter two are among the best defensive forwards in the league this season.


    However, adding grit for the playoffs will depend on the market for physical depth forwards. If it’s more than a mid-round pick, Minnesota should not entertain it.

    adding depth to the blueline

    With all the injuries on the back end this season, the Wild could be looking at adding a depth defenseman at the deadline for insurance down the stretch.


    Montreal's Brett Kulak is one of the best targets and would be a perfect fit on the third pair when alongside Dmitry Kulikov or Jon Merrill when needed. The UFA left-shot defenseman embodies the role of a shutdown defender, evidenced by his 4.4 even-strength goals above replacement, which is the 10th best league-wide. While he won’t contribute much offensively, he’s a strong puck-moving defender who can be depended upon. 


    Beyond Kulak, there aren’t a ton of depth UFA defenders who would be a great fit. They could explore Philadelphia’s Justin Braun or the Islanders’ Nick Leddy.


    Braun’s 4.3 even-strength defensive goals above replacement is the 13th best mark in the league, so he provides defensive value at the very minimum. The problem with Leddy is that there’s a lot of risk associated with him since he’s struggled much this season.


    If the Wild desire to get bigger on the backend, they could call the Buffalo Sabres on Robert Hagg or Chicago about Calvin De Haan. Here’s the issue, though: Is it worth spending a draft pick to acquire a defenseman merely to add size for the postseason? Neither are upgrades over Kulikov or Merrill, so this would be purely for insurance if one of them goes down to injury. While both are dry offensively, De Haan provides some defensive value, allowing 2.26 expected goals against per hour (48th among defenders with minimum 350 minutes), in addition to his physicality.


    The Wild have to be smart when shopping for a defenseman at the deadline with very few intriguing options aside from just adding another body on the blue line.

    What about acquiring a goalie?

    The latest losing skid reinforced the major concern plaguing the team right now: The Wild have a goalie problem. Through 36 games this season, Cam Talbot has a .906 save percentage and has allowed nearly 17 goals more than expected -- the second-worst rank in the league, better than only Seattle's Philipp Grubauer. His counterpart, Kaapo Kahkonen, has been much better but is still producing average numbers.


    That's concerning since the Wild have allowed only 2.17 expected goals against per hour. It's the second-best rate in the league and is evidence of how strong the defense has held up despite injuries to key personnel.


    And that's the dilemma the Wild face. Do they stick with their current tandem or acquire a goalie before the deadline?


    Whether or not Marc-Andre Fleury is available, Minnesota should avoid acquiring the future Hall of Famer due to his struggles this season and the cost to get him out of Chicago. But what about Anthony Stolarz, who has put together a decent season in Anaheim? It wouldn't cost a lot to acquire him, but it's highly unlikely he moves the needle.


    If they are serious about adding a goalie, the Wild's best option would be Ottawa’s UFA Anton Forsberg. In 27 games this season, the 29-year-old is sporting a .921 save percentage and has saved eight goals above expected. That's impressive considering he's on one of the worst defensive teams in the league.


    The availability of goalies at the deadline will be very limited. That ultimately will be a key reason why they ultimately won’t acquire one.



    The Wild will have several difficult questions to answer leading up to the NHL's trade deadline. There's no doubt that Minnesota's top prospects will be safe at the trade deadline, but mid-round picks and medium-level prospects could be in play.


    With the recent slide down the standings and the last season before the pending cap crunch, Minnesota should consider adding a few depth players at the trade deadline to shore up some weaknesses that could potentially be exploited in the postseason.


    All Data Via  Evolving-Hockey, Natural Stat Trick and Hockey-Reference

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