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  • Nikolaj Ehlers Has the Speed Minnesota Desperately Needs

    Image courtesy of James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports
    Justin Wiggins


    This has the potential to be a very interesting off-season for the Minnesota Wild. When GM Bill Guerin surprisingly bought out Ryan Suter and Zach Parise's contracts, many pointed to the 2025 offseason as their window to start adding pieces to contend. The theory would be their plethora of young talent would round into form, and they'd mix them in with a few key veteran additions using their newfound cap flexibility to create a true contender around Kirill Kaprizov.

    But the Wild could get creative in moving that timeline up. While the Wild are still mired in nearly $15 million in dead cap hits for the 2024-25 season, the NHL announced that the salary cap could jump nearly $5 million league-wide this spring.

    Michael Russo has reported in The Athletic numerous times that he feels the Wild are earmarking that $5 million increase to target a forward to replace the enigma that is Marcus Johansson in their top six. Just a few weeks ago, we began scouring the potential free agency list, and they identified David Perron as one of the best names.

    While a veteran such as Perron would help the Wild, his limited aging skillset makes him not exactly an inspiring addition to a team that hopes to return to the playoffs next season.

    However, Guerin can get more creative than pursuing the free agent market, where his options are limited. Even after promoting Marco Rossi and Brock Faber to the NHL club, the Wild maintains a deep prospect pool, including blue-chippers Danila Yurov and Jesper Wallstedt.

    Having a deep prospect pool is great, but it’s clear the Wild need to start winning and advancing past the first round in the postseason. While there is no indication that Kaprizov wishes to test free agency after his contract expires in 2026, it’s still paramount that they prove to him that they will contend by then. Does Guerin really want to keep adding to his prospect pool when those assets could be used now to improve his team?

    We certainly don't think so. And if free agency isn’t going to bring the Wild a difference-maker in their top six, perhaps they can accomplish this via trade? Sure, this involves giving up assets to acquire a player instead of just a contract in free agency. However, with their burgeoning prospect pool, there isn’t space for them all to fit into the roster in St. Paul. If there was ever a time to trade away futures for an impact player, now would be the time.

    It’s time to start identifying such targets. Given their cap constraints, the Wild would need to identify a player on a somewhat team-friendly deal with the idea of extending them at their market rate once they have the space starting next summer.

    With that, our first target is Nikolaj Ehlers of the Winnipeg Jets. Yes, I know what you’re thinking: there is no way two divisional rivals would entertain involving a player as dynamic as Ehlers. And you wouldn’t be wrong. However, Ehlers is exactly the type of player the Wild can/should be targeting. While not likely, Guerin would be wise to overpay in this situation if needed.

    First, let's look at why Ehlers is the perfect target for the Wild. He has one year remaining on his contract at a $6 million cap hit. As a perennial 25-goal scorer with elite speed, Ehlers likely will deserve a raise as he looks for a new contract at age 29. Winnipeg’s extensions to Mark Scheifele and Connor Hellebuyck kick in this season. Key players such as Sean Monahan, Tyler Toffoli, and skilled youngster Cole Perfetti are due new contracts this summer. Even when projecting into next summer, Winnipeg may extend the likes of Alex Iafallo, Gabe Vilardi, Mason Appleton, and Vladislav Namestnikov over Ehlers.

    Why? Because Ehlers’ ice time with the Jets has been a bit perplexing over the years. Just this last year, Ehlers was perhaps at his best, recording 25 goals and 36 assists, not to mention being a career-best +27. But Ehlers found himself in a similar spot on Winnipeg’s pecking order as year’s past when sending players over the boards, ranking 12th overall in average time on ice, and 7th among forwards. That ice time fell below that of Appleton, Kyle Lowry, and Vilardi – all three of which Ehlers nearly doubled in point totals.

    When you watch him play, it’s hard to imagine why Winnipeg’s coaching staff didn’t use him more.


    Ehlers is a dynamic skater and puck carrier, making him a true threat on the rush. Last year, the Wild struggled in this area when the puck was on the stick of nearly everyone except Kaprizov.


    When comparing Ehlers' skillset to that of the options in free agency, it’s easy to see why he would be worth parting with future assets to get. Now that Winnipeg’s coach, Rick Bowness, has announced his retirement, maybe the new coach will see Ehlers in a better light and wish to make him a larger part of their offense. If not, Ehlers may be wise to look for a new team to offer him more opportunity.

    What would it take for the Wild to acquire Ehlers? Lucky for Guerin, he has a good comparison to start with from his trade of dynamic scorer Kevin Fiala to Los Angeles a few summers ago. Fiala was coming off an 85-point season, and Guerin could parlay that into the No. 19 overall pick in that summer’s draft and second-round prospect Brock Faber.

    Of course, knowing what we know now about Faber, the Los Angeles Kings would have likely preferred to include another prospect. But at the time, the trade value for a dynamic scoring winger was set at a mid-first-round pick plus a second-tier prospect. If that is the case now, Ehlers would likely harbor a similar return for Winnipeg. Given that the Wild are a divisional rival, they would likely need to offer a little more than every other team.

    Would a jump up to the 13th overall pick next month be the sweetener needed on top of the 19th overall pick the Wild acquired from trading Fiala? Money would also need to move out, so perhaps the Jets would be interested in acquiring Filip Gustavsson as the backup to Vezina finalist Helleybuck to replace losing Laurent Brossoit in free agency? If they add in one of their many blue-line prospects, the Wild certainly have a package enticing enough for Winnipeg to send Ehlers to Minnesota.

    Ehlers would be the perfect fit into the Wild’s top six, and the pieces are in place should Guerin want to get creative with the open spot on the left wing of the second line. Ehlers would be the best option available should Winnipeg look to trade him this summer.


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    3 hours ago, Mateo3xm said:

    How are ppl figuring it would be ok to trade Gus and be stable with goaltending? Flower  is an old broke down shell of himself and the Wall hasn’t had anywhere near enough time to develop and see if he’s good enough at the moment to be a consistent nhl goalie. Just because he shut out the hawks, which were one of the worst defensive team in the league? With this teams very sub par defense I could see it being a disaster.

    you want to ease players with that potential into the league, not throw them in and hope he doesn’t sink. 2 nhl games isn’t enough.


    Thank you for the sanity.

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