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  • The Wild Need Boeser As Much As Boeser Needs the Wild

    Tony Abbott

    The Minnesota Wild didn't need Brock Boeser in 2015. Could they have used his accurate right shot on the wing? For sure. But what they needed was a big center down the middle who had the potential to anchor a Top-6 line. So above the protestations of the hometown fans, the Wild passed on Boeser for Joel Eriksson Ek.


    Brock Boeser didn't need the Minnesota Wild in 2015. His scoring touch was going to play anywhere, and after two years of developing at the University of North Dakota, it played for the Vancouver Canucks. Very few NHLers in the salary cap era have scored more goals per game than Boeser did through age 21.


    [caption id=attachment_139676" align="alignnone" width="871]Screen-Shot-2022-12-05-at-8.59.01-PM.png Courtesy of Stathead.com[/caption]


    By the time Minnesota decided that they needed the Burnsville native, it was too late. Paul Fenton's front office tried to send them Jason Zucker in exchange for Boeser, but Vancouver quickly dismissed it.


    Not long after, though, things may have inverted. There's no more buyer's remorse over picking Eriksson Ek. Even the loudest fans in Boeser's corner in 2015 see how much of a home run that pick was. Eriksson Ek is following up his 26-goal season with nearly a point-per-game start. Nine goals (on pace for 31) and 22 points in 24 games? On top of elite defense? There's no hindsight there.


    Meanwhile, Boeser's game has been declining. To his credit, his numbers haven't cratered. He's still averaging 27 goals and 63 points per 82 games since the 2019-20 season. But he hasn't become the impact player Vancouver hoped for, to the point where they've been shopping him around.


    And the Wild? They haven't bitten. Here's what The Athletic's Michael Russo put in a recent article talking about potential trade targets (emphasis mine):

    's name is out there, but the Wild could have acquired him umpteen times and haven't.
    Same with Boeser.

    In fairness, the Wild might not have needed Boeser recently. With Kirill Kaprizov, Kevin Fiala, and Mats Zuccarello in the fold, they had plenty of impact scoring. Even with Fiala out of the picture, they still have Matt Boldy, who's scheduled to get paid (and perhaps, get PAID) this summer. Of 10K Rinks' preseason Top-10 Wild prospects list, four are wingers.


    But finally, Boeser and the Wild need each other now.


    Boeser may not necessarily need to go to Minnesota, but things are untenable for him in Vancouver. Despite his 15 points in 19 games, it's clear he needs a change of scenery. And as what was almost an unfortunately-timed healthy scratch made clear, the Canucks don't see Boeser as a priority for their future. Boeser's agent now has permission to seek out a trading partner.


    It's probably true that any change of scenery would help, but Minnesota fans who have spent years reading profiles about Boeser know that home holds a special place in his heart. It's hard to imagine the idea of reviving his career 22 miles from home being unattractive to him.


    Meanwhile, the Wild have no Fiala and have exhausted all their internal candidates to replace him. Tyson Jost? Nope, he's in Buffalo. Sam Steel? Nope, he's pressed into duty on the top line alongside Kaprizov. Freddy Gaudreau? Nope, Fiala's loss has hit his numbers hard. Marco Rossi? Nope, he's getting his confidence back in the minors.


    All this leaves Boldy in the same position Fiala was in for most of the past two seasons. He's on the third line at 5-on-5, with very little in the way of scoring talent to support him. Without that secondary scoring punch of a productive Boldy line, the Wild are 24th in scoring per hour at 5-on-5. And that's after three five-goal games in a row.


    With the Wild looking to upgrade their skill at forward, Boeser is exactly what they need: a legitimate buy-low candidate. Look at the trade target options that insiders are throwing around the league. There's Boeser's teammate, Bo Horvat, who is on pace for 62 goals a third of the way into the season. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews may not be who they once were, but teams will still have to pay the sticker price. Even someone like Monahan, with 16 points in 24 games, has raised his stock in the past two months.


    Contrast this with Boeser, whose drop in value goes beyond the Canucks souring on him. From The Athletic's Thomas Drance and Rick Dhaliwal:

    Considering how the trade market is trending for expensive wingers, Boeser is a distressed asset, particularly at $6.6 million per season through 2025.

    The league is starting to back away from paying non-elite wingers, especially in a flat-cap world. Is Boeser that guy? No. But can he deliver value for the Wild? Absolutely. And if his salary means they don't have to part with an A-tier prospect or first-round pick, great.


    Even if you look at the 2019-20 season to last year, when Boeser's scoring started to stagnate, you can still see a player who drives offense and is a neutral factor in his own end. Even if his impacts don't improve, that's still a player who can be a poor man's Fiala for $1.3 million less. And if he can finally take a step forward with a change of scenery?


    [caption id=attachment_139685" align="alignnone" width="732]Screen-Shot-2022-12-05-at-10.33.39-PM.pn Courtesy of Evolving Hockey[/caption]


    But even with the-last-three-years Boeser, so many holes in the lineup get fixed when adding a 27-goal, 63-point winger to Minnesota's mix. Boldy once again would have a shooter who can finish off his passes. Whenever they call Rossi up again, he'd now have two big, skilled wingers to play off of. So long as Steel or Ryan Hartman can enable Kaprizov to do his thing, suddenly the lineup would have last year's mix of star power and depth.


    The murky thing for Minnesota to navigate here is term. Boldy and Calen Addison are up for new deals. They will take a decent chunk out of Minnesota's flexibility. What happens if Boeser's cap hit is in that mix? Can they afford to bring back Gaudreau, Steel, Filip Gustavsson, and Mason Shaw on new contracts? Would they have to move someone like Jordan Greenway or Jacob Middleton to make room?


    It's a valid concern, but the Wild should figure out a way to make that work, even if it means costing them a few depth pieces. If the Wild should've learned anything from this offseason, hard work, a good system, and a good locker room aren't enough to win on their own. Talent has to rule the day.


    The Wild need talent, and there's a talented player on the market for a discounted price in Boeser. He needs a change of scenery and opportunities to play with talented players like Minnesota's. For the last seven years, it felt like it was always the wrong time for the Wild to bring Boeser home. Timing's no longer an issue, and the need is there, and both parties should take advantage.

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