This season, the Minnesota Wild will be in an interesting position heading into the NHL's trade deadline. The Wild are a dangerous team poised to make some damage in the postseason, perhaps even Stanley Cup contenders.
Minnesota's 22-10-3 record is good for the top Wild Card spot in the West, and its .671 points percentage is the seventh-best in the league as of Jan. 22. The organization has to decide if it wants to continue building for the next few years or go for it by making a significant move.
The harsh reality, though, is that this year's roster could be more talented than Minnesota's rosters in the near future because the Wild will face significant cap penalties from the Zach Parise-Ryan Suter buyouts soon.
Does that mean they have to go all-in this season?
Last year, general manager Bill Guerin was adamant that he wouldn't sacrifice the future. Acquiring a rental center would take significant assets. There are center options that would elevate the Wild's chances to make a deeper run. Big names like Tomas Hertl, Claude Giroux, and J.T. Miller are potentially available.
Minnesota's roster is arguably thin down the middle, and many fans will be clamoring for a center trade. However, prices often skyrocket at the trade deadline. A top center will probably cost a first-round pick and top prospect.
Is that really something the Wild want to do?
There is a strong case that the Wild should leave the center position alone with Ryan Hartman's emergence as a top-six talent. Hartman fits perfectly between linemates Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello. While he might not necessarily have the true talent of a top center, his point totals and underlying numbers have been relatively close to top-line production.
Likewise, it's no secret that Joel Eriksson Ek is a top two-way center in the league. Sure, he may not have fit seamlessly on the Kaprizov line as Hartman did. But even in a shutdown role, he remains a constant threat.
Plus, you have to address the elephant in the room: Are these top centers going to be stylistic fits? Last season, the Toronto Maple Leafs made a significant move by trading for Nick Foligno. Not only did the Maple Leafs surrender a first-round pick, but Foligno struggled, with only one point in four playoff games.
That's the uncertainty of making a move at the NHL trade deadline. It might make more sense for the Wild to remain patient by being inactive at the deadline, considering Hartman's emergence and the danger of throwing off the team's balance. The last thing the organization wants is to be a big player at the deadline, surrender significant assets, and then fail to make a deep run.
The fact of the matter is that the roster doesn't have a glaring hole down the middle. Yes, having more talent at center should bolster the Wild's chances. If they want to accomplish that, though, they can look internally. Instead of making a costly deadline splash, giving Marco Rossi a permanent spot in Minnesota would be wiser. And let's be serious, Rossi is capable of playing full-time at the NHL level right now.
Matt Boldy has bolstered the Wild's lineup and is poised to stay for the remainder of the season. Rossi could be doing the same right now, too, as he continues to dominate in the AHL.
Yes, there is a financial incentive not to play him in 10 games and burn a year on his contract. But paying Rossi a year earlier might be a better option than paying a premium price at the deadline.
The Wild must decide whether buying or standing pat will be the best course of action for their short and long-term chances.
Selling should be entirely off the table because the cons outweigh any benefits. Kevin Fiala, an RFA again this summer and has an uncertain future, might fetch a significant package. But it virtually eliminates the team's chances, especially considering his connection with Boldy.
Perhaps moving someone like Jordan Greenway, who may not be part of the organization's long-term plans, could be a good idea. However, that would be selling low, and Minnesota needs his physical, defensive presence in the postseason.
Alex Goligoski wouldn't be able to get the Wild a big enough return that would justify moving a top-four defenseman, especially with their injury woes on the blue line. Furthermore, Victor Rask's trade interest will be close to none.
There isn't a player worth trading on the roster. Minnesota will indeed have to shed valuable pieces for cap savings this summer. This is the year they should try to contend before the cap struggles begin. Mid-round picks aren't worth passing on that opportunity.
The trade deadline situation is complicated, and as the trade deadline approaches, the stakes will get even higher. The Wild are playing great hockey, which naturally leads to fans calling for a big trade to upgrade at center. But as much as they need to go for a Cup, a big splash may not be the best decision right now.
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