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  • Was Yakov Trenin a Chuck Fletcher-Style Misstep From Bill Guerin?


    Tony Abbott

    With the Minnesota Wild feeling a need to get bigger and tougher, they splurged to get some edge into their lineup. Taking the last of their limited flexibility, the Wild threw a four-year, $3.5 annual average value (AAV) deal to Yakov Trenin. Why? Because those are the kind of hard-to-play-against players you need to win in the NHL, particularly come playoff time.

    "I think Yakov is, to be honest with you, an ideal third-line left winger," said Bill Guerin shortly after the signing. "For our team right now, we're in the process of learning how to win, of how to become a better team. Players like him bring different dimensions."

    Oh, crud, we messed up there. That was Chuck Fletcher back in 2015, talking about why his team threw a multi-year contract at gritty winger Matt Cooke. Apologies for the mistake. 

    This is what Guerin said about Trenin on KFAN last Wednesday: "We want to get back to our identity, and being harder to play against. We needed size, we needed grit... We felt that was the primary area that we wanted to fix."

    In spirit, this is nearly identical to what Fletcher said about Cooke in 2013. The former Wild general manager's thoughts weren't as recorded or well-preserved back in the early 2010s. However, it wouldn't be surprising if he said something similar about Torrey Mitchell, a speedy penalty killer the Wild signed for three years, $1.9 AAV in July 2012. Fletcher also might have cited getting harder to play against when he traded for Darroll Powe in June 2011, giving him a three-year, $1.067 million AAV deal a week later. Or perhaps when he signed Eric Nystrom to a three-year, $1.4 AAV contract back in July 2010.

    Those guys were all meant to fill a similar need to what Trenin is expected to fill for Minnesota. They were all fast, all physical, and had utility on the penalty kill. Fletcher paid a relative premium to get those players in a Wild uniform, giving each player three years of term. Though the price tags from a decade ago might not be shocking, it should be mentioned that Trenin's percentage of the salary cap (3.98%) isn't terribly different from Cooke's (3.89%) or Mitchell's (3.17%).

    Another thing these deals had in common: The Wild ended up regretting each of them. Nystrom lasted one season before Minnesota waived him, and the Dallas Stars claimed him. Powe played just eight games in his second season in Minnesota before the Wild flipped him in a minor move for Mike Rupp. Mitchell played uninspired hockey for two years before being a salary dump in the Matt Moulson trade. Cooke played the best of the bunch, but even he got bought out of the final year of his deal.

    All in all, the Wild spent 12 years and $20.6 million on these four players and got a combined 386 games, 80 points, and 1.1 Standings Points Above Replacement for the bunch.

    Credit to Fletcher, he eventually grew out of this habit of giving term to role players. After the Cooke signing, Fletcher gave just one more long-term deal to a third-or-fourth-line player, and his four-year pact with Marcus Foligno turned out to be an extremely solid contract. The lesson was learned.

    For Bill Guerin's first few seasons, it didn't seem like he had to learn that lesson at all. He kept the cap hits lean whenever he signed a role player to term. Inking Foligno to a three-year deal worth $3.1 million per season was a tidy bit of business. Doing the same with Ryan Hartman, but with a $1.7 million cap hit was a home run. Giving Jordan Greenway a three-year, $3 million AAV didn't work out so well, but Guerin flipped him for a second-round pick the next season.

    Then, as these cheap deals started expiring and the end of their cap hell entered their sight, there was a turn. Suddenly, Freddy Gaudreau got a five-year, $2.1 million deal, one the Wild would almost surely get out of if they could. Minnesota's cap situation meant he had to go cheap on his guys before, and as the money freed up, he rewarded "his guys" with long, expensive contracts to Foligno, Hartman, and Jake Middleton.

    Those guys are supposed to be hard to play against. Still, Minnesota wasn't last year, especially as injuries or departures for Foligno, Brandon Duhaime, Connor Dewar, and Patrick Maroon piled up. "[The last games of the year against Minnesota] got a bit softer, and that's why I can help with that," Trenin said last week. Michael Russo was more blunt on his "Worst Seats in the House" podcast on July 2: "[The Wild] don't go after Trenin today if all the guys [Guerin] extended last year -- Gaudreau, Hartman, Foligno -- did their jobs last year."

    It's a compressed version of the cycle Fletcher got caught in: Minnesota gives a player a longish-term contract that's supposed to make them harder to play against, it doesn't change the complexion of the team, and it requires them to make another similar deal in the future. 

    It might have been easy to flag Nystrom or Powe as bad investments on Day 1 had advanced stats been... well, advanced. But even through the lens of fancy stats, Mitchell should've been a fairly decent bet. At age 27, he posted solid underlying numbers over the three seasons leading up to free agency. He looks kind of like someone Wild fans might have recently gotten familiar with.

    image.png

    This isn't to say that Trenin will be a Mitchell-style flop. Instead, it's to highlight that Guerin is playing a dangerous game. When the upside is high, like with a top-pairing defenseman or top-six forward, it makes sense to roll the dice on a risky, longer-term deal. When the upside is Trenin being a good third-liner, it makes less sense. And again, we're not talking about Guerin only having one of these contracts on the books.

    If Minnesota wanted a third-liner, they could have acquired one that was cheaper and arguably better. Danton Heinen is an example of someone who drives play on a third-line better than Trenin, and he only got a two-year, $2.25 million AAV deal with the Vancouver Canucks. Blake Lizotte fits the mold of a Trenin-like defender, and the Pittsburgh Penguins landed him for two years, $1.85 million AAV. Heck, they could have just kept Brandon Duhaime at the trade deadline and re-signed him, as he got that same two-year, $1.85 AAV deal with the Washington Capitals. We're talking basically half the price and term for a very similar player.

    The State of Hockey's initial excitement with Guerin was that it represented a clean break from the Fletcher Era, especially after buying out Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, the two biggest symbols of that GM's tenure. It was a refreshing change. But seeing Guerin entering his sixth year at the helm possibly repeating a basic mistake of his predecessor should be concerning to Wild fans.

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    Here's the thing though: were any of those signings done after the Wild's PK was 30th in the league the previous year(which Dewar and Duhaime were part of)?  Was Trenin traded for via a 1st or 2nd?

    We could have done that goofy trade for Tanner Jeannot.

    For all the "lessons not learned," Guerin learned one thing at least: there can always be worse ways to handle a situation.

    Also, do we know for a fact a Person, Tarasenk, etc. would have been interested?  Maybe they'd tack on a mil or two or an extra year instead. Does trading for a glass cannon in Laine offset his injury history BECAUSE GOALZ? Different problems, same boat.

     

     

     

    Edited by Citizen Strife
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    What was worse last season... NoJo or PK?

    Tough call but Yak does address a high priority need in PK and also might help us get a real forechecking line going.

    Besides BG is planning to get a top 6 guy next year that will redeem all criticism...

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    That Top 6 guy might be Yurov for all we know.  Could be Ohgren, Heidt, etc.  all internal options the Wild still have.

    The thing to consider is "hindsight is 20-20". Was anyone claiming Gaudreau at a solid 3rd-4th versatile forward in 2-3 seasons gonna just plummet due to a coach's firing and an injury?  Were any of us gonna know if Spurgeon was sidelined all year in any of his big contract?

    Hell, what if Faber signs for $80 million and then Logan Stanley decides to "accidentally" fall on him and break his leg or something?

    A lot of playing GM is making educated guesses.  Guerin hasn't (yet) deviated from his plan to keep Kaprizov, Faber, and (hopefully) Rossi.  He can still do that.

    Thing he can't do is pull a Stamkos ripcord like Nashville did.  All good for them...unless he gets injured too.

    You just never know.

     

     

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    Role players are important when you have the skill on a team to go deep. There is no question there. I understand we had to stock up on less desirable players while the cap hits had us restricted and Guerin and Dean did well to get the best out of said players, and keep us competitive (if that was the goal). 

    Looking ahead, things look less certain. We don't have the skill at the moment for a deep run and have signed multiple role players to term pacts with trade clauses. 2025-2026 was the time to come online. To break into the league with young guys put through their paces and ready to compete. That is the plan we were told. Looking at the prospect pool now, we aren't there. We have a few exciting prospects that are a couple years away (Buium, Yurov, Haight, Heidt) coupled with a couple that just got their first taste (Dinov, Rossi and Ohgren). These skilled prospects give me hope for the future but make me nervous about what Kap sees in this team currently. 

    I think Guerin pissed away the years we should have been selling and getting younger and now the runway is too long to fit it all together. One of the best things he could have done was get Yurov this year but he pushed that out in favor of contracts to older players. 

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    30 minutes ago, Citizen Strife said:

    Here's the thing though: were any of those signings done after the Wild's PK was 30th in the league the previous year(which Dewar and Duhaime were part of)?  

    If by "part of" you meant "the good part"... sure. image.png

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    8 minutes ago, Citizen Strife said:

    The thing to consider is "hindsight is 20-20". Was anyone claiming Gaudreau at a solid 3rd-4th versatile forward in 2-3 seasons gonna just plummet due to a coach's firing and an injury?

    Yes.

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    If T-Rex plays angry and physical on a consistent basis he will become a fan favorite right away.  If he becomes T-Bag after a couple months and goes full Greenway on the bit he will be lumped in with Foligno, Fraud and Nojo as players who are stealing a paycheck.  

    Your move hot shot.

    #SPEED

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    No way. No mistake. Here's the interview after his signing. 

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBfWpoAorQA

    Classic Russian guy. No fluff. Straight answers, zero emotion. Russian-machine-esque. Love it. Plays hockey the same way. I don't like emotionless hockey from Suter who blames teammates for goof-ups or NoJo who looks to the rafters in shameful disbelief.

    I'll take steady, hard, emotion-free, heavy hockey from big Russians who can fight and score goals any day. For the <4M cap-hit, I think it's gonna be a good fit. As a center, would he fit nicely with Kirill and Boldy. They'd make each other better and equally balanced compared to Ek. Then Ek can center another top line with Ogie perhaps and Rossi on the wing. Now you'd have Hartman, Zuccy, and Foligno. Knudi center's the 4th line and Lauko/Fred/Nojo make up the remaining wings.

    Kaprizov and Boldy can make players better. It worked for Hartman, Steel, Ek, all of the centers who played with Kirill. It's possible Trenin could give the Wild better balance if he plays just like Ek. This allows the Wild to achieve two high-level threat lines with Ek centering a line with younger high-end offensive guys like Ogie who has powerful speed and Rossi who has IQ and scoring prowess. The Wild need better balance. This would make their 3rd line with Hartman centering Zuccy and Foligno pretty decent. Then you've got Knudi or Fred to cetner the 4th with remaining wings to be determined. Maybe Heidt/Sop/Clarke or Lauko/NoJo. Maybe MN can get Van Riemsdyk for 1M later this Summer and upgrade on the wing with a short-term deal for the veteran.

    Trenin gives MN flexibility and size/toughness. Trenin said himself MN got softer to play against late last season. For me that's the biggest thing about too many smaller skill guys. It's hard to balance and roll four lines when they're all lacking a heaviness. Or you just have one GREEF line and it's not enough by itself. Balance should get much better if Chisholm and Ogie can each take another step to improve the areas MN was deficient last year. Power, depth, and a transition to younger players making an important impact at the NHL level. MN needs these guys to replace the Merrills and NoJos on the roster by forcing them out.

    Another thing to consider is the contract hits and when they're up for renewal. Those dates make a big difference. Wallstedt for example, if Gus had been traded last Summer could have had 20-30 games where he might have raised his NHL stock and required AAV by quite a bit. How would that play into the timing of MN's planned signings to come? Just saying, it's complicated and getting the stars to align so to speak means you've gotta build a strong foundation. Trenin, with his age and what he brings to the table is a good thing for MN and worth the cost of what MN was gonna have to pay to Deweys.

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    I completely disagree with this take:

    Michael Russo was more blunt on his "Worst Seats in the House" podcast on July 2: "[The Wild] don't go after Trenin today if all the guys [Guerin] extended last year -- Gaudreau, Hartman, Foligno -- did their jobs last year."

    It's hard to say that players aren't doing their job when most of those players (and about a third of the entire team) were hurt for significant portions of the year.

    Yes, Gaudreau played most of the season, but he seemed hurt and it seriously undermined his effectivity.  Granted, I think signing him for 5yrs is crazy as he is a decent 13th forward on a team.  Expecting him to be anything more than a 4th liner is  already expecting him to do more than what he will be able to give you.  Expecting him to do it as injured as he seemed is ridiculous.

    Hartman did what he usually does.  Yes, he had one crazy season but that it generally understood to be an outlier.  I'd say he actually did do his job last year (and this is coming from someone who doesn't much care for Hartman to begin with).  He could be more consistent and I feel like he gets lackadaisical at times, but overall he was still one of our better forwards.

    Foligno was hurt pretty much the entire season.  Even when he tried to come back, it was obviously to soon and he ended up sidelined for the rest of the season.  Saying he didn't do his job because he was hurt tells me Russo is just pandering to the Deans of the world whose view of things is so myopic that they want to point at one thing to explain another rather than look at a broader picture.

    Pointing fingers at these specific people as reasons why a team with no depth brought on a player to bolster that depth doesn't make any sense.  Trenin is basically a Foligno-ish player who the coach already familiar with and knows how to use him.  He's got more size and strength than the Deweys and is better than last year's checking forwards of Lettieri, Luchini, and Shaw.  I loved the effort out of some of those guys, but Trenin is just better.  Is he $4M better, not sure, but Hynes must have really thought he would be a good fit.  Considering he knows what he is getting and has a history with the player, I have to presume he knows what he is doing more than anyone else does.

    Edited by raithis
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    Great article. I agree. I think the hype ballon is going to burst next year. We will see there isn’t a plan . Just because Billy has a few bucks doesn’t mean he will go spend it wisely or will there be a free agent that helps us . 
        Billy thinks Trenin is a great left wing? Like we don’t have enough of them. Billy was brought in to make us better. We suck down the middle an on the back end with size. He doesn’t work on that just more left wingers? What’s every forward we have besides ek basically? A left winger . Just some visionary stuff Billy. 
        The  article talks about the wild would most likely not want the Fred contract.  That’s another sign Billy isn’t doing his job. Buy out Fred !  We’ve already proven Fred and jo Jo don’t help this team yet they still have roster spots. A good gm would get rid of them and find replacements not give them more years to hamper your team . 
        I don’t see us making playoffs with Billy’s run back of the misfits. I don’t see why kappy will be happy after season and resign. I don’t see any plan on getting these prospects into the nhl producing like the players they were drafted to be . All I see is Billy bam bam Guerin pounding on that square peg. 

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    1 hour ago, Protec said:

    No way. No mistake. Here's the interview after his signing. 

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBfWpoAorQA

    "Go to the net create chaos" was my favorite quote.

    If he plays a hard game and does interviews with that 'Russian Machine Never Break' accent, he'll take to top spot for fan favorite.  Come up with a tag line (i.e. What-a-country) and we'll create t-shirts. Bro doesn't look Russian, looks like he grew up in Columbia Heights.

    Edited by Pewterschmidt
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    4 hours ago, Citizen Strife said:

     Guerin hasn't (yet) deviated from his plan to keep Kaprizov, Faber, and (hopefully) Rossi.  

    It isn't from a lack of trying. He' has been and apparently still is shopping Rossi and it's being circulated he tried to bring Laine in. I can only guess the only thing that prevented that from happening is CBJ would have had to retain more salary then they were willing to retain.

    Just more indicators BG is in over his head IMO.

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    Wouldn’t it be nice to have a gm that makes you say damn how did he pull that off? Or damn that’s a franchise friendly contract?  Or damn how did he get around cap to make that move? Or damn how did he get that guy for Minnesota? 
       Instead we have damn why did he do that? Damn why did he do it when he didn’t need to? Or damn why does he keep force feeding us these misfits? Or damn why did he spend all the money. 
       I just know I’m damn sick of his excuses and the pr department making up fantasies to justifyi them. 

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    48 minutes ago, Dango said:

    And its official ,  Cap Friendly is closed.    Dont know what im gonna do in my spare time now trying to orchestrate trades as a armchair GM  .

    I'm convinced the Capitals purchased Cap Friendly because they were embarrassed at how bad the PLD deal was going to look in a couple years...

    But seriously, something will step up to take their place, they clearly created something of value, especially their backend premium tools.  I've read some articles that multiple teams had no other systems/tools in place other than capfriendly which speaks to how good that site was.

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    I like Trenin as a player, and I think he will bring a necessary element to the team. I don’t like the contract, as it’s either too long or too much AAV. Again, though, the issue isn’t any of the individual deals. The problem is the mass of “identity” type players on contracts with too much term and/or value, not to mention also including trade protections, that are typically added to reduce term/or value numbers. The team is old. Slow. Short on elite talent. It has an over abundance of bottom 6 players locked up for at least 4 more seasons, on contracts that aren’t easy to move. So, yes, I like Trenin. I think the team will be worse because of the decision to commit, long term, to a bunch of replaceable players.

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    There’s always the potential that Trenin brings that grit and adds a bit of offense if he plays alongside a guy like Hartley/Foligno or maybe a rookie hungry to prove themselves. 
     

    Here’s to hoping he finds another gear and makes the $3.5m look like a bargain. 

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    10 hours ago, Tony Abbott said:

    If by "part of" you meant "the good part"... sure. image.png

    Yes they were the better parts of the PK… and yet Trenin is still an upgrade on them in terms of the PK. With better size. 
     

    Was it an overpay? Sure. Did we have anyone better available in-house for that role? Definitely not. Bonus points for familiarity with Kaprizov and the HCs system.

    Cooke was never anything but a goon who laid dirty hits on guys as the Wilds agitator. Trenin will be a valuable addition beyond his physicality. 

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    5 hours ago, Dean said:

    Wouldn’t it be nice to have a gm that makes you say damn how did he pull that off? Or damn that’s a franchise friendly contract?  Or damn how did he get around cap to make that move? Or damn how did he get that guy for Minnesota? 
       
       I just know I’m damn sick of his excuses and the pr department making up fantasies to justifyi them. 

    Umm… you mean like the Ek deal? Or Hartman’s the last 2 years? Boldy for just $7M?

    Or the Fiala trade? You don’t like Faber AND Ohgren for a guy who hasn’t helped the LAK get past round 1 yet either?

    Or getting a 2nd for Greenway? Or getting Gus for a mid-30s Talbot? Or, shit, even just getting Kaprizov to finally come stateside?? 
     

    Y’all are waaaaay too hung up on the bottom of the roster moves and act like that’s all he’s done or is ever doing.

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    5 hours ago, Patrick said:

    While I agree with the principal Trenin has more skill than most grinders. I think we will all be surprised by his production.

    I think if he is attached to Rossi or Zuccarello it would be a nice fit. Maybe with Hartman at center. 

    Then Ogie and Foligno play wing on a middle-six line too. That gives you three solid lines that have a different flavor of balance, assuming the Ek/Boldy/Kaprizov line is intact.

    Right now I doubt Heidt makes the team out of camp. I think the Wild like Lauko for 4th line wing, that's why they traded for him and he's got 60 NHL games. That puts Fred and NoJo in the final spots with Knudi. 

    I think guys like Clarke, Sop, Haight, and Height will be your new offensive talents in Des Moines. Wallstedt and Vaj hold down the tendy spot and Lambos, Hunt, Spacek, Masters, O'Rourke, etc. try to prove who's the leader on defense. 

    For as often as Guerin gets ripped in comments, it's noteworthy that IA has some good talented players with potential and the Wild don't look bad at all. It's nearly the same group that has had a 85-59-20 record over the last two seasons despite some important injury setbacks and coach burnout. 

    I think the start to last season will motivate the Wild to come into the year stronger and build the confidence they need to gain an extra 5-6 wins early. That would have put them near 100 points in the standings and Kirill coulda had 50G/50A. My prediction is that MN can be back in a playoff position and their start/depth will be better than last year. Heidt or Hunt could perhaps bump an old duffer who isn't getting results. I'm not complaining at all. MN had a modest chunk of money they could spend. That was allocated to Trenin who has a unique set of qualities MN could benefit most from. I think we expect to see a little more offense from Ogie, Rossi, maybe Boldy. Hopefully Chisholm, maybe Faber too from the back end. Therefore did MN think their best way to spend that little chunk of AAV was on scoring only? I don't think so. They went with a more utilitarian solution and it seems pretty good to me for this year and to cement a Russian element for the coming years regardless of what Kirill decides to do. 

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