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  • Wild Trade Grades: Reviewing Minnesota’s deadline moves


    Well, the Minnesota Wild will have to be happy with the roster they have since the NHL Trade Deadline has come and passed Monday. No more transactions and no more rumors to ponder over, the Wild made a total of six trades in the last week or so.

    How did they do? Let’s just get right to it.

    Marc-Andre Fleury for conditional 2nd-round pick

    Certainly the biggest deal of the day for the Wild — and it might be the biggest in the entire league — was acquiring goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury from the Chicago Blackhawks for a second-round pick that will turn into a first-rounder if Minnesota ends up winning two playoff series and Fleury is in net for four post-season wins.

    When you are able to get the reigning Vezina Trophy winner and take nothing off of your current roster, or trade any prospect whatsoever, it’s kind of an easy win. Yes, Fleury has not had that much better of a season compared to the Wild’s now former tandem of Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kahkonen, but he is still a netminder that has three Stanley Cup rings on his fingers and was essentially the sole reason why Minnesota didn’t beat the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round last year.

    He solidifies a position that has been teetering on utter failure all season long for the Wild, and now they have two experienced veterans as a tandem. Everyone should be more than comfortable departing with a second-round pick in any sort of deal for this — especially when it is addressing a significant problem — and if that pick ends up being a first, then I don’t think many people will be complaining the fact that the Minnesota Wild somehow made it to the Western Conference Final.

    Grade: A-

    Jacob Middleton for Kaapo Kahkonen, 5th-round pick

    It was a trade that was done in tandem with the Fleury acquisition, as the Wild certainly did not want to have a three-headed problem in between the pipes. The 25-year-old Kahkonen was sent on his way to the San Jose Sharks with a 2022 fifth-round pick (actually the pick the Sharks sent to Minnesota for Devan Dubnyk two years ago) in exchange for rugged defenseman Jacob Middleton.

    Instead of trying to just sell off Kahkonen to whoever is willing to give back the highest draft pick, GM Bill Guerin utilized his problem and used it for his advantage, addressing another problem on the blue line that the 26-year-old Middleton certainly helps with. The only significant question has to be: Is Middleton to really an improvement on Dmitry Kulikov or Jon Merrill? It is still to be seen and considering that the former Shark spent the majority of his NHL minutes this year with Erik Karlsson or Brent Burns, how much can we pin on him, for his first full season?

    He certainly loves to hit people and punch people, so that’s at least a familiar bonus for a Wild skater and for a Sharks team that has seen their opponents get the better share of the chances, when Middleton is on the ice, the percentages seem to edge closer in his team’s favor.

    It is a big wait-and-see type of deal, but at the very least the Wild traded a goaltender that was extremely spotty and has been frankly terrible in the last couple of months, for a controllable and cheap NHL defenseman that is a pending restricted free agent this summer.

    Grade: B

    2nd-round pick for Jack McBain

    The one trade that was essentially guaranteed weeks before it was actually made was the Wild sending out unsigned and pending college free agent Jack McBain to the Arizona Coyotes for the 2022 second-round pick that was originally owned by the Vancouver Canucks. The 22-year-old center made it clear to the team that he was not going to sign with them and was planning on — at the very least — becoming an unrestricted free agent on Aug. 15, so getting anything back for him has that slight shine of well at least it’s something but getting back what will most likely be a top-45 pick for someone that has not stepped foot on the ice of a professional hockey game yet, is a good piece of business.

    Yes, it would have been best to simply sign the center that has scored 19 goals in 24 games, to his entry-level contract and have him play on the NHL roster this season — which is what The Athletic’s Michael Russo said the team was planning on doing — but given the hand that they were dealt with, the Wild did a fairly good job getting fair value.

    Am I basically tossing it up as a McBain-for-Fleury trade? I’m not not saying that.

    Grade: A

    Nicolas Deslauriers for 3rd-round pick

    We’re cheating on this one, just a little bit. After Monday’s game against the Golden Knights, this trade is looking better and better. It was expected that Deslauriers would be battling in the corners, throwing his body around, and potentially getting involved in a skirmish or two; but did we think that he would score in his first period of being in Minnesota? Probably not.

    We’ll try to stay unbiased, but of course, this trade was looking better and better with every check and every hit Deslauriers made on Monday.

    A third-round pick is certainly a significant pick to give up for someone that probably won’t be playing for much more than 12 minutes a night, but he certainly made enough of a presence and his friendship with Marcus Foligno is just enjoyable to see.

    If we want to talk ourselves into “if it was a fourth-round pick, then that would make it a little If we want to talk ourselves into “if it was a fourth-round pick, then that would make it a little better,” then bumping it up just one single round is not a big enough deal to really get twisted about. It was good, and with the context of the other moves, it certainly makes Minnesota an annoying team to play against.

    Grade: B-

    Tyson Jost for Nico Sturm

    The first move of the season, the Wild sent pending unrestricted free agent Nico Sturm — who reportedly turned down a multi-year contract extension — for a younger-but-more-expensive center in Tyson Jost.

    We have been able to see three games of Jost on the Wild, and while it visibly took him a little bit to get used to his teammates, he has put in two very solid performances. All of his underlying numbers are in his favor, sporting a dominant 57.81 percent of the on-ice shot attempt share at 5-on-5, so there’s nothing to complain about there. It is really just the commitment to his contract. Jost has one more season with a $2-million AAV and considering the incoming cap crunch that has been talked about way too much, it is a fairly sizeable price for a fourth-line center.

    Maybe, the 24-year-old will find a new life in Minnesota and get promoted up the lineup next season, or they can be completely fine having Jost at that number since two of their other centers (Ryan Hartman and Frederick Gaudreau) have a lower cap hit. There’s room to grow, hopefully, and at the very worse, Jost is just a slightly-too-expensive good player that they traded away a player that was going to hit the free market this summer anyway, for.

    Grade: B

    Future considerations for Victor Rask

    What more can you really say about this? Rask cleared waivers for the second time this season and has spent a total of 10 games down with the AHL Wild. Instead of toiling down in the minors until he hits unrestricted free agency this summer, GM Bill Guerin did last year’s number-one center a solid and retained half of his salary to give him another NHL shot with the Seattle Kraken.

    Hopefully, because Rask seems like just a nice person even if he was the worse half in an infamous one-for-one trade, he gets enough of a look and produces enough for a team to give him another NHL shot next season as a free agent acquisition.

    Just Bill doing one his guys a solid, again.

    Grade: A


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