The Minnesota WILD “core” is no more

Marc Elliott

Mikael Granlund scores exciting G3  OT winner versus COL in 2014 Playoffs.
Mikael Granlund scores exciting G3 OT winner versus COL in 2014 Playoffs.

   MURPHY CITY… The National Hockey League trade deadline day has come and gone. Around the league the deals made on this day ranged from fairly big to your basic shoulder shruggers. Some teams improved, some stayed about the same, some bolstered their future opportunities, and some made moves solely for budgetary purposes. Many fans look forward to this day with the same anticipation that they might reserve for the NHL Entry Draft. I anticipated, I observed and then I shrugged my shoulders. With all the rumors flying around the Wild camp in the past few weeks it would have been hard to ignore the impending day. At the same time, I also knew that short of swinging a real big deal involving probably several of the club’s upper level talents, nothing was going to happen today that was going to change the immediate fortunes of this team. And in my view, that’s kind of what happened.  

   It’s funny that from a fan perspective many faithful of the team had grown impatient with the younger “core” of the team, I’m speaking of the Neiderreiters, the Coyle’s, the Granlunds, and the Zucker’s of the team while also reserving other opinion for the older core of the team in Koivu, Suter, Staal and Parise, and you may as well place Devan Dubnyk in that group as well. He’s no longer in his twenties. But now that three of those individuals have been moved to other teams with forward Charlie Coyle being traded to his hometown Boston Bruins, and with today’s dealing of Mikael Granlund to Nashville, following last months trade of Nino Neiderreiter to Carolina, fans that were calling for the blowing up of the roster are awash with emotions on this afternoon. I have witnessed many fans lashing out at these deals via the internet, and we should analyze them, but with some perspective attached. Beyond that I always remember two things from having been around the business a little bit; these guys are humans with all the life stuff going on that you and I also have going on. They are real people not machines. Second, it’s a business. You can hold some temporary emotion, and then you must vanquish it, quickly.  

   In review, Neiderreiter was moved for Victor Rask, then Brad Hunt, Pontus Aberg and Anthony Bitteto were obtained in minor deals, Charlie Coyle was moved for Ryan Donato and Granlund goes to Nashville for Kevin Fiala. Matt Hendricks went back to Winnipeg for a 7th round 2020 draft pick. So how did GM Paul Fenton do here?

   The reality is that you can’t judge trades for at least a couple of years. That’s just the truth. There was some immediate and future salary savings, but no draft picks of any significance were accumulated, and Fenton categorized these as just good old “hockey trades”. Yah. Well, if I had to make a call right now, Carolina won on the Nino deal, Rask has done nothing and is currently on IR, Aberg, Hunt and Bitteto have been negligible additions, early returns on Donato are promising, but so was his Bruins post-Olympic debut last year until they sent him down to the ‘A’. And Fiala? Lots of promise that hasn’t been met yet, and the club should have received some sort of draft pick in this deal as well. I’m glad Fenton thinks he has done ok, because my jury is out, way out right now. Why would you trade Granlund to a contender in your own division? Yikes.  

   And regarding my line about “core no more”, Fenton has been keen on media talk of the breakup of the team’s “core”. He threw out this curveball, stating that his idea of what the team “core” is and what others believe to be the team’s core are likely two different things but wouldn’t expound on that. In addition, it is believed the team was close to a deal with Calgary to move Jason Zucker and that it fell through at the last moment, but no word as to why at this time.

   That would have been a huge event had that happened as four major roster pieces would have been moved out in a short few weeks. So, what is the net-net here? The club is a little bit younger, Fenton has a little more cap space available for other roster considerations but didn’t stockpile any draft picks in the process. Was it time to disassemble some of the roster? Yes, if getting to the playoffs and performing in them is the standard, the group didn’t perform as put together. I feel that with some of the players that got nice contracts after their RFA status was exhausted, that they never really had earned that in a sense, I mean, the team hasn’t won anything, pretty much in their entire history save for a handful of playoff series and one division title and a Conference Final appearance that they were swept in. But these players got paid. The club had no choice. They showed promise and the team had to try to see it through. There has also been a theory that the team must go above and beyond to get players here and to keep them. Why? The Twin Cities are a great place with a hockey culture as good as anywhere in the hockey universe.  

   Rumors have Fenton clearing cap space to make a run at Edina native and NY Isles Captain Anders Lee this summer when he becomes an UFA. Whatever the talk around town is, I simply don’t know if Fenton has “won” any deals yet, but he thinks he has. Time will tell. PEACE  

   ALL FANS KNOW of the February fortunes of the team thus far, they were 1-8 prior to last week with four games upcoming, they dropped the first one to the lowly Ducks 4-0 before reeling off 3 wins versus @ NYR, @ DET and an exciting 2-1 OT win over STL in St. Paul last night. Donato got the GWG last eve. The trending of the club didn’t convince me they would have a good week but did. Can they continue? They have 19 games left and 14 of them are against teams above them in the standings. It’s going to be quite tough…  

   WILD DATA; The ATHLETIC, (2/25am) 21st, trending for 86 points w/36% chance at a playoff spot, ½% chance at a Cup win. The SAGARIN, (2/25am) 17th on a 30-33 record, 9-10 vs T10, 13-18 vs T16 w/schedule difficulty of 28th. NHL STATS; 17th w/30 wins, T17th w/66 points, T19th on pct. of points avail. @ .524. NHL STANDINGS; 5th in the Central w/30-27-6 record, tied w/COL but ahead by virtue of wins, in 2nd Wild Card spot over COL based on ROW, 14-13-5 @ H, 16-14-1 @ A, 4-5-1 in L10 w/3W streak. 24th/GF @ 172, 13th/GA @ 182, 14th/PP @ 20.7%, 19th on PK @ 80.0%, 14th in PIM’s with 528. OVER & OUT!