When Bill Guerin took over last summer as the new general manager of the Minnesota Wild, he indicated he would use this season to evaluate his roster before deciding on any significant changes.
As the Wild struggle to remain in the Western Conference playoff chase, there’s speculation suggesting Guerin could become a seller by the Feb. 24 trade deadline. TSN’s Darren Dreger last week said he’s heard the Wild GM is “open for business.”
Non-contending clubs tend to ship out pending unrestricted free agents they can’t or won’t re-sign before the trade deadline. The Wild, however, only have one roster regular – center Mikko Koivu – eligible for UFA status this summer.
Russo, however, wondered what the future holds for Wild regulars such as Jason Zucker, Jonas Brodin, and Matt Dumba. Young players acquired by Guerin’s predecessor, such as Ryan Donato and Kevin Fiala, have also surfaced at times in this season’s rumor mill.
Zucker could be the likely trade candidate. Former Wild GM Paul Fenton attempted to ship the 28-year-old right winger to the Calgary Flames and Pittsburgh Penguins last year. Russo said he’s heard the Penguins could be revisiting their interest in Zucker.
With 13 goals and 27 points in 39 games, Zucker’s on pace to exceed 20 goals and 40 points for the fourth straight year. He’s signed through 2022-23 with an annual average value of $5.5 million. Zucker also carries a 10-team no-trade list, which could complicate potential efforts to move him.
Dumba would be Guerin’s most attractive trade chip. The 25-year-old defenseman has struggled to regain his 50-point form of 2017-18 after missing 50 games last season to a ruptured pectoral muscle.
A smooth-skating, puck-moving blueliner, Dumba would be very attractive to clubs seeking a top-pairing, big-minute rearguard. Those traits, however, also make him invaluable to the Wild’s defense corps. It’ll take a significant pitch to pry him out of Minnesota.
Brodin seems to surface every year in the trade rumor mill, yet he’s still a blueline regular for the Wild. A decent top-four defenseman, the 26-year-old would have value among playoff contenders seeking additional blueline depth, though he won’t fetch as much as Zucker or Dumba.
Donato and Fiala are both 23 and could still blossom into reliable scorers. Their inconsistency, however, hurts their trade value.
Forget about Guerin finding takers for veterans Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. While they’re still effective players, they each have five years remaining on contracts with annual salary-cap hits of over $7.5 million and full no-movement clauses. Even if they agreed to be moved, and if Guerin agreed to pick up half their salaries, their age and remaining term on their contracts make them almost untradeable.
Finding a quality center will be Guerin’s priority. They’ll be thin down the middle if Koivu retires or signs elsewhere this summer. Eric Staal is on a 60-point pace this season, but the 35-year-old is best suited for second-line duty. Victor Rask and Joel Eriksson Ek are their other regular centers.
Guerin has yet to make his first big move, but it’s likely coming by the Feb. 24 trade deadline. Whoever he shops, and the returns he receives could determine if he’s retooling his roster for next season or preparing for a major overhaul.w