Being a hockey fan from Minnesota, I have to admit that the Wild have grown pretty stale over the last few seasons. After getting dominated by the Avs and mired in one of the most frustrating seasons I've ever seen, I was thrilled to see such a brutal house cleaning by Craig Leipold. I remain hopeful that Chuck Fletcher will make good on his promise to bring fast, brutal hockey back to Minnesota. In an effort to speed up this process I make a bold suggestion:
Trade Niklas Backstrom.
Now, before we let the flames fly lets think about what could be accomplished by trading this years' possible Vezina winner. The Wild are most likely looking at a down year in the standings and that will give Josh Harding a year to hone his already admirable skills. It will also give Backstrom the chance to play for a potential winner. How many teams on are looking for a dominating goaltender? The answer is a lot. Dallas, Toronto, Ottawa, Chicago, possibly Detroit (Osgood's season numbers are terrible), Philly, and Colorado. How many of these teams are on the cusp of making it deeper into the playoffs?
What would the return be on a trade? An established player, a first rounder, and a prospect would be the minimum for a goalie of Backstrom's caliber. A trade with Chicago for Dustin Byfuglien or Duncan Keith as the centerpiece would serve to fill areas where the Wild have struggled. Byfuglien would give the Wild an imposing player who is willing to get in the crease and make opposing goal tenders uncomfortable. Kieth is a great two-way player and would add a real threat from the blue line. Keith paired with Brent Burns would be a lethal combo on the power play. However, a trade with Chicago begs the question whether they would part with one of their big scorers, such as Kane, Havlat, or Toews?
Another trade possibility lies with Toronto. As their season moved on it was easy to see that they were in need of better and more consistent goal tending. A package centered around Matt Stajan would give the Wild another effective center. Stajan may also have the potential to fill in the scoring gap left by Marian Gaboriks' departure.
Finally, a trade with Flyers could also be a boon for both teams. A trade for Mike Richards or Scott Hartnell and an exchange of draftpicks could be workable. Niklas Backstrom would eliminate any further discussion of who is number one in Philly, allowing their fans to sleep a little easier at night. The main problem with Philly is that they're pressed up against the cap and do not have the flexibility to take on another 6 million.
The Wild would save 6 million in cap space from Backstrom's contract. That coupled with Marion Gaborik leaving could give our new GM a lot of flexibility. Sure a move like this is a gamble, but Harding has the talent to be a No. 1 goalie, and while I wear a number 32 jersey at the Xcel Center, this could help the Wild make a very big leap.