The Olympics are just a few days from being over, and the Minnesota Wild have hit the ice once more, practicing together for the first time since the Olympic freeze.
Looking at the standings, the Wild have a daunting task ahead of them. With 21 games remaining, they sit five points out of the playoff race and, seeing Kim Johnsson shipped out to Chicago, are looking more and more like they will be sellers at the March 3 trade deadline.
As Hockey Reference shows, the Wild’s chances of making the playoffs are slipping drastically.
The bottom line remains: the Wild simply are not consistent enough to be in the playoff picture this season. They cannot sustain any sort of solid effort on the ice in a single game, much less over a stretch of games.
Keeping that in mind, here is a look at the players that the Wild could potentially move, and what their going rate might be.
After Johnsson, Nolan is probably the next “big ticket” item that the Wild have to offer.
I know what you’re thinking: 14 goals, 28 points? How is Nolan a big ticket item?
I’ll tell you how: 65 playoff games.
He’s been there and done that, plain and simple. At the trade deadline, playoff contenders are typically looking for two things. One, Veteran leadership, and two, either defensive help or scoring punch (depending on the team’s needs).
Nolan brings both veteran leadership and the ability to score clutch goals. He has been a key part of the Wild’s locker room this season and a great number of Wild fans will be extremely sad to see him go; however, he is a talent from which Wild could get some good assets in return.
Estimated Cap Hit: $598K
Expected Return: Prospects and/or picks
Belanger is having one of the best seasons of his career. He’s just two points off of his career high in points and assists, and he’s been a huge asset defensively for the Wild.
He also has something else that playoff teams tend to look for: He can win face-offs.
If there’s a big draw to be taken, Belanger will be in on it. He’s been a large part of many of the Wild’s successful runs this season, and has also started showing a bit of a gritty side to his game.
He’s also one of the better penalty killers on the Wild’s squad, and has started to exhibit that he has the hands to be a threat on the offensive side of things as well.
In addition, Belanger has the added upside of still being relatively young (well, at least compared to Nolan). If the fit is good enough, there’s the potential for a team to get a couple more solid years from him after the trade.
Estimated Cap Hit: $390K
Expected Return: Depth roster player and/or pick(s)
Wild fans will attest to the fact that Sheppard’s stock has fallen like a rock this season.
Sheppard has gone from the asking price of Olli Jokinen to being less tradeble than Benoit Pouliot (which, in Wild fans eyes, was saying quite a bit).
If there’s one thing that Chuck Fletcher has proven, though, it’s that he’s more than willing to move a player that might need a change of scenery, and Sheppard could use just that.
I’m firm in my belief that he can be successful somewhere; I just don’t think that somewhere is Minnesota.
Sheppard was touted as the “next big thing” for the Wild, and he certainly hasn’t turned into that. Fans have begun to tire of seeing him on the ice, to the point where many would rather see Derek Boogaard get Sheppard’s ice time.
The bottom line is that Sheppard needs to play somewhere where the expectations facing him are tempered, and that place isn’t in Minnesota
Estimated Cap Hit: $312K
Expected Return: Struggling young roster player
I’m putting Boogaard on this list because there is the chance that he could get moved, but I’ll say this right now.
That chance is slim-to-none.
Boogaard is one of the most feared enforcers in the game on a team that lacks a suitable replacement, and he's earning ice time this season.
While it’s a possibility, it certainly isn’t probable.
Estimated Cap Hit: $212K
Expected Return: Late round draft pick
The Sheriff has been an excellent addition to the Wild’s blue-line this season, but two facts remain.
One, he’s been an excellent addition, meaning that he would be an excellent and cheap addition to a team needing defensive help. Two, his role on the team can be filled by either Clayton Stoner or Jaime Sifers.
If any team is looking for an injury-filler or depth on the blue-line, Hnidy can certainly fill that need, and fill it quite well.
In addition, he has gotten more playing time this season on the offensive side of things (more notably, on the powerplay) and has exhibited an extremely heavy (if not very accurate) shot from the point.
While the return for Hnidy probably wouldn’t be great, he could be a low risk, high reward pick up for someone in need of a d-man.
Estimated Cap Hit: $167K
Expected Return: Mid-to-late round draft pick
Let’s face it: Scottie won’t be on the team next season.
He’s regressed this season in terms of the ability that he brought to the table that had the Wild keep him around, but he’s moved forward in his enforcer ability—something that teams may be looking for.
He brings toughness and he can play solid defense, if you don’t take into account his lack of skating ability.
Scott is the most likely of the two “big men” that the Wild have to be moved, as he quickly became expendable on the blueline, even more so with the emergence of Stoner.
Scott could easily be a boon to a team looking to increase its toughness heading into the playoffs.
Estimated Cap Hit: $123K
Expected Return: Late round draft pick
Harding is the player that he Wild will likely look to shop the hardest, especially with the emergence of Anton Khudobin this season.
Hards had a tough start to the season, but has rebounded nicely. If there is one thing that teams love heading into the playoffs, it’s a capable, young backup that can take over in the case of injury (see: Cam Ward).
Harding can provide that for a team, and deserves the chance to be someone’s goaltender of the future, because with Backstrom planted in net for the Wild and Khudobin and Matthew Hackett coming up behind, the Wild’s net is starting to get a little crowded.
Harding is a restricted free agent this coming off season and would be a tremendous pick up for just about any team looking to improve in net.
Estimated Cap Hit: $245K
Expected Return: Roster player and/or prospects or picks
Fletcher has said that he’s not interesting in trading picks or prospects for players; however, he will be willing to part with picks or prospects if the price is right.
If he can get a good, young player that can have a future on this club, he will not hesitate to pull the trigger, even if it involves a pick or a prospect.
While it may be maddening to some, it is a stark contrast to the strategy of Doug Risebrough, and ultimately leads to the line:
In Chuck We Trust.