The NHL probably has the most entertaining trade deadline in pro sports. Almost every year we see a surprisingly big name moved and sometimes there’s a significant shift in power.
Circumstances are different this year for the Minnesota Wild than they have been over the past few years. In the past, they were buyers, desperately looking for a player to get them over the hump. Many failed moves were made in that process. But this year, the Wild are in position to stand pat on deadline day or bolster an already-excellent lineup.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie said on NBC Sports Network that the Wild will look to add another forward or defenseman, but they will not spend any of their quality prospects or roster players to do so.
With that said, TSN has released its latest “Trade Bait” list, laying out the 25 best players who are likely to be moved at the deadline. Let’s have a look at the players most likely to be pursued by the Wild. (See the complete list here). *Worth noting that the Wild are up against the cap, but teams can retain cap space in order to make a deal work.*
3) Martin Hanzal, Arizona Coyotes
Because of Arizona’s struggles and market, Hanzal isn’t a household name, but he has been a consistently solid center since coming into the league in 2007-08. Over the last five years, he has produced at around a 50-point per 82-game pace and provided solid defensive play using his 6-foot-6 frame. Hanzal would offer the Wild flexibility as he can play a depth role or move up to a higher line if there is an injury or slump during a playoff series. Hanzal should be at the top of Minnesota’s list.
Advanced stat: +3.5% Relative Corsi over the past three years. Basically, when Hanzal is on the ice, Arizona’s been a much better team in terms of shot differential than when he’s off.
6) Radim Vrbata, Arizona Coyotes
While Vrbata isn’t the 30-goal type scorer he was during his prime, the veteran winger is still very good with the puck, producing 35 points this season on a struggling Coyotes team. One of Minnesota’s strengths is its depth at wing, but teams can never have enough scorers heading into the playoffs.
Advanced stat: Vrbata averages 1.80 points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5, tops on the Coyotes
16) Dmitry Kulikov, Buffalo Sabres
For years, the Florida Panthers held out hope that Kulikov would turn into a quality top-pair defenseman. Those hopes ran out last season and Florida traded him to Buffalo. The Sabres also envisioned Kulikov playing a key role, but he hasn’t offered much in a top-four role. Using him as a third-pair defenseman might be far more effective than playing the Russian defender more than 22 minutes per game. His combination of size and speed would be difficult to match for third and fourth lines.
Advanced stat: 22:43 average Time on Ice
23) Alexandre Burrows, Vancouver Canucks
He isn’t the same player who skated alongside the Sedin twins to a Stanley Cup Final appearance, but Burrows still plays hard and can add the occasional goal. Minnesota’s shot differentials on the fourth line have been very poor this year, so they could use an upgrade in tough-to-play-against.
Advanced stat: The Canucks allow 5.2 fewer shot attempts per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 with Burrows on the ice, that’s second best on Vancouver.
25) Brian Gionta, Buffalo Sabres
At 38, Gionta is still beating the odds. On a team with Jack Eichel, Ryan O’Reilly and Kyle Okposo, it’s the elder statesman who leads the Sabres in 5-on-5 scoring with 22 points. You won’t find a harder working professional than Gionta, who can play on the fourth line as a defensive-minded winger or move up the lineup to produce points.
Advanced stat: 1.89 points per 60 minutes at even strength, No. 1 on the Sabres