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Zulgad’s 5 thoughts: No favors from Pominville, good gamble on Staal, Dumba likely on the move

Mar 5, 2017; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild forward Eric Staal (12) skates with the puck in the second period against the San Jose Sharks forward Tomas Hertl (48) at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Wild’s protected list for this week’s NHL expansion draft contained no significant surprises.

The team turned in its list on Saturday afternoon and it was revealed on Sunday morning ahead of the selections by the Vegas Golden Knights, who will take one player from each roster on Wednesday. The Wild protected seven forwards, three defensemen and goalie Devan Dubnyk.

Here are five thoughts on how things played out for Minnesota general manager Chuck Fletcher and his staff:

Say what?

There is still no confirmation that the Wild asked winger Jason Pominville to waive his no-move clause so Minnesota would not have been obligated to protect him, but one has to believe that the veteran was asked whether he would be willing to do so and said no.

The 34-year-old Pominville is a declining player who will be entering the fourth season of a five-year, $28 million contract he signed in October 2013. Pominville has a combined 24 goals over the past two seasons after scoring 30 in 2013-14 and 18 in 2014-15.

There is no way that Vegas would have taken Pominville if the Wild had been able to expose him, and his willingness to be on the team’s unprotected list would have enabled Minnesota to protect a more valuable forward.

Pominville must have had his reasons for saying no – if the Wild failed to ask that’s basically hockey malpractice – but he did his employer no favors.

Good gamble

If Pominville had given his permission to be exposed, the Wild almost certainly would have protected center Eric Staal.

Staal, who signed a three-year, $10.5 million free-agent contract with the Wild last summer and led the team with 28 goals, is unlikely to be leaving Minnesota.

Staal, 32, will be entering his 14th season and rebounded from a poor 2015-16 season in which he scored a combined 13 goals in 83 games split between Carolina and the New York Rangers. The fact Staal is only one year removed from that performance will scare some.

Staal would provide Vegas with veteran leadership or a potential trade chip, but the Golden Knights will have many choices of players who could bring these qualities and some are younger and more attractive than Staal.

Don’t get me wrong. Staal had a very nice season with the Wild and became a valuable No. 1 center. Odds are good he will get a chance to repeat that success in Minnesota in 2017-18.

Staying put

For several months, the assumption was that the Wild would lose winger Jason Zucker in this draft. Zucker is from Vegas and the feeling was that if the Golden Knights could take him they would jump at the chance.

But Zucker won’t be going anywhere after he ended up on Minnesota’s protected list. Zucker hasn’t always been the most consistent player, but he has game-changing speed and had career-highs with 22 goals, 25 assists and 172 shots in 79 games in 2016-17.

The Wild could have taken their chances and protected Staal, while exposing Zucker, but Vegas was far more likely to take the latter than they would have been the former.

After Zucker’s performance this season, the decision to protect him wasn’t that tough to make.

The Brodin decision

The Wild reportedly was in discussions with executives from Montreal and Boston about a trade involving Jonas Brodin before the roster freeze began Saturday but the defenseman ended up staying put.

The feeling was that Fletcher was trying to decide whether to expose Brodin or Matt Dumba – Ryan Suter, who has a no-move clause, and Jared Spurgeon were givens as the top two defensemen the Wild would protect – and wanted to see if he could get the type of value he wanted for Brodin.

When that did not happen, Fletcher wisely made Brodin the third defensemen he protected and exposed Dumba and Marco Scandella, who had an inconsistent regular season but a strong playoff series against the Blues.

The decision on Brodin is a good one. He’s not a player who will wow you – he had only two goals in his fifth NHL season in 2016-17 – but he’s a steady, reliable player who can move the puck and who would be missed if he departed.

Odds are very good that if Brodin had been exposed that Vegas would have jumped at the opportunity to take the soon-to-be 23-year-old.

So who goes?

The guess here is that unless the Wild works out a trade with Vegas that allows Fletcher to have some control of the process, Golden Knights general manager George McPhee is going to pluck Dumba off Minnesota’s roster.

Dumba, who will turn 23 next month, was the seventh-overall pick by the Wild in the 2012 draft and is coming off a season in which he had 11 goals and 23 assists in 76 games. Two years ago, Dumba had 10 goals and 16 points in 81 games.

Dumba had six goals and six assists on the power play last season and has one of the best shots on the team.

There will be some who won’t mind seeing Dumba go because of the mistakes he has made on defense, but his ability to create offense is difficult to find and he remains a young and developing player.

The Wild did not make a mistake in exposing Dumba, but it would not be surprising if he develops into a very good offensive-defenseman in another uniform.

The Wild’s protected list: Goaltender – Devan Dubnyk. Defensemen – Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon and Ryan Suter. Forwards – Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Mikko Koivu, Nino Niederreiter, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville and Jason Zucker

Expansion draft: Will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday on NBC Sports Network along with the NHL Awards Show.

What the Golden Knights will get: Vegas must pick one player from each team and select 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders.


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