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The Wild’s Biggest Trade Chip?


Todd Varga

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blog-0786406001335293883.jpgThe Wild’s Biggest Trade Chip? 4-24-2012

We are just under 2 months away from the 2012 NHL Entry draft. The playoffs are in full effect (and so far they have been amazing), and teams are either focused on winning the cup, or the draft and other ways to improve their team. Unfortunately for the Wild, it’s the latter. Right now, Chuck Fletcher, Craig Leipold, and Mike Yeo, are all looking at ways to make the team better, so that this time next year, they are chasing the cup. No doubt that the Wild will be counting on the young prospects coming into the system full time next season. Owner Craig Leipold has also stated that the Wild will be very aggressive on the free agent market, going after the best talent available. The other way to improve the team would be through trades, which is what I’ll be focusing on today.

The Wild got a real good look at the prospect pool in Houston. Some of the young Aeros were good, and some even stayed a while, and I think the most impressive call up came in the form of goalie Matt Hackett. He wasn’t perfect, hence the 3-6 record this past season, but he was very impressive. With some consistent work in the NHL, and some good coaching, Hackett could be a good NHL net minder. Now, this information is relevant for a couple of reasons. Josh Harding is UFA, and the Wild will be in need of a second NHL goalie. It’s entirely possible that Harding resigns in Minnesota. The Wild drafted him to eventually be there number one goalie, and he is capable of such a role. But before free agency, we will have the draft, and what is sure to be rapid player movement. With all this in mind, the Wild have a wealth of goalie depth in their system, and could move one of them if they plan to resign Harding. Today we will look at the idea of the Wild moving current starting goalie Niklas Backstrom. Backstrom would undoubtedly fetch the most in a trade, especially with so many goalie needy teams next season.

The goalie market is filled with the usual suspects, the Kings Jonathan Bernier, the Predators Anders Lindback, and one of the Canucks goalies (looking like Luongo who has a NTC). If the Wild were to make Backstrom available, they would be offering a proven net minder, versus unproven, though very impressive, un-established back-ups. Now the question is which teams are in need of a proven goalie. There are 3 obvious teams with goalie needs: Columbus, Tampa Bay, and Toronto. The Blue Jackets are in the best position to grab an elite goalie. They have the number 2 overall pick in this year’s draft, and are open for business on Rick Nash. Columbus can probably get any goalie they want, provided they can convince Nash to go to the desired location. Toronto has the 5th pick in the draft, and a couple of assets it could move to acquire a goalie. I can’t see Brian Burke moving the 5th pick, maybe the Leafs 2nd round pick, but not the 5th pick. Tampa Bay will have the hardest time acquiring a goalie out of these 3 teams. They have the worst picks, and the least moveable assets, but perhaps they have the highest ceiling of the three teams.

Some dark horse teams to watch in terms of goalie movement: the Sharks, the Blackhawks, and the Devils. Antti Niemi was largely underwhelming for the Sharks this season, especially in the playoffs. The Sharks have said they are going to make a run at it again next year with the same core group of players, which means they are going to need an upgrade in net. Their main problem is going to be a lack of moveable assets. They don’t have great picks, or any decent prospects to move. I’m not sold on Corey Crawford, and I doubt the Blackhawks are either. They signed Ray Emery to a contract for next year, but they aren’t going to be relying on him to back them to a cup. Crawford is going to have to step up his game in order to hold on to the Hawks job. The Devils are going to have to realize at some point soon that Martin Brodeur is on the decline. Brodeur has been very inconsistent, and is declining each year. Johan Hedberg is not a long term solution in goal.

These are all teams that have goaltending issues. And they are all teams that could use an established number one goalie like Niklas Backstrom. The Wild should be able to obtain prospects, picks, or roster players for their starting goalie, if they were to choose to move him. It will be very exciting to see what happens at the draft. I think we will see a lot of player movement. Nash will probably be dealt, and perhaps a goalie or two. I’m looking forward to see what happens. Until then we have the playoffs to watch.

The Panthers will look to close out the Devils tonight in game 6 in New Jersey. It should be a great game.

I hope everyone has a great week.

Todd Varga

On Twitter @Wild_Halo

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Now that the Flyers are done, I'm ready to get back to paying attention to what the Wild are up to. if they have the deal to trade away Backstrom I think they should do it, and sign Harding with Hackett as the backup.

As more and more goalies become available every year the asking price in a trade diminishes. Not sure if any team will need to give away a #1 draft pick in order to acquire and aging goalie.

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