When news first broke about the Marek Zidlicky just prior to the Wild’s game against Dallas last night it wasn’t exactly a huge surprise (or so we thought). The Wild defenseman had made it known publicly he wanted to be dealt and even attempted to suggest that some sort of deal was in the works with the New Jersey Devils about a week ago. Both clubs denied the rumor and the Wild went as far as saying they hadn’t even been approached about Zidlicky waiving his no-trade clause. To quote the movie Cool Hand Luke, throughout this whole fiasco there was a failure to communicate. This failure to communicate had rooted itself far earlier in the season as Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo and Zidlicky were seen having a heated discussion on the ice around mid-December. Eventually Zidlicky’s poor play would have him being benched by Yeo on February 1st. After 3 games of being a healthy scratch, Marek Zidlicky sought out Wild beat writer, the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Michael Russo to more or less publicly complain about it. Zidlicky said, “I can’t be quiet, if I would be a healthy scratch, if it helped the team, that’s good. I will not cry. I will not tell him he’s wrong. But if he doesn’t want to play me again, again, I have to do something.” He would add, “He doesn’t like what I’m doing, if I’m an offensive player, I’m supposed to play with the top guys. He should show me, ‘You are that guy, and you will be out there the last minute when we need to score.’ There was a lot of times when I just laid on the bench and just wait for my chance. We had a couple meetings about that after 10, 15 games in the season, and I can’t change my style. He wants to play easy hockey. I tried everything what he wants, but apparently it doesn’t work.” After some more meetings between Yeo, General Manager Chuck Fletcher and Zidlicky things cooled off a bit before there was another failure to communicate when Zidlicky tried to imply a deal was in the works between the Devils and the Wild. Zidlicky would be scratched again prior to the team’s February 16th game against Winnipeg. Injuries would eventually force Zidlicky back into the lineup before ultimately being dealt last night.
Did Zidlicky’s ploy actually help the Wild get a better deal than it should?
Normally when a player airs their discontent via the media it normally ruins the value a player may give a team since its now known that both parties are going to likely be seeking to part ways. Honestly, if you were another team’s General Manager and you heard a team and a player were at odds would you be offering top dollar or would you be ponying up a meager offer with the hopes their desperation to part ways supersedes the need to get fair value? This is where Chuck Fletcher began to make his own share of statements to the effect that the team (who had Zidlicky signed for another season beyond this one) was more than willing to wait until the end of the season or not deal him at all unless the right offer came across his desk. I don’t care what kind of salesman you are, but when the pressure of a publicly disgruntled player is upon you its pretty difficult to hold firm and say we’re not just going to get rid of this guy for little or nothing. Especially when you continue to insist making the playoffs is your goal and you’re sitting in 12th place in the Western Conference. So did Zidlicky’s ploy actually help the Wild get a better deal than it should?
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What was Lou Lamiorello thinking when he made this trade?
Not really. In fact, I would argue as great as Minnesota’s haul of 3 players and 2 picks for a goal-less 35-year old defenseman who is commanding $4 million per season the offer may have been even better if Zidlicky had not made the public statements that he did. It certainly would’ve put more clubs in the possible running to make offers if Zidlicky had not already pigeonholed himself by naming just one team as to whom he’d be willing to waive his no-trade clause. I am not saying the Wild got a pittance for Zidlicky, in fact I am with most fans in thinking Minnesota got a complete steal with no downside whatsoever (but more on that a bit later). Yet look at another trade a few days ago, the Detroit Red Wings dealt a 1st round pick in 2012 to Colorado for defenseman Kyle Quincey. Kyle Quincey certainly is having a better season than Marek Zidlicky (which isn’t saying much) and he’s 27 versus 35 years old, but to give away a 1st rounder for a guy likely to be playing on your 3rd or 2nd pairing at best is a pretty steep price to pay even if you’re the Red Wings. Is 3 players, 2 picks the rough equivalent of a 1st rounder (likely a late 1st round pick)? Perhaps, but still it does make you wonder. New Jersey Devils General Manager Lou Lamiorello is considered one of the best in the NHL, but I think just about any hockey fan has to see this deal as a bit of a head scratcher. With no goals, Zidlicky is an expensive and older defenseman who is certainly in the twilight of his career, why would you offer up so much for a player of that ilk? Maybe it was to keep Patrik Elias happy, I am not sure we’ll ever really know the real motivation behind it because even as a pure hockey move it doesn’t seem to add up. Perhaps now is the time I offer Lou a deed to the Brooklyn Bridge, for the right price of course!
How did the State of Hockey take the news?
To fully understand just how ecstatic Wild fans were upon the news of Zidlicky’s trade let me give you a little play by play of the emotions and quote a few of my fellow fans as the news became official. It all started at 6:53PM Central Standard time with TSN’s Darren Dreger and Bob McKenzie tweeting that Zidlicky had waived his no-trade clause and was going to New Jersey. News quickly spread across the Twitter-verse and message boards. Eve at this point where still there wasn’t much known beyond Zidlicky being dealt and to New Jersey quickly turned into fandomonium back in the State of Hockey as most Wild fans were giddy with the idea that the team finally parted ways with its disastisfied blueliner. Soon Dreger reported that former Wild defenseman Kurtis Foster was the player that would be coming to the Wild in the deal and by most accounts Minnesota fans were still quite pleased. You can see this in quotes left on the wild.com message boards as Angelina E writes, “I’ll take Foster over Zidlicky any day! Was disappointed when we lost him” and Wild fan MNWildfan00 said, “finally xmas all over again” and mind you this is really before they knew the full disclosure of what Minnesota had recieved just yet.
The news just continued to get better as Dreger chimed in again suggesting the Wild may be getting a 4th round pick in addition to Foster. I remember saying at the time, “Nice, the 4th round pick is a nice bonus, I would’ve been happy with Foster alone.” However that did not end up happening and the rest of the details became known. That in fact the Wild had dealt Marek Zidlicky to New Jersey for former Wild players Kurtis Foster, Stephane Veilleux and promising young power forward Nick Palmieri plus a 2nd round pick in 2012 and a conditional 3rd round pick in 2013. Wild.com poster fargokman echoed just about every Wild fan’s sentiments when he said, “THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKIN’ ABOUT!” It really did seem to be too good to be true, and I kept waiting to hear that we traded Zidlicky and some other pick or prospect for Foster, Veilleux, Palmieri and an 2nd and a 3rd. However Zidlicky was all that was required, and it was right about this time that Dallas went up 1-0 on the Wild, but I am sure few cared at the time because they were too busy relishing this very one-sided trade.
What in the hell was Lou Lamiorello thinking? Even if you forget about the sentimental move of bringing back two former Wild players, for New Jersey to deal for a goal-less old offensive defenseman with no offense for promising young power forward and two quality draft picks seems ridiculous. Nick Palmieri is a 22-year old right winger, with 6’3″ 220lbs frame. The Utica, New York-native has 4 goals and 7 points and 12 penalty minutes in 29 games for the Devils this season but had been splitting time between New Jersey and their AHL affiliate in Albany. Could he perhaps be the official replacement of injured winger Guillaume Latendresse? Latendresse is just 24 years old but injuries have dogged him ever since reporting to training camp out of shape in the fall of 2010 and he’s in the last year of his contract. So age, body type, and potential-wise Palmieri would seem to be an ideal replacement. Palmieri is a restricted free agent at the end of this season and the last games of the regular season will likely be seen as an extended audition for another contract.
The Wild also got a selection in the 2nd round for this summer’s draft which it did not have since it dealt that away as part of the Brent Burns‘ trade. Plus an additional conditional 3rd round pick in 2013. I think that is what makes this deal seem so perfect. It gives the team some immediate help now (it may not be season-changing help) with Foster, and Veilleux, some good potential in Palmieri and helps keep the club’s prospect pool healthy by adding two picks. Where’s the downside? With Zidlicky’s departure the Wild now have the cheapest blueline in the NHL. That means they will have lots of space and options for this summer where you have two very tempting potential free agents in Predators’ defenseman Shea Weber (who is an RFA) and Ryan Suter (who is an UFA). Foster and Veilleux are unrestricted free agents this summer so if they can’t prove their value they can be allowed to move on with little risk, and the Wild can decide how they want to deal with Palmieri who is a restricted free agent.
It is rare to be able to pull off such a great trade where you rid yourself of a problem, acquire some short-term help, possibly add some potential and help bolster your future. Chuck Fletcher wasn’t bragging after swinging this deal publicly, but I am not sure how anyone can say the Wild lost in this transaction. This Wild fan (and many others) applaud this deal. Well done indeed!