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To trade or not to trade, that is the deadline question for the Minnesota Wild in 2010-11

Cam Barker and Kim Johnsson

I think its safe to say that most Wild fans remember this deal from last year where the Wild sent steady blueliner Kim Johnsson and 2009 1st round pick Nick Leddy to Chicago for Cam Barker.  To be polite, I think many fans wish Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher could have a redo on that one.  I am not a big Nick Leddy fan, in fact I am still not in awe of his NHL potential as he bides his time in Rockford, the Blackhawks AHL affiliate.  Yet, giving away Leddy almost as an afterthought in addition to the Wild blueliner who averaged the most time on ice seems a major overpayment to me.  Johnsson only ended up playing a few games before being saddled with a concussion but that didn’t make the deal seem any better as Cam Barker still has not shown anyone why he was worthy of being selected 3rd Overall in 2004.  Barker has been relegated to a 3rd pairing defenseman, but at crunch time feels far more confident in giving Clayton Stoner ice time speaks volumes about what Barker has been able to accomplish.  3rd pair ice time (16:29 average minutes of ice time per game), and with 1 goal and 5 points in 51 games at a pricetag of $3 million per season hardly seems like a lot of bang for the puck.  If the Wild seem to have any depth in their prospect pool its on the blueline where they have a few youngsters seasoning in Houston that look as though they project into NHL’ers so to lose Leddy may not be a giant loss for the franchise but for a team that has had so many drafts where their top pick has underwhelmed to just give Leddy away (who I must reluctantly admit he has NHL potential) still kind of smarts.  So as the trade deadline is set to begin tomorrow what are the Wild to do?  To trade or not to trade, that is the big question. 

Our suggestion?  Unless someone is going to give you a ridiculous deal like the Colorado Avalanche did by offering conditional 2nd round pick as well as Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk for a 3rd line grinder like Jay McClement and overhyped blueliner Erik Johnson as well as a conditional 1st round pick I think the Wild’s best move is to do nothing.  In all honesty, I am amazed I’m even saying that.  In year’s past where the Wild needed to make a move former General Manager Doug Risebrough either did nothing or pulled off a pathetic trade that seemed more insulting to the fans it calls “the Greatest Hockey Fans in the World” than anything else.  Just look at the Wild’s trade deadline history.  In 2006, it was a trade for Dominic Moore, and in 2007 it was the most notorious trade deadline move of them all when the team dealt a 6th round pick for Chris Simon.  In this article, I will provide reasons to support this assertion that the best move for Minnesota to make is none at all. 

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The Wild are in the midst of one of the tightest races for the playoffs in recent memory.  Ten teams are within 10 points of one another in the Western Conference occupying 4th to 13th place.  The Wild are without their 2nd leading scorer in team captain Mikko Koivu as well as their leading goal scorer from a year ago Guillaume Latendresse but Minnesota still stands in 6th place in the West.  The moves have started early this season, and like anyone with money to burn in their pocket there is an impulse to make a trade because so many others are doing the same.  So is it the right move for the Wild?  Here are 3 reasons why the Wild should not make any moves at all. 

1.  Minnesota doesn’t have the disposable assets to land an impact player:  While fans can spend countless hours on message boards or in discussions where they dream up deals for the players they think would help the team.  While it is easy to think of players you want, but you still have to make a tempting enough offer for other teams to want in return.  Too often the trade speculation amongst fans involve irrational deals where one team gets a bounty while the other gets the team’s trash.  Its nice to think of being able to turn trash into gold but that is exceedingly rare.  That being said, the Wild do not have a lot of disposable assets to swing in a trade.  The team has been trying to rebuild its prospect pool so it would counter productive to deal picks or prospects for a rental player.  Sure, it would be nice to part with relatively expensive but unproductive players like Chuck Kobasew, Cam Barker, James Sheppard, and Antti Miettinen but none of those players are going to fetch much in return.  The players that may be among the Wild’s most tempting to part with, considering they’re going to be unrestricted free agents are veteran role players John Madden, Andrew Brunette and goaltender Jose Theodore.  Can the Wild afford to give up these players and not simply throwing in the towel?  Considering Koivu and Latendresse are at the very least a few weeks away if the team were to give up these players for picks / prospects it will result in missing the playoffs.  Even if you were to bunch them together, you’d not get enough back to justify the extra holes you made in the Wild’s lineup. 

2.  Minnesota’s prospect pool is not deep enough yet to start making deals:  Poor drafting in the previous years has weakened the organization by not being able to provide enough young talent to supplement the team’s roster.  The Wild took steps last season to try to rebuild its pool of prospects.  It fired long-time Wild draft czar Tommy Thompson at the end of the 2009-10 season who has had a rough last few drafts with the team’s 1st round pick.  There has not been much to show for the selections of A.J. Thelen, James Sheppard, Colton Gillies, and Tyler Cuma.  Combine these underwhelming selections with the organizations’ tendency to trade away 2nd and 3rd round picks for mid-season help and you have a depleted prospect pool.  It is a big reason why Chuck Fletcher took the time to sign undrafted college free agents like Casey Wellman, Nate Prosser and Jarod Palmer to help augment is languishing prospect pool.  While some of its young prospects are showing promise the team is still a long way before having a reliable pipeline of talent that can allow the franchise to build from within rather than paying for far more expensive free agents.  Dealing away prospects and picks would stunt the team’s prospect growth.  In addition, with the possible exception of Mikael Granlund and Marco Scandella I don’t think the team’s prospect pool has a lot that would truly tempt another team to part with an impact player.  Teams like Detroit and Nashville have not been able to re-load the way they seem to by dealing away its home grown talent and I think that is what Minnesota would like to become so thus another reason not to make a deal. 

3.  Getting healthy will arguably be just as good as bringing anyone in from another team:  While making a trade at the deadline may give the Wild more immediate help, the fact of the matter is that the team will have Mikko Koivu back in a matter of weeks and possibly Guillaume Latendresse a little bit after that.  Koivu, would give the Wild two scoring lines it has missed since breaking his finger a week ago.  In the meantime the Wild has managed to hold its position in the standings and the need for a drastic move may be entirely unnecessary.  Besides, are the Wild really in a position to make a run to the Stanley Cup this season?  No, so why make a rash move that may not even give you a player that would have the chemistry to actually make a difference? 

Simply put, the timing is not right for the Wild to make a bold move.  Minnesota is not strong enough to be considered to be a Cup contender and the team lacks the assets to be able to make a move of significance without compromising the future in the process.  In year’s past I would be demanding the team make a move, but the smart play is to do nothing.  Let other teams gamble away prospects, picks and players but as the conclusion to the 1983 hit film Wargames stated, “the only winning move, is not to play.”  Don’t fall into temptation Wild and make a move that you’ll regret.