When it comes to the Minnesota Wild, it has seemingly become the norm for the squad to have high expectations and continue to fail to live up to them. This season is no exception. Losers of nine out of their last ten, suffering two straight embarrassing losses to the Blues and Ducks and losing veteran captain Mikko Koivu to an ACL tear, the Wild are in a familiar place yet again. While the last few years Minnesota has been firmly in the playoff picture, the questionable decisions to bet on the present instead of their future has been a common trend, a trend that needs to end.
Over the last five seasons the Wild have been good enough to make the playoffs every year. But they have floundered in those playoffs….every year, only making the second round once, yet time and time again they made trades that gave up future assets for players that did not make the impact that was expected of them. Lets take a look at some of the deals that were made starting in the 2014 season that did nothing but give the Wild a first-round playoff (with the exception of one year) exit while they gave up their future.
2014: Minnesota Wild Acquire: Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick Buffalo Sabers Acquire: Torrey Mitchell and Minnesota’s 2014 and 2016 second round picks.
This trade was questionable to say the least by Minnesota. Moulson was a previous 30-goal scorer with the New York Islanders, but his last season to top 15 goals was in the 2011-2012 season. In 20 games for Minnesota in the regular season he put up a decent six goals and seven assists but he dropped of a cliff in the playoffs as in 10 games he would only muster three points. Moulson would go back to the Sabers the following year, serving as a two draft pick, 30 game rental for the Wild. McCormick did even less, as in 14 regular season games he only put up two points and only one point in the playoffs. He would also go on to return to Buffalo, making the trade for the Wild look even more ill-advised.
2015: Minnesota Wild Acquire: Sean Bergenheim and a 2016 seventh round pick Florida Panthers Acquire: A 2016 third round pick
This trade was confusing in all aspects. The Minnesota gave up a high draft pick in return for essentially nothing. Bergenheim previous to the trade was never much of an impact player. As in the NHL his career high points in a season was just 29. When the Wild acquired him, nothing changed. In 17 regular season games with the Wild Bergenheim mustered just one point and in the playoffs he appeared in just three games and did not record a point. He would be out of the NHL after his stint with Minnesota, which means they gave up a third round pick for one point.
2015: Minnesota Wild Acquire: Chris Stewart Buffalo Sabers Acquire: Minnesota’s 2017 second round pick
This trade might be the best out of the ones discussed but there is a reason it is on here. Chris Stewart was a fan favorite in Minnesota as he always gave his best effort and was never afraid to drop the gloves. A player of his status at the time however, did not warrant a second round pick (even a future one) in return. In the 2015 season with Minnesota, Stewart appeared in 20 regular season games where he accumulated a respectable 11 points and in eight playoff games he put up two points. The reason this trade is here though, is what the second round pick turned into.
When Buffalo used the pick that they received from Minnesota, they took goalie Ukka-Pekka Luukkonen. For those who don’t know who Luukkonen is, he is currently the Finnish national team goalie at the young age of 19. In his short career with the Fins, Ukka-Pekka has won a gold medal at the U18 World Juniors in 2016 as well as a silver medal in the World Juniors the following year. He also most recently beat Team USA at the 2019 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships to take home the gold. Given the current state of the Wild’s goaltending situation, this trade looms large and fans will be left thinking what could have been.
2017: Minnesota Wild Acquire Martin Hanzal, Ryan White and a 2017 fourth round pick Arizona Coyotes Acquire: Grayson Downing, a 2017 first round pick, a 2018 second round pick and a 2019 conditional fourth round pick
This move made sense at the time. The Wild were having a very good season, as they would go onto finish second in the central division which was also second best in the entire Western Conference. They wanted to add some talent to get better for the playoffs and attempted to do so by acquiring Hanzal. Unfortunately, similarly to the other failed trades, what they gave up nowhere near matched what they got in return. Hanzal put up pretty good numbers for the Wild in the regular season, registering 13 point in 20 games. However, in the playoffs, Hanzal was a non-factor, delivering only one point in five games as the Wild were beaten by the seventh seeded Blues, four games to one. Hanzal would go on to sign with the Dallas Stars the following offseason, as the Wild again gave up essential future assets for a first-round playoff exit.
Now the argument for these trades now is that they occurred when former general manager Chuck Fletcher was at the helm. While this may be true as Fletcher did not make the brightest moves in his tenure with Minnesota, new GM Paul Fenton has made some questionable moves in his brief stint as the Wild’s new leader. Just this past month, Fenton dealt fan favorite Nino Niederreiter in exchange for Carolina Hurricane’s Victor Rask. This move may not impact the future situation or even the current for that matter, but so far it hasn’t worked out.
While Nino was seen by some to be having a down year for the Wild, he put up a respectable 23 points in 46 games before being shipped to Carolina. His first 12 games with the Canes, are exactly why fans should be steaming from the ears at this trade. In his 12 games, Nino has been spectacular, collecting eight goals and 12 total points. Rask on the other hand, has been not great to say the least. In 10 games thus far with Minnesota, he has put up just two points, adding to the mere six he had accumulated with Carolina prior to the trade. Yet another example of a trade that has cost the Wild heavily, as they gave up a loved player and teammate for a guy who has seen a massive regression this year.
With Fenton’s first trade deadline as Wild GM approaches, there is only one direction he should be looking in terms of trades. That direction is to sell everything for future assets and hope that the Wild can contend in the future. With the current makeup and situation of the Wild right now, a first-round exit would be seen as a success. This team has fallen short of expectations with the current core time and time again. It is now time to blow it up and hit the restart button.