Oh baby. It happened. The Minnesota Wild have traded for Marc-André Fleury, and they only had to give up a second* to do it. To say I am excited is an understatement. I don’t want to be too graphic here in case my mom reads this, but uhhh… let’s just say the news was announced more than 4 hours ago and I’m thinking about seeing a doctor now.
*conditional second, if Flower wins 4+ playoff games AND the Wild advance to the Western Conference Finals it becomes a 1st. So basically it’s either a pretty late second-rounder or pick 28-32. I’ll take that every day of the week and twice on Sunday.With this trade, the Wild had three goalies on the roster. Unfortunately that’s a no go this time of year, so somebody had to go aaaaaand OPE here’s Kevin Weekes from an undisclosed, slightly spooky, location letting us know that Big Kahk is heading to San Jose to reunite with the Bonino Bit.
A Fleury of Deals
In total, it’s been one of the craziest trade deadlines for the Minnesota Wild that I can ever remember. Seriously, I don’t remember the last time Minnesota made this many deadline deals. And the best part is we did all this to allow ourselves to go all-in on this year without completely mortgaging the future when the team is in cap hell.
|Marc-André Fleury||Kaapo Kähkönen|
|Nicolas Deslauriers||2022 2nd Round pick (could also become pick 28-32)|
|Tyson Jost||Nico Sturm|
|Jacob Middleton||2023 3rd round pick|
|Vancouver’s 2022 2nd Round Pick||5th Round pick sometime in the near future|
Let’s start with the Netminders: Fleury in, Kahk out
I have been very on record about my affection for Marc-André Fleury. I love the Flower. He’s terrific. I think he’s hilarious, he’s a fantastic goaltender, and nobody has a bad thing to say about him. He’s had a down year, sure, but compared to winning the Vezina anything was going to be a down year. Is Flower the best goalie in the world? Probably not, but he does possess a knack for getting hot at the right time. With a 1A/1B of Flower/Talbot or Talbot/Flower, the Wild are all in on getting the best from their goaltenders this year.Sadly a goalie coming in also means a goalie is moving out. This time it was the Finnish hammer, Kaapo Kähkönen. I love Big Kahk, when he’s in his groove he’s unstoppable, but he’s been too inconsistent and has a tendency to play worse as the season goes on.
He’s a good goalie who absolutely has potential to be an even better one. Maybe even a great one. But for a team that really has one small window before three years of cap hell open up an even bigger window, this is the right move. Especially for a guy who was not expected to be the “goalie of the future” given that Jesper Wallstedt is in the pipeline now. I hope Kaapo goes out and crushes it in San Jose. I really do. If the Wild are able to turn this trade into a deep playoff run, though, it’s worth it 14 out of 10 times even if Kaapo goes on to win a Vezina himself.
Supposedly Fleury is interested in playing next year. Will that be in Minnesota? Maybe. A stop-gap year of Talbot/Flower running the show in St. Paul while Wallstedt marinates in the AHL could be just what the doctor ordered. Both goalies are in their mid-to-late 30s and netminders have a history of falling off a cliff when they’re past due, but that plan could work. We’ll just have to see how Fleury handles it and hope that his woes at the Xcel Energy Center don’t count when he’s playing for the home team. Fun fact: Fleury has a career .888 sv% and 3.28 GAA against the Wild, his worst and second-worst marks against one opponent, respectively. In other words, Fleury can’t be stopped now that he doesn’t have to face the Minnesota Wild.
What about the backend?
Safe to say, the Wild have always had a pretty strong blue line. Sure, the last month and change might suggest otherwise but this defensive corps has always been, at worst, above average. However, in the playoffs, we’ve always heard about how they get pushed around. Enter all 6’3″, 220 pounds of pending RFA “rookie” Jacob Middleton. He’s a gritty, hard-nosed player who has managed to be a positive +/- player on a pretty bad Sharks team this year.If you’re not familiar with The Athletic’s/Dom’s player cards and model, there’s a quick explainer.
Put simply, Middleton is a good pickup for Minnesota. He’s +3 where the Sharks as a whole are -32. I know +/- isn’t “a good stat” or whatever, but the point is he is capable offensively, solid in his own zone, great on the PK and not afraid to chuck the knucks if the situation calls for it. Considering our PK has been leaking more goals than an infant’s diaper, this should be a very helpful plug. Plus, with this season’s rash of injuries, the Wild know better than anyone that you can never have too many defensemen.
Plus, if all that doesn’t sell you on him, look at that ‘stache. If you see that lip warmer coming at you on the ice, you know you’re about to be in a world of hurt.
Can’t forget about the grit and sandpaper added up front, either
While these trades didn’t happen the day of the trade deadine, they have all happened pretty recently so they count as deadline moves.
I know I’m not the only one sad to see Sturm go, but it was time. He was outplaying his contract to the point where signing him back would have been damn near impossible, but NOT outplaying it so much that we needed to hang on to him. Sturm is a good player, but so is our new color blind friend Tyson Jost.
Even if you don’t account for the fact that it’s hilarious Tyson Jost is now on a red and green team, this is still a smart move. Jost is a strong PKer with a slight upside in skill relative to Sturm. The former top-ten pick has never really been able to make it work in Colorado, so hopefully a change of scenery is enough for him to get it together. His contract goes for one more year at $2 million, which I imagine is quite a bit lower than what Sturm will get on the open market.
And that brings us to Nicolas Deslauriers. A fine player who is getting unfairly shit on because he doesn’t have exciting numbers. That’s fine. That’s not his role. And he knows it. With the emergence of Marcus Foligno’s goal-scoring ability, all of the sudden Moose spending 7 minutes a night in the box is bad for the team. Foligno is a heart and soul player for this team, and Deslauriers is going to allow him to do what he does best. Play a hard, physical game. Except now, teams will think twice about mugging Kaprizov or Fiala because they won’t have to answer just to Moose. They also have to deal with this hunk of raging testosterone.
Wild back as Cup contenders?
Let’s be honest, we all bought into the hype of the team when they couldn’t lose in January and most of February. If it weren’t for that pesky All-Star break, the Wild would likely still be
competing with putting pressure on Colorado for the 1 seed in the Central (and, if we’re being honest, the West). Now, this team has fixed most of the warts that popped up during that abysmal skid. Goalies struggling? Check. Team needing a physical presence? Check. Getting a color blind guy? Check.
These are all things Billy G needed to address, and at least on paper that’s exactly what he’s done while somehow managing to not mortgage the future. It remains to be seen how the Wild will finish this season and what will happen with pending RFA Kevin Fiala, but fans can’t say Billy G didn’t set this team up to win. After all, it’s about fucking winning.
**EDIT: A Late Addition…by Subtraction**
Despite his short tenure with the club, Victor Rask has been a lightning rod for Minnesota Wild fans. A large majority of fans have been clamoring for his release or a trade for a long time while others…well the others don’t exist. While he seemed to be the key to Kaprizov’s success earlier in the season, Dean has obviously found an even better solution for the superstar.
What will the Wild be getting in return for Rask? Not a lot. Well, “future considerations”…which means nothing. BUT with all of the cap space controversy on the horizon, this comes down to another slick, savvy move by Billy Gambles. He’s all in, no matter what it takes, and so are we!
Minnesota sports weren’t stressful enough, so I went to Auburn. Diehard everything fan. Will drink beer for money. Deathly allergic to chicken.