The trigger has been pulled in Minnesota; now we wait to see how many more bullets new GM Paul Fenton is willing to use before the trade deadline closes on Monday. The Wild sent power forward Charlie Coyle to the Boston Bruins in exchange for center/winger Ryan Donato and a conditional fifth-round pick in 2019. The pick becomes a fourth-rounder if the Bruins make it to the second round of the playoffs.
In Coyle, the Bruins get a big, versatile player who also happens to have solid Boston roots. The 26-year-old hails from Weymouth, Mass., and played prep hockey at Thayer Academy before heading to the junior South Shore Kings and Boston University (eventually leaving during his sophomore campaign for QMJHL Saint John). He’s also cousins with Tony Amonte.
As befitting a player of his size, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound center/right winger built up his NHL resume in Minnesota slowly, peaking offensively in 2016-17 with 56 points in 82 games. Since then, the production has tailed off – and last year was also hampered by a fracture in his leg. Consistency has been Coyle’s issue and clearly the hope in Boston is that a new environment can get the big-bodied forward back on track. He’s not the strongest defensive player, but his hands are fantastic and the Bruins have some nice talent up front for him to play with. Perhaps the biggest question here is whether the homecoming will make things easier or harder on Coyle, who has one more year left on his contract before unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2020. He carries a reasonable $3.2 million cap hit right now.
For the Wild, Donato is a very nice asset who has shown some high-end NHL skill in bursts, but like Coyle, needs to find consistency. Donato was a star at Harvard in his college days and broke onto the NHL scene last year when he put up nine points in 12 games at the end of the 2017-18 campaign – and doing so while averaging less than 15 minutes of ice time per contest.
This year has been a little more of a challenge for the second-generation NHLer (Ted is his father), with Donato splitting time between Boston and AHL Providence and putting up nine points in 34 games with the NHL Bruins.
Strategically, the trade makes sense for both sides. Boston is a sturdy contender in the East and Coyle gives them more depth up front. Minnesota has been flailing of late and even lost to lowly Anaheim the other night. Donato’s entry-level contract ends this summer, so the Wild have his rights for years to come. Minnesota is one of the lowest-scoring teams in the conference and with the squad now last in the Central Division, there’s no reason not to let Donato fly for a bit and see what he can do in a no-pressure, short-term situation with the NHL club.
In general, the Coyle trade could be the first of several moves made by GM Fenton, who inherited a veteran roster when he got the job last spring. Bereft of high draft picks in recent years (Matt Dumba was the last top-10 pick, going seventh in 2012), the Wild don’t have a lot of elite talent available in their system, especially since one of the gems, Kirill Kaprizov, has stayed in Russia since he was taken in the fifth round of the 2015 draft. Kaprizov is still under contract with CSKA Moscow until April 30, 2020.
If Fenton can move out some veterans in exchange for picks or more prospects, he would be doing the whole organization a great service. Veterans Eric Staal and Eric Fehr are the most obvious candidates, given that they will become UFAs this summer, though Staal does have a modified no-trade clause that would have to be rectified. If Fenton really wanted to go deep, he could entertain offers for Mikael Granlund, who becomes a UFA in the summer of 2020 and would fetch a hefty return.
The Coyle was the first strike by Fenton and it will be interesting to see if there is more to come. Boston got what they needed in the short-term, while the Wild got what they needed for the long-term. Pretty sensible when it comes to the world of trade deadline deals.