The Minnesota Wild made two significant moves last week. On Monday, first-year GM Bill Guerin shipped right winger Jason Zucker to the Pittsburgh Penguins. On Friday, he fired coach Bruce Boudreau, promoting assistant coach Dean Evason on an interim basis.
The Zucker trade prompted speculation more roster moves could be in store if the club failed to gain ground in the playoff race. Defensemen Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin are considered prime trade candidates.
Following the Zucker trade, it was reported Guerin is willing to listen to offers for the blueliners. The Athletic’s Michael Russo speculated the Toronto Maple Leafs, Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning, Vegas Golden Knights, Winnipeg Jets, Columbus Blue Jackets and Montreal Canadiens could be among the suitors for Dumba or Brodin. The asking price could be a first-line center or a second-line center with something else included in the return. Russo said the Leafs appeared to have the most interest in Dumba, but they’d have to part with Alex Kerfoot and that likely won’t be enough.
Russo doubts the Lightning would give up Anthony Cirelli or the Hurricanes would part with Martin Necas. He suggested the Canadiens could offer Max Domi for Brodin, as the Habs have a surplus at Domi’s position and need a left-shot defenseman.
Guerin’s indicated more moves could be coming if the Wild showed any sign of quit leading up to the trade deadline. However, he’s not under pressure to move Dumba or Brodin, as both are under contract beyond this season. If Guerin doesn’t receive suitable offers before the deadline, he can wait for better ones this summer.
COULD PANTHERS PEDDLE MATHESON OR TROCHECK?
It’s no secret the Florida Panthers are seeking blueline stability. GM Dale Tallon recently said he wants bring in an experienced defenseman to pair with Aaron Ekblad. That’s what makes a recent report by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman indicating the Panthers had explored the trade market on defenseman Mike Matheson so puzzling.
The 25-year-old Matheson has struggled defensively over the past couple years and has recently been employed as a left winger. Nevertheless, moving Matheson would bring further instability to the Panthers defense corps.
Friedman believes there are teams that like Matheson, but his contract complicates things. He’s in the second year of an eight-year, $39-million deal. While the annual average value ($4.85 million) is affordable, his actual salary rises to $6.5 million per year over the final three seasons of the deal. Unless Matheson is swapped for a more defensively responsible defenseman, moving him would bring further instability to the Panthers’ blueline.
Vincent Trocheck appears a more likely trade candidate. On Saturday, Friedman reported the 26-year-old center could be available as the Panthers continue to struggle. Trocheck has two seasons left on his contract with an annual average value of $4.75 million. Friedman believes there are clubs that could afford that cap hit, but the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch feels Tallon would have to pick up part of it to make a trade happen.
CANUCKS INTERESTED IN SIMMONDS?
The New Jersey Devils are expected to be sellers leading up to the Feb. 24 trade deadline. Wayne Simmonds is expected to be among the trade candidates. The rugged 31-year-old winger is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July.
Recent trade speculation linked Simmonds to the Vancouver Canucks. TSN’s Bob McKenzie believes that depends upon the status of physical winger Micheal Ferland, who’s been sidelined by a concussion since early December. Ferland recently joined Vancouver’s AHL affiliate in Utica on a conditioning stint prior to rejoining the Canucks. However, he suffered concussion-like symptoms during Friday’s game against Syracuse, placing his return into question.
Any uncertainty over Ferland’s status could push the Canucks into the market for a replacement like Simmonds. Finding sufficient cap space, however, could be an issue. Even if the Devils absorbed half of Simmonds’ $5-million salary, the Canucks have just over $215K in trade deadline cap space.
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