As the NHL’s March 2 trade deadline draws closer, the number of deals are starting to pick up. Early Tuesday, the Canadiens sent left winger Jiri Sekac to Anaheim for right winger Devante Smith-Pelley – and late the same night, the surging Minnesota Wild attempted to bolster their playoff chances by acquiring disgruntled winger Sean Bergenheim and a seventh-round draft pick in 2016 from Florida in exchange for a 2016 third-round pick.
Bergenheim had fallen out of favor very publicly in Florida – he’s been out of Florida’s lineup for ten of their past 16 games and his agent has angrily demanded a trade on his behalf – but he’s still got decent numbers (eight goals and 18 points in 39 games) in limited minutes and isn’t a defensive liability. He’ll help the Wild deal with injuries to wingers Jason Zucker, Ryan Carter and Matt Cooke. The 31-year-old Finn hasn’t scored more than 17 goals in either of his previous seasons with the Panthers, but his expiring contract, reasonable salary cap pro-rated hit (his 2014-15 salary is $2.75 million) and playoff history (which includes nine goals in 16 games with Tampa Bay in 2011 and three goals and six points in seven games with Florida in 2012) made him attractive enough to Wild GM Chuck Fletcher.
Fletcher’s Wild – who are 8-1-1 in their past 10 games and embroiled in a desperate fight to hang on to the final wild card slot in the Western Conference- is a team that needs depth and experience for a post-season run, and the cost of a third-round draft pick isn’t at all excessive.
The relatively small price Fletcher paid for scoring help in advance of the deadline should serve as a warning shot to any of his colleagues expecting big returns for players they put on the trade block. The large number of teams looking to sell is driving the market down, and you’ll need to combine some above-average assets to get any GM to part with a first-round pick. Panthers GM Dale Tallon clearly didn’t have the type of player in Bergenheim who could command such a return, but with Florida’s youngsters beginning to blossom, he’s removing an unhappy player from the dressing room, and in that sense, a third-rounder doesn’t seem like such a bad deal for them at all.