With the Wild leading the wide-open Western Conference, a popular question lately is whether the Wild should push all its chips in before the March 1 trade deadline and “go for” a Stanley Cup.
Even Wild coach Bruce Boudreau says he doesn’t see any “super teams” in the West and “anybody could win it.”
But, Boudreau cautions against going “all-in” or even making too many depth moves.
“Sometimes the chemistry that you’ve got going right now, you don’t want to ruin it,” Boudreau said.
In 2010, the Boudreau-coached Washington Capitals won the President’s Trophy for having the most points in the regular season. On deadline day, then-Capitals General Manager George McPhee struck four deals, including acquiring Eric Belanger from the Wild.
The Capitals were eliminated in the first round by Montreal in seven games.
“We made four deals because we thought we were going to go so far we needed the depth,” Boudreau said. “The thought process was great, but the realism was that we had a lot of good hockey players sitting out every game and that ruined a little bit of the thing that we had going for us.
“All of a sudden the chemistry is uprooted. We’re always striving to get better, but sometimes doing nothing means you’re getting better as well.”
The Wild’s strength is its depth. In leading the conference in goals, the Wild has proved that its top nine is as balanced as it gets. Friday against Tampa Bay, the first three lines were Nino Niederreiter-Eric Staal-Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker-Mikko Koivu-Mikael Granlund and Zach Parise-Erik Haula-Jason Pominville.
That’s pretty solid, so Boudreau wonders if it’s worth messing with a good thing.
GM Chuck Fletcher concurs. Maybe a change in performance or injuries alters his thinking before March 1, but he says, “There’s a lot less urgency this year just to add. In years past, we’ve looked to add goal-scoring, we’ve looked to add size or some different elements we lacked.
“This year, we have pretty good depth and we’re getting contributions throughout our lineup. You want to be careful you’re not taking somebody out of the lineup that’s helped you get to this place.”
A few weeks ago, when Haula and Tyler Graovac were in ruts, the Wild wondered if it needed to acquire a center. But not only have both played better lately, Fletcher said, “I don’t know if any center on the market can play any better than [Coyle] did [Tuesday] in Winnipeg. That versatility will help.”
If the Wild likes Coyle better at center, maybe acquiring a right winger to play on the right of Staal — maybe a Drew Stafford or Patrick Sharp — makes sense.
The Wild has experimented lately with left-shot defensemen Mike Reilly and Gustav Olofsson. Because the Wild eventually needs to re-sign Granlund and Niederreiter, the Wild perhaps wanted to look at them in case it can trade Marco Scandella to free up $4 million in cap space.
It also could make sense to try to trade Darcy Kuemper to get an asset for the pending free agent, but Fletcher said, “I’m really reluctant to move him. I mean how many backup goalies out there have won a playoff series (Colorado in 2014)? If something ever happens to [Devan] Dubnyk, God forbid, Kuemper has a track record of being No. 1 goalie.
“I know he’s been inconsistent this year, but he has that pedigree.”
Fletcher points out, “The majority of the deadline deals either have little impact or negligible impact. Sometimes, they help. But if you go out and make three moves, you may not necessarily be making your team any better.
“So we want to be smart about it. We’re always talking to people, and if something makes sense that’s going to make our team better, we’ll do it. But I don’t feel we have to do something just for the sake of doing it. We don’t need any trophy trades here.
“We’ve spent a lot of time building this depth, so I’m reluctant to bring in guys unless it’s a real targeted, specific opening that we feel will upgrade our team.”
Ryan Carter, Wild benefit from "tryout"
The Ryan Carter “tryout” with the Wild this month is good for the team and the player.
It gives the Wild an insurance policy in case of injury, it gives Carter a chance to land a job if he proves his shoulder is healthy and he still has game and, best of all, it gives the Wild an extra body in practice without having to waste cap space on a 13th forward.
As of now, with the current roster, the Wild can add a player or players worth $3.3 million at the deadline without a body going the other way.
Coyotes scout Wild game
The Arizona Coyotes had three people, including GM John Chayka, scouting Wednesday’s Wild-Chicago game. Some potential players available for the Coyotes include center Martin Hanzal and veteran wingers Shane Doan and Radim Vrbata.
Las Vegas coaching search
The Las Vegas Golden Knights’ coaching search is heating up. It’s believed GM George McPhee already has talked to Jack Capuano, fired by the Islanders, and Gerard Gallant, fired by Florida. But McPhee said Wednesday that he would soon be asking Boston for permission to talk to fired coach Claude Julien.
It seems likely the job would be Julien’s if he wants it. And that’s the key clause. Julien has one year left on his contract at $3 million. If he’s tired of a pressure cooker and is intrigued by going to an expansion team and helping build something, Vegas makes sense.
But if he wants to win right away, you can bet Julien will stay patient and wait for the perfect opportunity. There could be some potential openings this summer, especially if Montreal bows out early.
Wild's week ahead
Sunday: 2 p.m. vs. Detroit
Tuesday: 7 p.m. vs. Anaheim
Thursday: 7 p.m. vs. Dallas
Saturday: 7 p.m. vs. Nashville
Sun. Ch. 11; Tue. FSN Plus; Thu., Sat. FSN
Player to watch: Ryan Kesler, Ducks
Always seems to roast the Wild, the two-way, agitating center has 25 goals in 58 games against Minnesota.
“I don’t know if I’ve been around a defenseman that’s played as consistent as he has," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said of Jared Spurgeon, "and does what he does without getting noticed.”