The Wild and GM Chuck Fletcher are in "win now" mode. Whether it's because they believe they have a legitimate chance to win the Stanley Cup this year or because they don't know how long their playoff window will remain open … well, that's something we probably will never really know.
Let's say, though, it's a mix of both — and get back to the larger point that this team is no longer about the future. It's about the present. Fletcher's flurry of trades this year, particularly the season-saving deal for Devan Dubnyk, have no doubt helped the Wild in the present. It is the third consecutive season he has done this midyear, though, and the outgoing draft picks are adding up quickly.
In five separate midseason deals over the past three seasons, netting Jason Pominville, Matt Moulson, Cody McCormick, Devan Dubnyk, Sean Bergenheim and Chris Stewart, the Wild has given up a total of seven draft picks in the top three rounds of drafts between 2013 and 2017.
The good news is that only one of those was a first-round pick (part of the Pominville deal in 2013), and a glance back through NHL history tells us most elite players are first-round picks and that hitting home runs in that round is a path to success.
But there are still four second-rounders and two third-rounders to consider. Many picks in those rounds don't pan out; but those that do can provide the depth to keep teams in the postseason year after year.
The Wild put 19 players on the ice Tuesday against Ottawa. Of them, 12 were former first-round picks (only four of whom were drafted by Minnesota). Two were second-round picks. Two were seventh-round picks. Three were undrafted college free agents.
That suggests a high level of elite talent … but also a dearth of those middle-rounders. In contrast, Chicago — one of the NHL's model franchises in recent years — has bolstered its top-level talent with mid-rounders. The Blackhawks had five former first-round picks on the ice Monday in a win over Carolina. They also had 13 players picked in rounds 2-5.
There is more than one way to build a franchise, and many of Fletcher's trades have at least paid dividends in the short run. But it is fair to wonder if the Wild will face a talent deficit in the long run even if it has a surplus in the short-term.
That's a gamble Minnesota seems willing to make, putting more pressure both on this year's team to win and on Fletcher to wisely use the precious draft picks he has left.