The Wild is sticking with the remaining six defensemen on the roster in the aftermath of losing Jonas Brodin for potentially a month while he recovers from surgery on his fractured left hand.
But if the team decides to usher in reinforcements, because of need or simply to change up its look, it has plenty of options to choose from in the minors — a pipeline the Wild bolstered Thursday by acquiring defenseman Viktor Loov from the Devils in exchange for forwards Christoph Bertschy and Mario Lucia.
“We were looking to add depth on ‘D,’ ” Wild assistant general manager Brent Flahr said.
This priority was on the team’s radar before Brodin was sidelined; he was injured in the 6-2 victory Tuesday over the Blues after he was jammed up along the boards in the second period.
“It’s not like you see a blocked shot, and you see them shaking the hand,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “What happened behind the net was sort of an awkwardness in the way he went into the boards.”
Brodin had screws inserted Wednesday, a procedure expected to cut his recovery time in half from six weeks to three or four. The second-pairing mainstay can skate while he’s on the mend, but he won’t be able to shoot the puck.
In his first absence Thursday against the Coyotes, the Wild relied on Gustav Olofsson and Mike Reilly, but it does have other possibilities to help eat up Brodin’s minutes.
Loov, at 6-3 and 216 pounds, is a left shot who can play either side; he’s spent the entire season in the American Hockey League with the Devils’ affiliate in Binghamton, N.Y., chipping in five goals and 17 points in 36 games, and will report to Iowa. But the 25-year-old does have four games of NHL experience after getting drafted in the seventh round in 2012 by Toronto.
“He’s got a physical element to his game,” said Flahr, who explained Loov is also a mobile defender.
Eden Prairie native Nick Seeler, who was drafted in the fifth round in 2011 by the Wild and has 11 points in 47 games at Iowa, is a gritty defender who’s also a smooth skater.
“He’s really taken a big step this year,” Flahr said.
Other possibilities include Carson Soucy, who is in his first full-length pro campaign following his four-season stint at Minnesota Duluth but could get face time with the Wild this season and is likely to compete for a roster spot in 2018-19. Veteran AHLer Alex Grant is also in Iowa, and Ryan Murphy logged nine games with the Wild in November and December while Jared Spurgeon dealt with a groin injury, earning the trust of the coaches.
“He’ll get his chance at some point,” Flahr said.
Change of scenery
To land Loov, the Wild parted ways with a pair of prospects in Bertschy and Lucia, who requested an opportunity to play elsewhere in the last month.
Bertschy had skated in only nine games for the Wild since he was a sixth-round pick in 2012 and was further down the depth chart. As for Lucia, he was seeking more responsibility. The son of Gophers coach Don Lucia was a second-round pick in 2011 and after four seasons at Notre Dame, he had yet to debut with the Wild.
By moving out two players and receiving only one back, the Wild now has 49 contracts on the books — one under the limit. That gives the organization the flexibility to sign prized prospect Jordan Greenway when the Boston University winger is ready to turn pro.
Winger Nino Niederreiter scored his first goal Tuesday since he returned to the lineup after missing eight games because of a left ankle bone bruise, an encouraging development as Niederreiter continues to regain his comfort level on the ice following such a lengthy hiatus.
“It’s definitely a process coming off an injury like that,” he said. “It’s a matter of trusting the ankle again and everything. It is a process, and I just hope it gets better and better every day.”
Veteran winger Chris Stewart sat out Thursday, an absence Boudreau said was more reflective of Stewart missing practice the day before because of illness rather than performance — although Stewart has been a healthy scratch in five of the past eight games.
“He’s in and out,” Boudreau said. “That’s just the way life is right now.”