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Making the case for the Wild to trade up in the NHL Draft

They fell in the draft lottery and need a superstar.

It was incredibly fitting that the Wild – who missed the playoffs this season – dropped in the draft lottery and had to watch Chicago jump nine spots for a top-three pick.

At least Colorado, another division foe, who had the best odds in the lottery fell to fourth overall. Regardless, two Central Division rivals who have decent rosters are going to be picking higher in the draft.

With general manager Paul Fenton not afraid to shake things up and and owner in Craig Leipold vowing "to make some noise this summer," should the Wild try to trade up in the June draft?

Minnesota holds the No. 12 overall pick and this draft is very forward heavy, specifically when it comes to the center position. 

Sporting News' big board has ten forwards going in the first 12 selections. In the latest mock draft by The Athletic, Wild reporter Michael Russo projected the Wild to take Aruther Kaliyev, a left wing who's playing in the OHL (Canadian hockey league).

However, with the Wild finishing 27th in goals and lacking a true finisher, they have pieces to part with. The two most likely players to be centered around a trade would be Jason Zucker and Jared Spurgeon.

Zucker, 27, is coming off a down season where he scored 21 goals, but he is only one season removed from a 33-goal, 64-point campaign.

He's also under contract for four more seasons and his speed would be welcomed on any team. It's also worth noting he has a modified no-trade clause that kicks in on July 1, but as it stands at this moment, he could be traded to anyone.

Spurgeon, 29, is probably more valuable than Zucker. He plays the power play, penalty kill and has averaged 23 minutes a game the last four seasons.

There's no doubt he would be a top pair defenseman on almost any team in the league, but he's only under contract for one more season at $5.5 million, so he'll be due for a new contract and raise soon. The defenseman also has a modified no-trade clause.

The 12th overall pick, plus Spurgeon and Zucker sounds like a lot to give up in order to move up and take a player who might not be ready to play right away. But the Wild has the oldest roster in the league and they need to get younger because Zach Parise and Ryan Suter's aren't going anywhere thanks to their salary cap-crushing contracts. 

If the Wild were to trade Spurgeon and Zucker, they would free up approximately $10 million in additional cap space, bringing their total to about $25 million. 

That said, it's reasonable to think that opposing teams might shy away from taking on two veteran players, likely asking for some youth in addition to one of the two. Maybe the Wild can package Spurgeon or Zucker with someone like Luke Kunin or Jordan Greenway, who are 21- and 22-years-old, respectively. 

I also wouldn't rule out Jonas Brodin as trade bait since his contract is free of movement clauses.

Unlike other professional sports, it's pretty rare for NHL teams to move up in the draft via a trade. But they do happen and the Wild been involved in some of the notable ones. 

In 2011, Minnesota traded Brent Burns (along with a 2012 second-round pick) to the San Jose Sharks for Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle and the 28th overall pick.

In 2013, they traded Cal Clutterbuck and a third-round pick for Nino Niederreiter.

Those trades were made under former GM Chuck Fletcher, but as mentioned above, Fenton isn't afraid to make trades as evidenced by his in-season trades of Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund and Coyle. 

If Fenton has keyed in on certain prospects like Dylan Cozens, Alex Turcotte or Kirby Dach, all of whom are centers and projected to go in the top 10, who's to say he isn't preparing to move up and get one of them?

If he doesn't move up, he could still feel pretty comfortable at No. 12 with the depth this year's draft features, and he could instead upgrade the goal-scoring department via free agency and non-draft-day trades. 

Regardless, I believe Fenton is leaning towards moving at least one more core player this offseason. If it can vault them up the draft and make the team better in the long run, he'll do it.

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