Why now is the perfect time for the Wild to sell

It's time to pull the plug on this core, writes BMTN's Declan Goff.
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Eric Staal, Jason Zucker

Despite being winless (0-1-2) since the All-Star break, the Wild still sit inside the Western Conference playoff picture holding the top Wild Card spot.

So if the playoffs began today, Minnesota would make the postseason for the seventh consecutive season. Or in other words, another early first-round exit.

With the majority of the Western Conference in the gutter and the NHL trade deadline looming, this is not the time to buy. In fact, it's time for Wild general manager Paul Fenton to sell. 

Why? Math

For starters, the Central Division juggernauts in Winnipeg and Nashville are far better than the rest. The Wild, who sit in fourth place, are 14 points back of the division lead and no trade-deadline addition is going to make up that difference.

  1. Winnipeg 71 points 
  2. Nashville 68 points 
  3. Dallas 60 points 
  4. Minnesota 57 points 
  5. St. Louis 53 points 
  6. Colorado 52 points 
  7. Chicago 51 points

Think about it. An additional three-game losing streak could put Wild in the basement of this division. Yes, there's parity, but Winnipeg and Nashville are just better and no team is catching them. 

You lost your captain

In case you missed it, Mikko Koivu will miss the rest of the year – and possibly time next season – with a torn ACL and meniscus tear.

The 35-year-old's offensive output – 8 goals and 21 assists – has dropped this season, and that kind of production, in a vacuum, can be easily replaced. Replacing his leadership traits is a whole new level, though. 

Charlie Coyle and recently recalled forward Joel Eriksson Ek will take over center duties with Victor Rask and Eric Fehr. 

What's made Koivu so successful for so long are the things he does outside of registering points and now his departure from the lineup is likely the nail in the coffin this season.

You have nothing to give

Former general manager Chuck Fletcher had a habit of trading away draft picks at deadline time to be buyers and it hurt the Wild in the long run. Look what he gave up: 

  • 2017 first-round pick 
  • 2017 second-round pick 
  • 2016 second-round pick 
  • 2016 third-round pick
  • 2014 second-round pick 
  • 2013 first-round pick

Outside of Jordan Greenway – who has 9 goals and 8 assists – there's no-one on the Wild roster or in the system that could bring in a big name. Russian phenom Kirill Kaprizov, you say? He'd draw a big name in a trade for sure, but there's no way Fenton is dealing his biggest asset and potential future franchise star

Eriksson Ek is up by default but has been a disappointment and it's too early to give up on Luke Kunin, who's also a year removed from ACL surgery.

Teams are eager to buy

Winnipeg is on the record that they're willing to trade a first-round pick for center depth.

Wild center Eric Staal who's on an expiring contract, would fit that bill. A year removed from a 42-goal campaign, Staal isn't the same player from last year but his 17 goals this season and veteran presence could entice a team to rent his services.

If you're the Wild and you could get two first-round picks heading into the draft, you're positioning yourself to be better in the future.

Charlie Coyle also reportedly gathered interest from the Bruins this season.

Increase lottery chances

The cons of making the playoffs for a seventh consecutive year would mean the Wild are once again out of the draft lottery.

The last time the Wild picked inside the top 10 was in 2012, when they selected Matt Dumba, who was a having a phenomenal season before a pectoral injury sidelined him.

Take a look around the league and you'll see a bunch of young superstars like Elias Pettersson, Auston Matthews, Patrick Laine, Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel and the list goes on and on.

All of them are cornerstone players who were selected in the top 10. Players with that kind of pedigree is what the Wild desperately needs.

It just didn't work

The Wild's next superstar, the aforementioned Kaprizov, is still playing in Russia in the KHL and won't be coming over stateside until the 2020-21 season.

The Wild had a nice run with consecutive playoff appearances and some fun moments, but the reality is that it hasn't worked with the core of Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker and Coyle, and it's ok to admit that. 

Only Detroit and San Jose have an older roster than Minnesota does, and that's not good for long-term business.  

Now's the time to get younger, stockpile draft picks, clear up some salary cap and position themselves to be competitive by the time Kaprizov arrives. Things could be turned around in a hurry in the State of Hockey if Fenton plays his cards right.

The trade deadline strikes at 2 p.m. Monday, Feb. 25. 

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