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Our Minnesota Sports Ramble blogs are released on Tuesday (Wild), every other Thursday (Twins), and Friday (Timberwolves). Content of off-season teams released as news breaks.
The core of the Wild gets shaken up, Staal extension, and more in this edition. Wild analyst Peter Ripka, along with new contributor Jeff Hartfiel, answer questions from Rambling On god-king Erik Ritland.
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The Wild traded a couple of their foundational players at the trade deadline. First, Charlie Coyle is sent to the Boston Bruins for Ryan Donato and a fifth round pick. Your thoughts?
Peter: Coyle was one of three pieces acquired in the Brent Burns trade. Before we get to Coyle let's look at the other two pieces to just get them out of the way.
The first was Devin Setoguchi. He didn't pan out here and has never been the player he was in San Jose.
The second was a draft pick that became Zach Phillips, who was a bust.
Coyle became the big part of that deal. Even though he was a solid player, he was always a bit underachieving and frustrating at times. He would show flashes of the player he was expected to be but then regress to what he has been. Trading him for Ryan Donato is the Wild giving up on him and getting younger. Donato is 22 and very skilled, shoot-first player, something that this team is lacking.
Jeff: Although an above average player, Charlie Coyle never lived up to the hype. He showed flashes but never stayed consistent, which ended up being his biggest downfall. I was a fan of his even though his game was frustrating at times. Hopefully a fresh start in Boston will bring out his best and he has a great career.
As for Ryan Donato, the 22-year-old has an impressive career at Harvard, where he finished with 60 goals and 44 assist for 104 points in 97 games (for a stunning 1.07 points per game). He is a left handed shot who can play both LW and C. So far this season, between the NHL and AHL, he has 21 points in 52 games, nothing to right home about. I'm guessing a change of scenery helps him. He loves to shoot the puck, which something the Wild need. And he has also played with Greenway at the World Juniors on the same line. Maybe that will help spark him.
More draft picks are always good, even if it is a fifth. Hopefully it'll help us replenish our farm system.
I did find it interesting that Fenton traded for a left-handed shot, considering that the Wild are short on right-handed shots. But I trust that Fenton knows what he is doing until he proves differently. It is his first year with this team, so I'm not as ready as others to throw him under the bus and doubt his moves.
The Wild traded Mikael Granlund to the Nashville Predators for Kevin Fiala. Your thoughts?
Peter: It sucks to see a player with Granlund's play-making abilities go. But, following a theme here, he was one of the Wild's most frustrating forwards. His blatant refusal to shoot was a hard pill to swallow at times. On the other hand, Fiala is a skilled winger that has a lot of upside, is a goal scorer, and has speed. This team needed to get younger, faster, and get a goal scorer, and this move checks all those boxes.
Jeff: Initially, I was disappointed that they didn't get a draft pick, especially since we got one with the Coyle trade. Especially considering that Granlund is easily better than Coyle.
As for Kevin Fiala, I read nothing but really good things about him and the game he can bring to the table for the Wild. He is young, fast, and he likes to shoot. The small sample size so far has been positive.
It'll be interesting to see the new-look Wild play in this next tough five-game stretch we have, which includes a home and away game against the Nashville Predators. I will definitely be watching intently to see the new team Paul Fenton is trying to form looks on the ice together and see if they can make a playoff push.
GM Paul Fenton called the move “a hockey trade,” saying that both teams got better. Do you agree?
Peter: I wouldn't say both teams have gotten the same level of better. Nashville is the clear winner in this deal. If Fiala reaches his potential in the long term it could balance out.
Jeff: I believe that, in the end, Predators GM David Poile will pay it forward and help Paul Fenton down the line. So I do agree it was a "hockey trade" to an extent as much as it was you scratch my back this time I will scratch your back next time.
What do you think of the two-year, $6.5 extension of Eric Staal?
Peter: It makes sense with him not being traded, wanting to stay here, and trading Granlund. The last three games Staal has looked better making me think the rumors of him being sick coming out of the break were true. I think he still has a good year in him.
Jeff: I was a little surprised by the Eric Staal extension. Caught me more off-gauard than the Granlund trade to be honest.
I see why he got the the extension, considering the lack of depth we now have at the center position. He also adds another veteran leader on and off the ice. The term of the deal is nice for sure, as it is cheap and short. But the no-movement clause that was put in there was a little perplexing. You would think Fenton would have kept that out, just in case he wanted to trade Staal before the deal was up, like at next years trade deadline.
With that said, let's see how it plays out. I do like Stall's game. He has a lot to offer and should help the young guys grow.
In a low-key move, Matt Hendricks was sent to Winnipeg for a seventh round pick in 2020. Does this do anything for you?
Peter: Not really. Hendricks was brought in as a locker room guy and didn't play a lot. Basically a move to free up a roster spot.
Jeff: This move doesn't really do anything for me. Could be Fenton just shedding some more money to open up more cap space, albeit not that much, but every little bit counts. And you picked up another draft pick, something the previous GM had no problems parting with.
What do you think of the new look Wild? Were there issues with Nino, Coyle, and Granlund that necessitated a trade? Are we a better team now?
Peter: All three players never reached their potential and have underachieved almost all season this year. This team needed to shake up its core after being a one-and-done team continually. Honestly, I don't know if we are a better team right now. With the acquisition of two 22 year olds we having gotten younger and have saved money for free agency. Better off financially? Yes. Better product on the ice? To be determined.
Jeff: It will take me a few more games to fully assess the "new look" Wild, something I am looking forward to.
I am liking what I am seeing out of Donato and Hunt thus far. Donato has registered a point in every game so far since being traded (e loves to shoot the puck). Hunt looks like he is going to help lessen the blow of not having Dumba in the line up as well.
Now we'll have to see how Bruce mixes and matches the lines to find cohesiveness and chemistry in hopes to get consistency of execution of the game plan. If they can do this, they should be able to string together some more wins in the last five or so weeks or so of the season and make a run at the playoffs.
Nino, Coyle and Granlund were parts of the problem with the Wild, yes. People like to throw that Granlund was a 65-point guy. Great, but were was he in the playoffs every year when the Wild needed him the most? Same with Nino and Coyle. I liked all three of these guys, and it pains me to see them go, but that core wasn't working for us. I hope all the best for all three players in hopes they have good, long careers and got traded to a system that better suits there game.
I can't say the Wild got better, but I don't think they got worse with the trades. They got younger and faster, in addition to getting some guys that like to shoot the puck and are out to prove something. Next season we will be more telling how the trades turn out long-term for the Wild.
Do you wish the Wild had approached the trade deadline differently?
Peter: They approached it essentially the way I would have. With the players on this team underachieving, what they got in return for trades wasn't going to blow you out of the water.
Jeff: I am fine overall with how Paul Fenton approached the trade deadline. The Nino for Rask deal is still up in the air for me for obvious reasons. Was there another deal out there for the Wild to trade Nino? Is Rask going to end up turning it on this year or next to justify the trade? Or can this already be marked as a bad trade right now as we sit? I will be watching him a little more so than the other two players we got Donato and Fiala, but I will be a little more patient to see if Rask ends up turning out instead of rushing to judgement off a small sample size.
We almost saw more trades happen from what I heard and read. The Zucker deal fell through, but he will be traded in the off season from my understanding. And than Staal vetoed a trade to Boston I believe, before turning around and getting an extension. That must of been one hell of a conversation he had with Fenton. Hopefully it's for the best.
Peter Ripka is the original Rambling On podcast co-host and has been a contributor since its inception. He’s currently the Wild analyst, a position he’s held for several years. A Wild and Twins season ticket holder, his writing combines the passion of a fan and the insight of a beat writer.
Jeff Hartfiel is a Minnesota sports analyst specializing in the Wild and Vikings. He's been a part of Rambling On since 2018.