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An old wild killer has become a target in Minnesota – Minnesota Wild

An old wild killer has become a target in Minnesota – Minnesota Wild
An old wild killer has become a target in Minnesota – Minnesota Wild

 


Just when you think you've exhausted all the options on the trading block, the surprise of one addition can throw everything else completely out the window.

This week, that surprise came in the form of Columbus Blue Jackets winger Patrik Laine requests a trade from Ohio. According to reports from Columbus, new GM Don Waddell will honor the Finnish snipers ask.

It is a surprising name that is suddenly available this summer. It's safe to say that many teams will be interested in the 65, 205 lbs. right-handed shot. The Minnesota Wild would be wise to include themselves in that group of teams.

Bill Guerin did that not been shy about his desire to replace Marcus Johansson on the second line opposite Mats Zuccarello. In the second half of the season, the Wild formed a dominant top line of Kirill Kaprizov, Joel Eriksson Ek and Matt Boldy. The only problem was that this was the only line they could count on to score.

If Minnesota is true to its promise expressed wishes to compete for a playoff spot next year, adding secondary scores goes to bhttps://hockeywilderness.com/news-rumors/minnesota-wild/the-wild-should-gamble-on-alexander-holtzs-upside- r30055/e decisive. There are a few options in free agency. But as we've pointed out here, since everyone turned their attention to the offseason in April, it's been a tight talent pool.

That's why over the past month we've highlighted several trade candidates that Minnesota could target instead of adding free agents. While a trade requires the Wild to give up assets they wouldn't have to have in free will, they have a talented prospect pool. Continuing to draft players who won't impact the team for a few years won't help convince Kaprizov to sign a long-term contract next summer.

This could be the time to trade futures for impact players. We've already gone down this path and identified goal scorers like Nikolaj Ehlers, Reilly Smith and Alexander Holtz. However, none of them have Laine's upside, nor the exact powers the Wild desperately needs.

Laine is a natural scorer. His game has some weaknesses and the six-time goalscorer fills the net like few others can. Wild fans don't need anyone to tell them this, but in case you forgot, Laine destroyed Minnesota during his days in Winnipeg.

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Laine checks almost every box the Wild should look for with the current hole in their top six. While she imposes herself physically on the ice, Laine doesn't play a heavy-handed game. It shows in his defense, although the fancy stats say he's gotten better there over the years. However, Minnesota doesn't need to focus on adding a two-way player to their forward group.

Their aforementioned top line will always draw the most attention, while the bottom six of their group, when healthy, feature a host of defensive forwards. The way they are currently constructed, the Wild can afford to add an offensive threat to their second line since it should be so easy to isolate their minutes.

It's easy to overlook Laine's lack of an 18-yard game because his strengths are so impactful. He brings a powerful shot that can score from anywhere in the offensive zone. His quick release and one-timer ability from the right side would be a perfect addition to Minnesota's top power play.

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On the ice, there is no doubt that Laine should be at the top of the Wilds target list. However, some off-ice obstacles are the reason Laine is suddenly available.

First, there's his availability. Health was an issue for the former 2NL general choice. He has not played more than 67 games since the 2019/20 season. And while he's been extremely productive in those limited games (scoring at a 30-goal pace during his four seasons in Columbus), the number of games he's missed is driving down his value.

Then there are his struggles beyond physical injuries on the ice. Last season, Laine only played 18 games leaving the Blue Jackets to seek mental help from the NHL's Player Assistance program. While no one can fault any player for seeking the help he needs, there's no doubt that the unknown factor of his current status will deter some teams from pursuing him in the coming weeks.

Finally, there's his contract, which has two seasons remaining with an annual cap hit of $8.7 million (and teams shouldn't ignore his actual salary of $9.1 million). While Columbus could retain a small percentage of that, it's still a difficult number for most teams to work with considering how many games the right winger will play each season.

None of this should deter the Wild, however, given the current status of their roster. Laine is only 26. Should he return to his former form as one of the best goal scorers in the league, they would suddenly have the type of player they don't possess in their prospect pool. Laine has the potential to make old Wild fans feel like Prime Minister Marian Gaborikhad is returning.

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Columbus will have suitors with a lot more cap space than the Wild asking for his services. However, Minnesota is one of the few playoff hopeful teams that can make such a deal work. Money may be tight, but the Blue Jackets have expressed their desire to compete for a playoff spot again.

While the Wild should undoubtedly include futures, they have a player on the trade block at a position the Blue Jackets desperately need. If Columbus is interested in Filip Gustavsson, his $3.75 million cap hit would be enough of a tradeoff for Laine to fit under Minnesota's salary cap ceiling.

Would a trade involving Gustavsson and futures be enough for the Wild to stay ahead of the asset-rich Chicago Blackhawks or the new Utah? Something? Maybe.

Either way, Guerin should try his hardest to be as creative as possible by adding Laine. If he's serious about returning to the playoffs next season, his free-agent options would be small ripples in a pond. Laines is the kind of splash the Wild need to make that leap next year.

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