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Recapping the Wild's moves ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline

Updates and analysis on all of Minnesota's recent trades

by Dan Myers @MNWildScribe /'s Dan Myers breaks down all of the Wild's transactions leading up to the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline.

[UPDATED: Feb. 25, 4 p.m.]

Feb. 25: Wild acquires forward Kevin Fiala from the Nashville Predators in exchange for forward Mikael Granlund.

Analysis: In the third major trade orchestrated by Wild General Manager Paul Fenton in the last month, Minnesota receives a player Fenton knows well ... in fact, he's the one that announced Nashville's selection of Fiala with the 11th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft. 

Video: GM Paul Fenton talks Fiala trade

Granlund is the more proven player in this deal: He has a pair of 60-plus point seasons under his belt and was second on the club this season with 49 points. 

But he also turns 27 years old tomorrow and is the more expensive player, counting $5.75 million against the salary cap for one year beyond the current one. After that, he could require a significant raise. 

Fiala is in the midst of a down season compared to last year, when he scored 23 goals and had 25 assists and was a plus-20 as a 21-year-old. While he's likely to surpass that assist total -- he's got 22 helpers so far -- he has work to do to match the goal total, as he has just 10 this season in 64 games. 

Video: Welcome to Minnesota Kevin Fiala

The belief coming into the season was that Fiala was primed to potentially approach 30 goals, and he was certainly trending that way. It simply hasn't gone to plan. 

At least not yet.

Fiala won't turn 23 until July, and there is a boatload of untapped potential for the restricted free agent-to-be. Surely Fenton is a believer. 

One thing to keep in mind: Fiala scored at a 12.3 percent clip last season, a number that has dipped below eight percent in 2018-19. With some regression to the mean and the potential for a larger role moving forward, Fiala has a chance to have a breakout campaign as soon as next season in Minnesota.

Tweet from @mnwild: #Finnesota won't be the same without you, Mikael Granlund. On the ice, his finesse is incredible. Off the ice, his sly humor and genuine personality will be missed. Thank you for everything, Granny 🇫 #mnwild

Granlund is the third member of Minnesota's young "core" to be moved over the past several weeks, joining Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle. All three players were first-round selections in the 2010 NHL Draft. 

Both Fiala and Ryan Donato are scheduled to be restricted free agents this summer, but Fenton has managed to clear more than $9.2 million in cap space. Some of that will go towards re-signing Fiala and Donato -- assuming Minnesota will do so -- but that also leaves a hefty chunk of change for Fenton to potentially do some shopping this summer, either on the trade market or in free agency.

Feb. 25: Wild acquires a seventh-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft from the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for forward Matt Hendricks.

Analysis: Hendricks is a tremendous locker-room presence but had contributed just two assists in 22 games with Minnesota this season.

Tweet from @mnwild: The ultimate hype man. @matthendy26 you will always be one of us. Thank you for giving it your all. #mnwild

An unrestricted free agent at season's end, and with no clear path to consistent playing time in Minnesota, the Wild got something of substance in exchange for the Blaine native and former St. Cloud State Husky, who returns to Winnipeg, where he scored five goals and had 13 points in 60 games last season.

Feb. 20: Wild acquires forward Ryan Donato and a conditional fifth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft from the Boston Bruins in exchange for forward Charlie Coyle.

Analysis: Donato loves to fire the puck. On a team that sometimes passes too much, Donato will be a much valued shooter who has a goal-scoring history at every level he's ever played at. 

That includes college, where he scored 47 goals over his final 65 games in two seasons playing for his dad, longtime former NHLer Ted Donato, at Harvard. Ryan Donato also led Team USA with five goals in five games at the 2018 Winter Olympics. 

Like Coyle, Donato has the ability to play both wing and center. He grew up at the pivot, but has played mostly wing -- both the left and right sides -- since arriving at Harvard and in his 12-game cup of coffee in the NHL last season, when, not surprisingly, he scored five goals at the end of the regular season.

 Video: Ryan Carter chats with Ryan Donato

A slow start to his 2018-19 season got him sent back to the AHL, but he's motivated and hungry to prove he belongs in the NHL, and he will get a chance to show it with the Wild, who will take all the young, high-end skill it can get its hands on.

Coyle, a tremendous person both on and off the ice, gets to play for his hometown Bruins, where he could immediately slot in as Boston's third-line center. His versatility and his size are his best assets, and he should do well for the Bruins, who are one of the NHL's top teams this season.

Tweet from @mnwild: You won't meet a nicer human. On & off the ice @charliecoyle_3 went out of his way for his teammates, staff and fans. Thank you for making the #StateOfHockey a better place. Best of luck with your hometown team.

The Wild will be cheering for Boston come playoff time: If the Bruins advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the draft pick Boston is sending Minnesota this summer turns from a fifth-rounder into a fourth-rounder.

Jan. 30: Wild acquires defenseman Michael Kapla from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for defenseman Ryan Murphy.

Analysis: A swap of minor-league blueliners -- Murphy has more NHL equity, having played in 174 games with the Hurricanes and Wild since debuting in 2013. 

But the Wild loves Kapla's hockey sense. A two-year captain at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, Kapla grew up in Eau Claire, Wis. and put up consistently solid offensive numbers through the collegiate ranks. 


Kapla is a year and a half younger than Murphy, but because the latter was a first-round pick once upon a time, he's got more pro experience. Kapla played his first full season of pro hockey just last season, but he's polished and the early returns in Iowa have been promising. 

Jan. 21: Wild acquires defenseman Brad Hunt and a sixth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft from the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for a conditional fifth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.

Analysis: The Wild added an asset on the back end (who has also see some time up front) that Wild coach Bruce Boudreau recently dubbed a "power-play specialist."

Video: Brad Hunt joins Wild in Colorado

With Vegas' depth on the blue line, Hunt wasn't getting much of a chance to play. A former Bemidji State University star, Hunt lacks prototypical size, but has the ability to be a solid puck mover and has a big, booming shot from the point. 

Offensive production hasn't been a problem for Hunt at any level, even the NHL, where he's produced decent numbers for a third-pairing guy for four different teams before arriving in Minnesota.

Video: NJD@MIN: Hunt flips backhand past Kinkaid for PPG

Case in point? Hunt had four goals in his first 21 games with the Golden Knights and the Wild this season. Extrapolate that over a full season and you have a defenseman with 15 goals. Not bad for a guy who gets about 12 minutes of ice time per night. 

In exchange, the Wild didn't lose a draft pick; it simply agreed to move back about 30 or 40 spots in this summer's draft. Most scouts will tell you that by the fifth or sixth round, that's essentially nothing: If you're targeting a specific player that late on day two, chances are it won't be too difficult to get your hands on him anyways.

Jan. 17: Wild acquires forward Victor Rask from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for forward Nino Niederreiter.

Analysis: The early returns on this deal have favored the Hurricanes, as Niederreiter has flourished in Raleigh next to impact centerman Sebastian Aho. 

But keep a few things in mind.

One, it's still early. This was a hockey trade, meaning both players have plenty of term left in their contracts (each has three years left AFTER the current campaign), which means there is time for this deal to even out. 

Video: CHI@MIN: Rask pots first goal with Wild, ties game

Two, Rask didn't have the benefit of a training camp last fall because of an off-ice injury. Players who miss camp, the entire preseason and the first quarter of the regular season often need some time to adjust. Asking Rask to simply jump into the lineup at Thanksgiving and expecting him to be in midseason form is simply not a realistic ask.

Were the numbers the last couple of seasons in Carolina disappointing? Sure, and Rask would be the first to tell you that. But a change of scenery can do players wonders. Elias Lindholm's numbers had stagnated his last couple of years in Carolina, but he's broken out this year in his first season in Calgary. 

Tweet from @mnwild: Thank you @thelnino22. For always being an amazing ambassador in the #StateOfHockey community. For making #mnwild fans jump for joy. For being a generous hockey player who always thought about the fans first.

While an injury in his 11th game with the Wild has him currently on injured reserve, Rask is still just 25 years old and has a 21-goal season on his ledger already. He plays a position, center, where you can never have enough depth. There is still time for this trade to become a win for both teams involved.

Jan. 16: Wild acquires forward Pontus Aberg from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for forward Justin Kloos

Analysis: Minnesota added a skilled NHL forward in exchange and didn't give up an asset either in the draft, or on its NHL roster to do so. Tough to argue against that logic.

A second-round pick of the Nashville Predators in 2012, Aberg has been unable to find a home the last couple of years. He actually played in a postseason game (two of them in 2015-16) before officially making his NHL debut during the 2016-17 regular season. Even that year, he played in more postseason games (16) than he did regular season contests (15), helping the Preds to the Stanley Cup Final. 

Tweet from @fsnorth: The newest member of the @mnwild Pontus Aberg says fans can expect to see him work hard and make offensive plays

Last season, he played in 37 games with Nashville and 16 more in Edmonton before moving on to Anaheim this year, where he was second on the Ducks in goals with 11 before the deal to Minnesota.

Aberg's history with both Paul Fenton (who was his general manager in Milwaukee when he was in the Predators organization) and Wild assistant coach Dean Evason (who was his head coach in Milwaukee) has Aberg in a place with some friendly faces who should know best how to deploy him.

Kloos, a Lakeville native, has been one of Iowa's best players the past couple of seasons, but with any number of similar level prospects competing for time in Minnesota, he may actually get a better chance to reach the NHL on a regular basis with the Ducks. At a minimum, he moves from one of the AHL Central Division's best teams in Iowa to the Pacific Division's best teams in San Diego.

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