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Judd’s Notes

Wild could get a lucrative return if they are willing to move Filip Gustavsson.

Could Wild GM Bill Guerin look to move goaltender Filip Gustavsson at the trade deadline? (MHM Photo / Rick Olson)

This Friday will mark three weeks until the March 8 NHL trade deadline, and, ideally, Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin would be in position to be a seller given how things have gone this season.

But that isn’t likely to be the case, considering how often no-trade and no-move clauses are handed out to veteran players these days. The list of Wild players with at least some form of trade protection includes forwards Mats Zuccarello, Marcus Foligno and Ryan Hartman. All were signed to contract extensions during training camp.

So who could Guerin look to move? The top Wild veterans who don’t have no-trade or no-move clauses include forwards Kirill Kaprizov, Matt Boldy and Joel Eriksson Ek; defenseman Jake Middleton; and goalie Filip Gustavsson.

Obviously, Kaprizov, Boldy and Eriksson Ek aren’t going anywhere and remain an important part of the Wild’s future. But Gustavsson and Middleton could be another story.

Guerin might not have an appetite to part with Gustavsson, but considering the number of contenders desperate for goaltending help, some of the offers might be too good to turn down. Among the teams looking to add a quality goalie are the Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings.

Guerin could look to move future Hall of Famer Marc-Andre Fleury before the deadline — that would require the goalie to waive his no-trade clause — but the 39-year-old is in the final year of his contract and might retire after the season.

Gustavsson, 25, has two years left on his contract after this one ($3.75 million AAV) and would command a more significant return. Gustavsson had a 3.19 goals-against average and .897 save percentage entering Monday’s game in Vegas. That’s a drop from last season, when Gustavsson had the second-best goals against (2.10) and save percentage (.931) in the NHL, but the team around him isn’t as good.

The Wild are facing one more season in salary cap hell because of the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts, and adding draft picks and prospects to a young talent pool that looks to have a bright future has to be considered an attractive option.

Jesper Wallstedt, the Wild’s top goalie prospect, is expected to get a chance to play on a regular basis next season, and Guerin could look to pair him with a veteran in 2024-25, if Gustavsson is moved.

Middleton was acquired from the San Jose Sharks at the trade deadline in 2022 and has turned into a very solid top-four defenseman. The 28-year-old is signed through next season and would command a big return.

The Wild have played catch-up in the playoff race seemingly all season. (MHM Photo / Jonathan Watkins)

Why should Guerin be a seller?
Just take a look at the NHL standings and you will have the answer.

The Wild’s 5-10-4 start under coach Dean Evason put them behind in the playoff race, but an 11-3 rebound under John Hynes provided new life. The Wild then went 1-7-1, had a three-game winning streak and proceeded to blow leads at home against Nashville and Anaheim.

Minnesota won back-to-back games against Chicago and Pittsburgh coming out of the All-Star break to get within three points of a playoff spot. But here’s where even a win streak doesn’t help that much. The Wild was off on Saturday and Sunday and dropped seven points out of the final wild card position while sitting at home.

There are too many points available to too many teams on a nightly basis to have two horrible stretches of hockey. For every step forward the Wild takes, it’s likely they will take two or three steps back.

Faber headed for Calder?
There appeared to be no way Wild defenseman Brock Faber had a chance to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of year before Jan. 5. That was the day that Blackhawks center Connor Bedard, the No. 1 pick last June in the NHL draft, suffered a fractured jaw against the New Jersey Devils.

Bedard, considered a generational talent, hasn’t played since and continues to wear a non-contact jersey when he skates. Blackhawks coach Luke Richardson told reporters this week that he hopes Bedard will be able to start practicing early next week and could be set for games shortly after that.

Brock Faber is near the top of the scoring leaderboard for NHL rookies, making his case for the Calder Trophy. (MHM Photo / Rick Olson)

Bedard’s 15 goals in 39 games still leads all rookies, but Faber’s pair of assists in a 5-3 Wild victory in Vegas on Monday put him into a tie in points with Bedard, both with 33 points to lead NHL rookies. Faber’s 29 assists also top the rookie charts. Faber’s impact on the Wild has been even bigger than expected with Jared Spurgeon limited to only 16 games before he was shut down for the season.

Hynes trusts Faber in all situations — he didn’t play on the power play with the University of Minnesota, but quarterbacks the Wild’s top power play — and his average ice time of 24 minutes, 59 seconds per game leads the Wild and all rookies and is 10th in the NHL.

It’s worth noting the third-leading scorer among rookies is Wild center Marco Rossi with 29 points. Rossi’s 14 goals are second to Bedard.

There is always a chance Bedard will return and get hot, or that he will be recognized by so many of the writers who vote that he will get the honor. But Faber has deserved serious consideration all season and now he’s getting it.

Judd Zulgad is co-host of the Mackey and Judd podcast and also Judd’s Hockey Show for SKOR North. Judd covered the Vikings from 2005 to 2010 for the Star Tribune before joining SKOR North.

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