The Day After: Thoughts on the Moulson-McCormick Deal

So here we are 24 hours later, and the Wild are looking different. Only two more days and fans will actually be able to see this product on the ice. Trades can’t be judged in a day, and honestly, they shouldn’t be judged for years. The goal of any trade, no matter how many pieces are involved, should be to get the best singular player. Rare is the deal in which one team gets three significant assets for one player. Case in point, the Wild traded Brent Burns three years ago now, returning then Devon Setoguchi, a still collegiate Charlie Coyle, and a first round pick, which turned into Zack Phillips. At this point, Burns is still the most accomplished player, however Coyle could turn out to be more important over time. Phillips is still working his way through the minors, where he hasn’t really lit up the AHL in his second season. Setoguchi was flipped to Winnipeg for a second round pick last June. To bring things full circle, that second rounder was included in the Moulson-McCormick swap yesterday.

In the end, even if Coyle is the only player that significantly helps the Wild (and I’m not giving up on Phillips yet, he’s still very young), it’s still a good deal, especially if Coyle develops into an upper-level power forward. Wednesday’s deal is much the same, especially since the Wild gave up an additional second rounder in 2016. By the time that pick is made, we will have all forgotten why the Wild don’t own a pick in that year’s draft, and by the time that pick becomes an NHL player (if that happens), the now 30 year-old Moulson may be retired.

So take the instant analysis with a whole shaker of salt, but there is a lot to like here. Going back to the Bryzgalov deal on Tuesday, Chuck Fletcher managed to help the Wild in three areas without disrupting the roster or giving up too much of the future (read: giving Buffalo Minnesota’s first round pick for a second straight year). Bryzgalov can spell Darcy Kuemper, who will need breaks to ensure that he has gas in the tank for the playoffs, while the popular Kuemper remains the Wild no. 1 goalie, as he has earned the right to be. Moulson obviously helps for scoring punch, taking some of the weight off of the primary goal scorers Zach Parise and Jason Pominville. He immediately becomes Minnesota’s third leading goal scorer, supplanting, yep, you guessed it, Justin Fontaine (and Dany Heatley, who also has 12). Finally, do not discount McCormick, who seems to be a throw-in in the deal, but could turn out to be a useful piece. McCormick is big (6’2″ 224) and more importantly, he’s nasty. Here’s McCormick “getting to know” Clayton Stoner earlier this season:

The Wild are sorely lacking in that category since Zenon Konopka was let go, and while Stoner and Nate Prosser have been willing combatants in recent weeks, the latter is not really an enforcer, and neither is an automatic pick for Mike Yeo’s lineup. Furthermore, Mike Rupp is seemingly a member of the Wild only in theory at this point. McCormick, who won’t be an automatic pick either, gives the Wild another option for grit and toughness.

What the Wild gave up is both negligible and theoretical. Torrey Mitchell was hardworking, but a lot of players can give that effort, and from the sound of it Mitchell didn’t want to stay here anyway. The two second round picks, as mentioned above, are harder to predict. The percentage of second rounders that play 200+ games in the NHL is less than 30%, and while the second round has churned out players like P.K. Subban, Patrice Bergeron, Paul Stastny, etc. those players are fewer and farther between than you might think. Picking a draft at random that is far enough back to allow for development (in this case I’m using 2006), and looking at the second round shows seven players picked in that round (Jamie McGinn, Nikolai Kulemin, Shawn Matthias, Milan Lucic, Artem Anisimov, Mike Weber and Jamie McBain) who have played 200+NHL games. 10 players picked in that same round have never appeared in an NHL game. I know that’s just one example, but that’s the reality of most years, and given that information, would you trade any one of those players for a 30-goal scorer like Moulson? Aside from Lucic, any GM probably would, and with the added uncertainty of the second round, it’s not inconceivable that Chuck Fletcher just traded Torrey Mitchell straight up for Matt Moulson. Even if Moulson opts to leave in the summer and only plays 20-30 games for the Wild, that’s not a huge loss. Furthermore, without Moulson’s, Heatley’s or Bryzgalov’s salaries, and the cap reportedly going up next year, the Wild should have plenty of cash to go after big names in the summer (“cough” Tomas Vanek “cough”).

Moving forward, the WIld lines could very much look like this:

Parise             Granlund                Pominville

Heatley              Koivu                    Moulson

Cooke               Coyle                   Niederreiter

Brodziak            Haula                   Fontaine/McCormick/Rupp

              Suter                     Spurgeoun

             Brodin                    Scandella

             Ballard                    Prosser/Stoner

                  Kuemper/Bryzgalov

Of course this is just my guess. The first thing to note is that Charlie Coyle is “demoted” to the third line. It’s clear that Chuck Fletcher and Mike Yeo want Coyle to play center, and now they can do so. Instantly, the Wild second line gets an upgrade in Moulson. While many would like to see Dany Heatley moved down, Heatley actually has 13 points (4-9) in 18 games since January 1st, so he has been useful and now gets another established offensive linemate to take the heat off. Coyle, meanwhile, gets to develop his game with less pressure to score, and a Cooke/Niederreiter/Coyle combo would be annoying to play against. Coyle also gets away from tougher defensive assignments, which may help his offense.

Second note is Kyle Brodziak, who is having a miserable season both offensively and in the faceoff circle. By moving him to the fourth line wing, Brodziak no longer has to focus on either discipline. His main asset is as a penalty killer, and now he can stay in that role without stealing valuable offensive ice time. At this point, Brodziak is simply a better (albeit slower) version of the now-departed Torry Mitchell.

There isn’t room in this lineup for Jason Zucker, whom I’m assuming will be back in Iowa when he’s fully healthy. He has no value on a bottom six line, and he hasn’t scored enough to merit a top six spot, so further, uninterrupted development in the AHL is the best thing for him.

That’s enough rambling. The new, improved Wild take the ice on Saturday night. Curious minds can’t wait that long.

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