News reporters, the beat writers that actually make money covering the team live for the trade deadline. Its a chance for a fresh story, for some drama and the chance to interview someone different for a change. On that note the Minnesota Wild did their part to provide a bounty of interesting quotes when they acquired goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov from the Edmonton Oilers for a 4th round pick. The pick in question is the one that was originally acquired at last year's deadline in the Jason Pominville trade as it arrived with him from the Buffalo Sabres. So in essence the Wild traded prospects Johan Larsson and Matt Hackett as well as a 1st round pick (Nikita Zadorov) for Pominville and Bryzgalov. Yet like your favorite old Billy Mays commercial, the Wild aren't stopping there, they also signed junior player Zack Mitchell to a 3-year entry-level contract.
So much activity and we're not even to the deadline yet! Imagine what else could happen?!?! Yea and Roberto Luongo might get dealt back to the Florida Panthers, oh wait. Or is their truth to the Torrey Mitchell so-called trade demand as he's unhappy with having toiled on the 4th line for two seasons. Actually, its probably not going to end up that exciting here in the State of Hockey and the Wild's move certainly provides some insight as to how the team sees itself with less than 20-games remaining in the 2013-14 season. So what do these moves mean for the Wild?
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Let's talk about the move for Bryzgalov. The Wild spent a 4th round pick to add Bryzgalov, a 6'3" goaltender with 213 NHL wins to his credit. Some fans are unhappy we gave up a 4th round pick in a weak draft for a goaltender with just 5 wins this season with the Edmonton Oilers (a sad sack team that is horrendous defensively) who has given up 3.01 goals against average in those games. I am not sure why they're mad about losing a 4th round pick in a weak draft for a guy who you really just want to sit on the bench and fill in if Kuemper is injured.
The Wild didn't give up a promising young player plus draft choices for a guy who will likely ride the pine. Afterall, the only reason the Wild had to do this is the fact Niklas Backstrom has been battling abdominal issues that seem to be more serious and debilitating than previously thought. Thankfully for Backstrom, Kuemper has been able to carry the mail and carry it well in the meantime. So well in fact, the Wild are obviously giving him the reins for the rest of the season. Kuemper has just 12 NHL wins total in his young NHL career but he's been rock solid over the last 15 games sporting a 2.19 goals against average and a quality .924% save percentage. So why should we want to spend a mint for a player who is in all likelihood going to be his backup?
I don't care the odd things Bryzgalov says to reporters or during some contrived NHL 24/7 show on HBO, I just want a healthy backup with a considerable amount of NHL experience. Bryzgalov has that. If the Wild were signing Bryzgalov to be the starter, it'd be a different story. I doubt Bryzgalov is demanding playing time the way Martin Brodeur will be wherever he ends up getting dealt. I was a tad bit surprised we didn't deal for Viktor Fasth but overall the same effect was achieved. Either way, the Wild have managed to sidestep a pretty big hole after Josh Harding's multiple sclerosis issues flared up after his medication adjustment and Backstrom's abdominal problems. Not too many teams could lose both their starter and primary backup and still be in the playoff hunt. Look at Nashville if you need an example of how easy it is to fall into a goaltending abyss once the starter is lost for a significant period of time. As it was, the Wild were very fortunate Harding was able to be the rock as long as he was when you think about Backstrom's struggles. Then count the team even luckier for what Kuemper has been able to do thus far (knock on wood).
Now Backstrom can focus on getting healthy instead of pretending to be able to fill in for Kuemper if needed. I think that's best for both parties. No matter what I still like thought of Ilya Bryzgalov as the backup more than John Curry who has even less NHL experience than Kuemper. The move also allows the Wild to have cap space to perhaps make another deal.
Wild sign Zack Mitchell
On another note, especially for those fans annoyed with the trade of a 4th round pick, the Wild added another talented overage major junior player in the Guelph Storm's Zack Mitchell. He has average size at 6'0", 184lbs and earns solid reviews for playing a two way game, and if you believe Guelph GM Mike Kelly the Wild may have a player with Top-9 potential. Mitchell is a right winger who has played 317 games over the course of 5 seasons with the storm where he has 100 goals and 237 points over that span. The right handed shooting winger from Caledon, Ontario is the second such signing in the last week as they also gave Calgary Hitmen's Brady Brassart a three-year entry level deal. I think these moves indicate the franchise recognizes that it lacks finishers in its prospect pool, and it has been area I've felt they really ignored in the last few drafts. The fact they are overagers means they will be ready to help in Iowa as soon as their respective major junior season concludes.