Resurgent Minnesota Wild Fuel Playoff Hopes After Big Moves

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CALGARY, AB - MARCH 2: Eric Staal #12 of the Minnesota Wild celebrates with his teammates after scoring against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on March 2, 2019 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)

The Minnesota Wild have re-entered the playoff battle after rather a miserable run. It was all powered with a message sent to the players by General Manager Paul Fenton. After big moves, the Wild responded to the call as Head Coach Bruce Boudreau wanted to fulfill his commitment. Resurgent Minnesota Wild looks to fuel their playoff hopes in an unexpected way.

Resurgent Minnesota Wild Completed Big Moves

It wasn’t an easy assessment of the Trade Deadline for the Wild. The struggling team needed a spark and a salary cap relief. They got what they sought in a rather painful way. Seeing guys like Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund or Charlie Coyle go was not a popular thing in St. Paul. But it was all necessary as it seems.

The fans in Minnesota were unhappy with the way their team has been performing with big stars over the past years. That´s one of the reasons why Fenton went for a shake-up. Just a few days before the Trade Deadline rumours said that Paul Fenton has received a green light in order to make changes. All that happened only a couple of days following Boudreau promising that the Wild would make the playoffs.

What occurred next in St. Paul? They lost their captain Mikko Koivu to the season-ending injury and traded away Coyle and Granlund. It was rumoured that Jason Zucker was close to the trade to the Calgary Flames, but he stayed put. For Niederreiter, the Wild received Victor Rask. Swedish center played in just 10 games, collecting two points and is out injured. Niederreiter has 18 points in 19 games in Carolina since his trade to the Hurricanes.

That´s a bummer. The Wild got a salary cap relief, but not the immediate result. However, Rask is still just 26 and both players clearly necessitated a change of scenery. Seeing a point production of Swiss winger, you would understand why they needed it.

The Impact of Ryan Donato on the Wild

In a trade with the Boston Bruins, the Wild received Ryan Donato and a fifth-round draft pick for Charlie Coyle. Coyle has been struggling in his past two seasons in Minnesota. Unlike Rask, at least in the immediate term, they got a very nice return in Ryan Donato. Donato has recorded two goals and five assists in his first five games with the Wild. That was quite an impressive start.

Donato has averaged 13 minutes in the time on ice per game with the Wild while being 51,27 in relative Corsi. He has taken 11 shots on goal and two of those ended up with a tally. In his 34 games with the Bruins this season prior to his trade, he had six goals and three assists. Donato clearly attempts to become a better all-around player in his tenure with the Wild as he already has two more assists than with Boston. Nevertheless, Donato has a cannon of the shot. But he doesn’t want to end up being a player who is solely acknowledged by his shooting.

The Wild Went Streaking In Unexpected Time

Before that Charlie Coyle´s trade, the Wild have lost nine out of 10 games. That was not an ideal sign for Bruce Boudreau and his promise. In midst of that, the Wild decided to be the sellers on the Trade Deadline. Homestand right before Coyle´s trade was disastrous. Minnesota blew a 3-1 lead against the Flyers playing on the back-to-back basis, then the Wild blew a 4-1 lead versus the Devils in the very same situation.

Next two home games ended with two 4-0 losses against the St. Louis Blues and the Anaheim Ducks. This was followed by a trade sending Coyle to Boston for Donato. Since that moment, the Wild have won five games in a row. On Sunday night, their streak was halted by the Nashville Predators, who prevailed in the shootout. Despite that loss from last game, the Wild can be satisfied with their recent run.

Playing without the captain Koivu or injured defenceman Matt Dumba, and after those trades of Coyle, Niederreiter and Granlund, who would await the struggling Wild to actually pay attention to the promise of their Head Coach. Probably nobody. The race in the Western Conference is wide open and the Wild want to make the playoffs.

It´s worth mentioning that Eric Staal signed a two-year contract extension shortly after the Trade Deadline. Staal will earn $3,250,000 per year for two more seasons, that´s even $250,000 of a discount compared to his current contract. As Staal himself admitted, he hates the Trade Deadline and it´s trade rumours. But since that got away, a 34-year-old veteran has two goals and six assists for eight points in his last six games.

Minnesota Fuel Playoff Hopes Despite Two Directions

A rebuild on the fly is what they have now in Minnesota. Paul Fenton clearly manifested, that he wants this team to improve, he sent a message to his players by the trades and he also takes a look at the further changes. On the other side, the Wild are aiming for the playoffs. No one is quite sure why it makes sense to make the playoffs as the obvious rebuild has started, but why not? Being just a few points out of the playoff picture, it´s impossible to ask players to tank.

And they are not just a few points out of the playoff contention. The Wild are pretty much in it. With 66 games played, Minnesota sits on the last Wild Card spot with 71 points. They are tied with the seventh spot in the West, currently occupied by the Dallas Stars (65 GP). The Wild have a two-point cushion on the Arizona Coyotes (65 GP) and a three-point lead over the Colorado Avalanche (66 GP).

In their last four games, the Wild have shown their capacity to compete with the heavyweight teams. They defeated the Blues, won in Calgary and beat the Winnipeg Jets. As well, they earned a point against the Predators on back-to-back nights. Bruce Boudreau can remain upside, his commitment is still on.

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