Wild could be key players at trade deadline

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The Wild made news yesterday by inking defenseman Jared Spurgeon to a four-year, $20.75 million deal.

The contract itself was a story — in ’16-17, Spurgeon will be the club’s second-highest paid d-man next to Ryan Suter — but the ramifications of the deal were also newsworthy.

Specifically with regards to trade talks.

The Wild’s issues at center have been well-documented.

Prior to the start of the year, Thomas Vanek said “we don’t maybe have the strongest depth in the middle” and, last week, the club claimed struggling veteran Jarret Stoll off waivers after he was cut loose by the Rangers.

Minnesota’s a spend-to-the-cap team that has to believe its Stanley Cup window is open.

And in a Western Conference loaded with high-end centers — including Jonathan Toews, whose Blackhawks have eliminated the Wild in three straight playoffs — GM Chuck Fletcher knows his team might need more down the middle.

So what about a defenseman-for-center swap?

“Our defense is the strength of our team,” Fletcher explained, per the Star-Tribune. “It gives us depth and may give us the opportunity to look at different options down the road.”

More, from Sportsnet:

Minnesota’s top four blueliners are at a cap number of $21M next season, and this kind of move was rumoured even before Spurgeon’s extension.

It would not be a huge stunner to see Fletcher make a run at [Ryan] Johansen, as Columbus is looking for defence.

Now remember, Fletcher has a history of bold moves at the deadline.

In 2013, he swung big to get Jason Pominville out of Buffalo and, a year later, acquired Matt Moulson in time for the club’s playoff run.

Last season, the acquisitions weren’t as big — Sean Bergenheim and Chris Stewart — but Fletcher did make a noteworthy move well before to the deadline, rescuing the Wild’s goalie situation by acquiring eventual Vezina nominee Devan Dubnyk from Arizona.

With all this said, orchestrating a deal won’t be easy.

The Wild are tight to the cap ceiling, and Fletcher needs to decide if this is his “go for it” moment — will he go the rental route? Can he even afford it?

Or will he instead try to find a more long-term fix down the middle?