Emboldened by Boldy, should Wild be NHL trade deadline buyers?

Emboldened by Boldy, should Wild be NHL trade deadline buyers?
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Look, most of us thought Kirill Kaprizov would inject some life into the Wild. Instead, Kaprizov delivered beyond just about the wildest expectations for the Wild, basically from the start of his Calder-winning campaign in 2020-21.

Could rising rookie Matt Boldy raise the Wild’s ceiling in his own right?

Sure, it’s silly to jump to too many conclusions after 13 games with Boldy. That said, it’s also silly just how great Boldy’s been for the Wild, right from the start.

If Boldy keeps this up for the Wild, he might even force himself into Calder Trophy discussions. Generating a hat trick (plus an assist) on Monday really put an exclamation point on Boldy’s bold beginning.

So, let’s take a look at the Wild’s rise this season, particularly since Boldy joined the lineup in January. From there, let’s ask: should the Wild go all-in as buyers at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline?

The most explosive Wild offense ever has been even hotter lately

Despite carrying that Wild moniker, Minnesota’s latest NHL franchise hasn’t exactly been known for high-octane, white-knuckle offense. Back in December, it was noted that the Wild have only averaged 3+ goals during five seasons.

At that time, averaging 3.68 goals per game represented uncharted territory. Yet, instead of cooling off, the Wild have only raise the temperature.

  • Since Boldy’s Jan. 6 debut, the Wild have averaged 4.15 goals per game. That’s second only to the perturbingly potent Panthers (4.64!). The Wild managed an 11-1-1 record during that span.
  • Such a surge pushed their numbers to an even higher level. Overall, the Wild average 3.8 goals per game, trailing only the Panthers (4.09) and Avalanche (4). There’s a significant gap between the Wild and everyone else, starting with the fourth-place Maple Leafs (3.59).
  • They’ve been able to maintain sound defense, too. While their 2.84 goals allowed per game ranks middle-of-the-pack, the Wild have outscored opponents by almost a goal per game on average.

It seems like this team is incrementally climbing toward a pretty optimal combination of potent offense and competent defense. Check out this Hockey Viz map to see how they’re still stout in their own zone:

Emboldened by Boldy, should Wild be NHL trade deadline buyers? 5 vs 5 defense viz
via Hockey Viz

Owning basically all of the high-danger areas and forcing a ton of point shots? Yeah, that’s the ticket.

To be clear, power play numbers are especially vulnerable to cold and hot streaks. That said, there’s some promise in the Wild’s power play shooting to 31.4% in the 13 games since Boldy joined the ranks.

My guess is that both Boldy and the Wild are almost inevitably going to cool off. But if that drop is subtle, rather than drastic, than both the rookie and his team could be extremely dangerous.

Why this is probably the right year for the Wild to buy at the NHL trade deadline

Over at The Athletic, Michael Russo broke down numerous aspects of the Wild trade deadline situation in fantastic detail (sub required). It’s worth your time, especially if you’re a Wild fan.

Russo rummages through trade clauses for potential deadline targets, and wonders how moves might affect chemistry.

There are plenty of valid considerations, but in the bigger picture, it sure feels like there’s a big, neon light flashing “Buy!”

[Wild won’t find much discouragement in PHT’s latest Power Rankings]

Most pressingly, the bills really kick in for the Ryan Suter/Zach Parise buyouts starting next season. To review, the combined salary cap costs look like this, via Cap Friendly:

2021-22: $4,743,588 million
2022-23: $12,743,588 million
2023-24: $14,743,588 million
2024-25: $14,743,588 million

If the Wild salary cap situation and this hot streak don’t already prompt trade deadline spending, the potential targets should make the difference. The Wild could really use another quality center, and there are a few who could be had.

  • The Sharks may re-sign Tomas Hertl. Frankly, they probably should just trade him. In that event, he’d be a splendid, maybe even tide-turning trade deadline rental for the Wild.
  • Joe Pavelski is mesmerizingly malleable. Need a center? He still appears viable at that position, but he can also slide to RW. He can score without corrupting the Wild’s defensive vision. In fact, he was my choice for the 2021 Selke Trophy. Though he wouldn’t quite fill that bill this season, Pavelski’s a tremendous two-way player.
  • Russo makes a valid point that Claude Giroux hasn’t spent much time at center lately. Still, it’s valid that he has plenty of experience at that position. Maybe he’d still be an upgrade there, particularly if he’s insulated with quality wingers?

Check out these multi-season RAPM charts from Evolving Hockey, and you may conclude that both Giroux and Pavelski might even be a bit underrated this deep into their careers:

Emboldened by Boldy, should Wild be NHL trade deadline buyers? RAPM charts
via Evolving Hockey

My guess is that the price would be steeper for J.T. Miller … maybe too steep for the Wild. But he’s another versatile forward who could boost an already worthy Wild team.

Sometimes slow and steady gives way to a smart gamble

Some might point out that, even with an upgrade, the Wild may fall short of the Avalanche’s peerless talent. Fair, but you never know what will happen — or, really, who you might face — in this league’s playoffs. The Avalanche looked nigh-unbeatable last season, too.

Yes, the Wild can find ways to talk themselves out of being NHL trade deadline buyers. Under normal circumstances, they’d often be taking a sober viewpoint.

Yet, thanks to the Parise/Suter buyouts and a jump in expectations, there may never be a better time than now. The Wild should seize the day, and the NHL trade deadline.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

LA Kings put goaltender Cal Petersen on waivers

Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
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LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Kings put goaltender Cal Petersen on waivers, a surprising move for a player once considered the successor in net to two-time Stanley Cup winner Jonathan Quick.

Petersen, 28, went on waivers the day after allowing four goals on 16 shots in relief of Quick during a 9-8 overtime loss to the Seattle Kraken. Quick was pulled after giving up five goals on 14 shots.

Only one NHL goalie has a save percentage lower than Petersen’s .868 this season, Elvis Merzlikins of the Columbus Blue Jackets with .864. Petersen is 5-3-2 in 10 games with a 3.75 goals-against average in his third full season with the Kings and fifth overall.

L.A. signed Petersen to a three-year, $15 million contract in September 2021, and he figured to take the starting job from Quick, who turns 37 in January and is set to be a free agent after the season. Petersen has two years left on that deal after this one at an annual salary cap hit of $5 million.

Penguins’ Kris Letang out indefinitely after 2nd stroke

Kris Letang Penguins
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PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang plays hockey with a grace and inexhaustible fluidity seemingly impervious to the rigors of spending nearly half his life in the NHL.

For the second time in less than a decade, however, a major health scare has brought Letang’s career to a halt.

The 35-year-old Letang is out indefinitely after suffering a stroke for a second time. Letang reported feeling ill and was taken to the hospital, where tests confirmed the stroke.

While general manager Ron Hextall said Wednesday this stroke doesn’t appear to be as serious as the one Letang sustained in 2014, the Penguins will have to find a way forward at least in the short term without one of their franchise pillars.

“I am fortunate to know my body well enough to recognize when something isn’t right,” Letang said in a release. “While it is difficult to navigate this issue publicly, I am hopeful it can raise awareness. … I am optimistic that I will be back on the ice soon.”

The three-time Stanley Cup champion missed more than two months in 2014 after a stroke, which doctors determined was caused by a small hole in the wall of his heart. He spent Monday feeling off and told team trainers he was dealing with what Hextall described as a migraine headache.

Penguins team physician Dr. Dhamesh Vyas recommended Letang go to the hospital, where tests confirmed the stroke.

“He didn’t know (he had a stroke),” Hextall said. “He just knew something wasn’t right.”

Letang is continuing to undergo tests but felt well enough on Tuesday to be at the arena for Pittsburgh’s 3-2 overtime loss to Carolina. He spent the second period chatting with Hextall then addressed his teammates in the locker room afterward in an effort to help allay their concerns.

“I think it was important for Kris to be there because his teammates got to see him in good spirits and that he’s doing well,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.

Sullivan added initial test results on Letang have been “very encouraging.” Letang will continue to undergo testing throughout the week, though he felt good enough in the aftermath to ask Sullivan and Hextall if he could skate, an activity that is off the table for now.

Hextall said he “couldn’t even guess” how long the Penguins may be without the married father of two, adding hockey is low on the team’s list of concerns about a player who, along with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, has helped the franchise to three Stanley Cups during his 17-year career.

“First and foremost this is about the person and I told Tanger about that last night,” Hextall said. “This is Kris Letang, the father and family guy, the Pittsburgh Penguins, that’s second.”

Letang, a six-time All-Star, has been one of the most durable players in the NHL. His 662 career points (145 goals, 517 assists) are a franchise record for a defenseman. He’s averaged well over 24 minutes of playing time over the course of his career, a number that’s ticked above 25 minutes per game seven times in eight-plus seasons since he returned from the initial stroke.

The Penguins felt so confident in Letang’s durability that they signed him to a six-year contract over the summer rather than let him test free agency for the first time.

“The level of hockey he’s played for as long as he’s played is absolutely incredible,” Hextall said. “The level he’s continued to play at at his age, the type of shape he’s in … he’s a warrior.”

Letang has one goal and 11 assists in 21 games so far this season for Pittsburgh, which hosts Vegas on Thursday night. The Penguins are pretty deep along the blue line, but Sullivan knows he can’t try to replace Letang with any one player.

“It’s not anything we haven’t been faced with in the past and the reality is we have what we have, and we’ll figure it out,” Sullivan said, adding “it’ll be by committee, as it usually is when you replace a player of that stature.”

Ovechkin tops Gretzky for most road goals, Capitals beat Canucks

Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Alex Ovechkin scored twice, passing Wayne Gretzky for the most road goals in NHL history, and the Washington Capitals beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-1 on Tuesday night.

Ovechkin has scored 403 of his 793 career goals away from home. Gretzky holds the overall record with 894.

“It’s always nice when you beat the Great One,” Ovechkin said. “It doesn’t matter what kind of milestone it is. It’s history.”

Anthony Mantha added a goal and an assist for the Capitals (10-11-3). John Carlson and Martin Fehervary also scored, and Darcy Kuemper stopped 31 shots.

Nils Hoglander scored for the Canucks (9-11-3), who had won three in a row. Spencer Martin made 23 saves.

“Spencer’s been great for us. He’s probably a bit like the other players tonight. They weren’t ready to play and it showed on the scoreboard,” Vancouver coach Bruce Boudreau said.

The 37-year-old Ovechkin nearly netted a hat trick when Vancouver pulled Martin for an extra skater with just over six minutes left, but his rocket of a shot skimmed the outside of the post.

“I think he has 13 goals this year and I want to say like eight or nine have been like a new record. So it’s been cool,” Washington center Dylan Strome said. “Any time you pass Wayne Gretzky in anything, it deserves a standing ovation, which he got.”

Fehervary was the one who sealed it, flipping the puck high into the Canucks zone and into the empty net at 15:57 of the third period.

Ovechkin topped Gretzky 11:52 into the first, firing a one-timer from the left circle past Martin to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead with his 13th goal of the season.

“On his second goal, it looks like, `Oh, maybe (Martin) should have had it.’ But I’ve seen (Ovechkin) score 100 goals like that,” said Boudreau, who coached the Capitals from 2007-11. “He’s got a shot that finds its way in.”

The star forward from Russia got his first of the night 5:35 in, taking the puck off the stick of Vancouver defenseman Quinn Hughes near the net and batting in a quick shot.

“It could have been 6-1 after the first period, quite frankly, with the amount of chances (Washington) had,” Boudreau said.

It was Ovechkin’s 135th game-opening goal, tying Jaromir Jagr for the most in NHL history.

“(Ovechkin) was really good in the first and I thought we were really good in the first so it was nice to get out and get a jump like that,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “He certainly led. We knew we needed to have a good first period, have a good game, and you need your best players to do that.”

Carlson scored the lone goal of the second, chipping in a loose puck from the low hash marks at 18:47 to give Washington a 4-1 cushion.

“It’s frustrating. Because when you lose games, it should never be about your compete level and battle level,” Canucks center J.T. Miller said. “It’s frustrating because they didn’t out-skill us today, they didn’t out-system us. They literally just outbattled us and created their own chances.”

NOTES: Washington’s Lars Eller got his 200th career assist. … Miller had an assist, extending his point streak to nine games (four goals, seven assists). … The Capitals swept the two-game season series. … Vancouver assigned winger Vasily Podkolzin and defenseman Jack Rathbone to the Abbotsford Canucks on Monday, then recalled forward Phillip Di Giuseppe from the American Hockey League club on Tuesday.

UP NEXT

Washington: At Seattle on Thursday in the second of a five-game trip.

Vancouver: Host Florida on Thursday in the second of a four-game homestand.

Deal for Coyotes’ proposed arena approved by Tempe council

David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports
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TEMPE, Ariz. — The Tempe City Council has unanimously approved a proposal for a new Arizona Coyotes arena and entertainment district, clearing the way for a public vote on the project next year.

The City Council approved the proposal 7-0 after a lengthy meeting that included NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

The $2.1 billion project would include a 16,000-seat arena, practice rink, 1,600 apartments, two hotels and a theater. Approval of the project was the final step before it goes to referendum on May 16.

The team is currently playing at Arizona State’s 5,000-seat Mullett Arena, by far the NHL’s smallest arena.

The Coyotes have been searching for a permanent home since the city of Glendale pulled out of a multimillion-dollar lease at Gila River Arena. Arizona had been playing on an annual lease until Glendale said it would not be renewed for the 2022-23 season.