Wild trade tiers: Who is on the block? Who could be dangled? Who is untouchable?

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Brandon Duhaime smiled. “I see the tweets,” he said.

And the stories.

As The Athletic reported Monday, Minnesota Wild president of hockey operations and general manager Bill Guerin is getting calls from a number of his counterparts curious about what he plans to do with the hard-nosed Floridian on an expiring contract.

Duhaime’s no dummy, either.

The Wild haven’t shown any appetite to extend his contract, and of all the pending free agents, Duhaime likely has the most value. So right away, that puts him at risk of being traded.

“That’s probably the hardest thing: Thinking about not playing for this group is tough mentally,” Duhaime said. “I’m here and every game, I’ll play it like it’s my last.”

Duhaime is a popular figure on the Wild and loves playing for the organization that selected him in the fourth round eight years ago. He doesn’t want to leave but understands the business side of it, too.

“I’m here, I want to play for this team,” he said. “I want to go on a playoff run with this team. Obviously, come deadline, whatever happens, happens. But I’m fully bought into what this group is doing and love playing for this team.”

There’s a lot of intrigue heading into next Friday’s deadline. On Saturday, the Wild were riding high with the second-best record since the All-Star break and pulled within two points of a playoff spot.

Now they’re six back because the Nashville Predators no longer lose. The Wild head to Nashville on Wednesday for a two-game trip to face the Preds, then the St. Louis Blues.

The outcomes of these games could really set the stage for how Guerin handles the days leading up to the March 8 deadline. Here’s our sense of where things stand with four games and nine days till the clock strikes 2 p.m. next Friday.

On the block

Brandon Duhaime 

There’s a very good chance he’s traded even if the Wild don’t enter “sell mode” per se.

The Wild have had no contract talks with Duhaime’s agent, Rich Evans, and we’re hearing lots of teams trying to bulk up on the bottom six are poking around and expressing interest. If Guerin can get a quality asset, we think he’d pull the trigger if he has already decided he’s moving on from the potential unrestricted free agent this offseason.

Guerin does have a knack for pulling rabbits out of his hat in trades.

He somehow got a second-round pick from Arizona for Jack McBain even though the draft pick who refused to sign with the Wild planned to sign with the Coyotes a month later. And despite one actual goal with a goalie in net, one empty-net goal and five assists in 45 games last season, Jordan Greenway was traded to Buffalo for a second-round pick that became WHL leading scorer Riley Heidt.

So maybe Duhaime, despite four goals and three assists in 59 games, can land something of significance given his 26-year-old’s age and willingness to fight, check and skate.

What’s curious about trading Duhaime is John Hynes said Tuesday that Pat Maroon won’t be back any time soon and the Wild are being cautious with Marcus Foligno, allowing him to heal a lower-body injury.

Zach Bogosian is close to a return, but if the Wild trade Duhaime, their #GritFirst mantra of last season will take an about-face depending on how long Foligno remains on the sideline. Say what you want about Duhaime’s lack of scoring, but he’s a willing combatant who is always first to stand up for teammates, brings speed and energy and is a beloved member of the locker room.

He would seem to be a Guerin-type player, but nevertheless, this looks like the end of the line for Duhaime whether he’s traded now or simply departs this summer.

Connor Dewar

Wouldn’t it be something if Dewy 1 and Dewy 2 were both traded?

There’s a chance.

With Mason Shaw waiting in the wings and the Wild working to sign prospect Marat Khusnutdinov, the Wild conceivably could trade Dewar if they’ve already decided they’re not bringing him back past this season.

Dewar is a pending restricted free agent with arbitration rights, so there’s a chance the Wild won’t tender him a qualifying offer in June if they intend to free up roster spots for prospects like Khusnutdinov, Heidt, Liam Ohgren or any offseason acquisitions.

One wonders, however, if the Wild trade both Duhaime and Dewar, whether Guerin needs to get an NHL forward back in some capacity for the bottom six or even the second line, where there has been a revolving door of centers due to the down years of Freddy Gaudreau and Ryan Hartman and the fact Hynes likes the current fit and identity of the Jake Lucchini-Marco Rossi–Vinni Lettieri line.

Could be of interest

Pat Maroon

Maroon, 35, is rehabbing from early February back surgery, which was scheduled to put him out for four to six weeks. The veteran winger hasn’t started skating yet, so he’s still a ways away, though the Wild had hoped he’d return by mid-March.

Whether Maroon is fully healthy by the deadline or not, the pending UFA could draw interest from contending teams looking to add his unique pedigree: a three-time Cup champion, a culture-builder and a power forward with good hands around the net. Maroon has four goals (16 points) in 49 games this season and has played everywhere from the second to fourth lines. Maroon has been a trade deadline addition before, acquired by the Hynes-led New Jersey Devils in the spring of 2018.

Maroon called this year a “rejuvenation” in his career and showed he’s got good hockey left in him. If the Wild don’t think they’re going to re-sign him this summer, it’d make sense to consider getting an asset for him, especially because the team has been playing well since his injury. Another complication, similar to Duhaime, is that if Foligno is sidelined well past the deadline, you’d be taking away a lot of size from the forward group (no Duhaime, Foligno or Maroon). Maroon has a modified no-trade clause (a 16-team trade list) that’ll have to be considered, too.


How Wild’s Pat Maroon, Zach Bogosian were ‘rejuvenated’ after Lightning trades

Zach Bogosian

Bogosian, 33, has been a pleasant surprise for the Wild since he was acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning for a seventh-round pick back in November. The veteran defenseman went from a healthy scratch in Tampa, including going through waivers, to a top-four role in Minnesota with Jared Spurgeon out for the season.

Bogosian called it a “breath of fresh air.”

“They’ve given me an opportunity to play,” Bogosian said recently. “Any player, that’s what you’re looking for. I’ve gotten the minutes and played well, hope to continue to. They’ve given me a chance and that’s what every player wants.”

Bogosian, another pending UFA, could spark some interest from teams at the deadline, as right-shot defensemen are typically coveted. A wrinkle here is that Guerin has told The Athletic they’d like to bring Bogosian back next season. Plus, due to Spurgeon’s season-ending back and hip injuries, Bogosian has been playing a pretty big role on the blue line. That’s also why we don’t see any reason to trade pending UFA Dakota Mermis, who likely won’t be back because he has earned a one-way contract this offseason.

Marc-Andre Fleury 

This is a complicated one.

Fleury, 39, has made it clear he wants to stay with the Wild and see their playoff chase through. As Guerin said, Fleury — with a full no-move clause and a Hall of Fame career — has earned the right to “call the shots.”

“If we were last in the conference, maybe it’d be a little bit different,” Fleury told The Athletic Saturday. “But this is my team. We’ve been battling together, right? I take pride in winning with this team. I want us to make the playoffs. That’s my first priority. I think being in the hunt, it’s fun, it’s challenging. And I want to be here and see this team make the playoffs.”

Of course, he said that when the Wild were two points out. Now they’re six.

To say these next two games in Nashville and St. Louis are enormous is an understatement.

If the Wild go on a rough stretch here before the deadline and fall even further behind the red-hot Predators, you wonder if the Wild and Fleury change their mind. Guerin has to at least listen to offers from other teams looking for goaltending help. If Minnesota is eight or 10 points out by the deadline with 18 games left, would Fleury be open to a move to, let’s say, Colorado for the Cup-contending Avs?

The other point to bring up is that there’s a world in which Fleury is actually back with the Wild next season. Not saying it’s a guarantee — we don’t even know if Fleury wants to play another year — but there’s a feeling the Wild would be open to continuing that relationship if they feel Jesper Wallstedt isn’t ready for a full-time NHL role.

Would trade if there’s a taker

Freddy Gaudreau 

This has been a brutal season for Gaudreau, who has three goals and 11 points in 47 games. He has gone 23 games without a goal, dating back to Dec. 31. Gaudreau, typically a strong two-way center, is as positive a player as you’ll be around, but he’s admittedly been frustrated at times. His season got off to a rough start with an injury in Game 3 against Toronto on a hit by Ryan Reaves.

Gaudreau and former Wild coach Dean Evason had a special relationship, and the 30-year-old center was used in a Swiss Army knife-type role. Gaudreau has played mostly bottom-six minutes the past couple months, getting his first shot back at center in 18 games on Tuesday against Carolina.

Gaudreau is in the first year of a five-year deal with a $2.1 million cap hit, so that could make some teams pause at the deadline. He also has a modified no-trade clause (15-team no-trade list). More likely than not, Gaudreau will still be with the Wild after the deadline, but teams looking for versatile forwards who play in all situations could come calling.

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Gaudreau has only three goals and 11 points in 47 games. (Matt Blewett / USA Today)

Jon Merrill

Merrill, 32, has another year on his contract at $1.2 million, He’s been, as of recently, a regular on the third pair with Dakota Mermis. With Bogosian returning soon, there’s a chance Mermis could be a healthy scratch again. If there’s some interest for Merrill, the Wild would move him in a nanosecond, especially considering the emergence of Declan Chisholm. The Athletic’s Thomas Drance has brought up Merrill as a potential depth defenseman trade target for the Canucks.

Unlikely to trade now

Jake Middleton

Earlier this season, when the Wild looked destined for a lottery pick, the possibility of trading Middleton was brought up. With Foligno, Hartman and Mats Zuccarello extended before the season, the good-skating, physical defenseman was the one valuable player with term at a quality price ($2.45 million) other teams may covet.

Now, he’s rookie Brock Faber’s defense partner, in the midst of a solid season and an absolute bargain to bring back next season with a year left on his deal. Trading Middleton makes no sense unless the price back is perfect.

At a minimum, his presence allows the Wild’s young defensemen in Iowa further time to develop.

Filip Gustavsson

A growing number of fans have asked lately if the Wild would consider trading Gustavsson, who is a far cry from the goaltender who last season posted the second-best save percentage and goals-against average in the NHL.

He is 16-13-3 this season with a 3.23 GAA and .896 SV%.

While plenty of teams are looking for goalies, it seems trading him at the trade deadline would be premature considering Fleury is 39 and Wallstedt is still unproven at the NHL level.

Now, if a team came calling this offseason and the return was worth it, maybe that’s the time to consider it. Still, with two years left at $3.75 million, it would seem more prudent to wait until next season to see which was real: the Gustavsson of last year or the Gustavsson of this season.

Marco Rossi

Doubtful. He’s in the midst of a quality rookie season, and while we’re still not convinced the Wild are ready to commit to him long-term or that he won’t be traded this offseason, the trade deadline is not typically the time to trade a young asset like this.

That’s a summer move.

Rossi has another year left on his entry-level contract. That’s a bargain price to see if he can do it again.

Not going anywhere 

Marcus Johansson

While there’s no doubt Johansson has been a disappointment this season with nine goals and 27 points in 59 games, he still plays a top-six role for the Wild at a $2 million salary.

When you have $14.7 million of dead cap money next season, teams need bargains and that’s a cheap top-six guy.

Plus, he has a full no-move.

Marcus Foligno, Ryan Hartman, Mats Zuccarello

The fact Guerin signed all three of these veterans in September — one year ahead of being unrestricted free agents — was a sign enough that they’d be part of the team’s plan for at least the next few years. By process of the extensions, they all had no-trade protection added to their expiring deals. Hartman, for example, has struggled of late and spent Tuesday’s game on the fourth line, but that doesn’t change the fact he’ll most likely be with Minnesota through the deadline. Foligno, while injured, is a key outspoken leader on a team missing captain Spurgeon.

Kirill Kaprizov, Matt Boldy, Joel Eriksson Ek, Brock Faber and Jonas Brodin are obviously going nowhere.

Controls own fate

Alex Goligoski

Goligoski, 38, hasn’t played since Feb. 7 in Chicago and is expected to be a healthy scratch for the time being, barring injury. He’s a pending UFA, but has a full no-move clause, which is important to note because the veteran defenseman declined to waive at last year’s deadline (when there was interest) and over the summer. Whether this is Goligoski’s last NHL season remains to be seen, but it’d take something unique for him to get dealt next week.

(Top photo of Brandon Duhaime celebrating a goal with teammates: Elsa / Getty Images)

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