On Sunday, the Minnesota Wild began life without Mikko Koivu. Wild fans know that he will be back in the lineup at some point soon – likely not before three weeks have elapsed - but the question now is whether the team needs to make a move.
For a while, general manager Chuck Fletcher stood by the motto that the return of Guillaume Latendresse would serve as enough of a boost for the team. But with Koivu out, there will be a far greater sense of urgency.
Koivu is a tough player to replace even via a trade. Not only is he the team captain, NHL betting fans know that he’s the team’s do-it-all. He’s clearly a leader, he’s valuable offensively but he’s also the team’s best special teamer as he contributes greatly both on the power play and on the penalty kill.
There are options available to Minnesota, but nobody is uber-excited about them. Pierre-Marc Bouchard or Eric Nystrom could be moved off the wing to play center and the team recalled Cody Almond.
Dallas Stars forward Brad Richards might be an option but the Wild are not typically a team to make a big splash at the trade deadline. They are in a tough spot as they are right in the thick of a playoff race, tied with those very same Stars for the eighth and final playoff spot. Weakening their roster and helping theirs could give them a great boost.
But the bigger likelihood is that the Wild either make a more subtle trade or just ride things out as is. That likely invites even more of a burden on the shoulder of goaltender Nicklas Backstrom, but he is 5-2-1 in his last eight with a GAA of 1.36. Riding his hot goaltending until Koivu is ready to return might be the route that the Wild choose to take.
Stay tuned. The NHL trade deadline is February 28th.