Last offseason, Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher and San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson struck three separate deals. The first two trades were certainly more noteworthy as they included names like Brent Burns, Dany Heatley, Martin Havlat and Devin Setoguchi, but there was a third trade involving the injured James Sheppard.
However prior to the Sheppard deal, yours truly wondered out loud if the teams would create the trifecta by offering up a hypothetical deal of Jason Demers for Cal Clutterbuck. The idea received heavy criticism from Sharks fans and mild criticism from Minnesotans, but considering last year’s developments, that hypothetical doesn’t sound too bad now if you are the Sharks.
On the flip side, with the Wild’s young defensemen developing nicely last season, they proved the need for Demers to be rather nonexistent.
But I digress.
Let’s return back to the present, where the Wild are currently right up against the cap (only $700K in room according to capgeek.com) after bringing in star free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
Now small tinkering throughout the season can help create some extra cap room, but moving out a contract now would allow Minnesota the necessary breathing room to make an impact trade deadline acquisition.
With Parise and Suter in the fold, the Wild have the makings of a team that can make a real run at the Stanley Cup but they are not quite there yet.
This team is still one real impact top-6 forward away from truly having a dangerous forward group that can match their strength on the blue-line and between the pipes.
Which brings me to a Wild fan favorite in veteran center Matt Cullen. A Stanley Cup winner with the Carolina Hurricanes, Cullen played in his 1,000th came last year with Minnesota and managed another strong season of 35 points.
While he may not be the player he was with Carolina, Cullen still brings with him face-off ability (53% last season) and can play on both special teams units. An impending unrestricted free agent after this season, Cullen should be very attractive to a team like San Jose.
The Sharks do not currently have a third line center that the organization trusts given the lackluster performances from both Michal Handzus and Dominic Moore last season.
San Jose has the cap room ($5.5 million in space) to absorb Cullen’s $3.5M cap hit. and while they could wait until the deadline to inquire about Cullen but there is no question that the Sharks will be in the race. They know they need to improve their bottom six and doing it now would give Cullen more time to adjust to new teammates. The Sharks are not waiting till the half way point to see if they will be sellers or buyers, they are definitely buyers.
Minnesota on the other hand is in unfamiliar territory with their new acquisitions and if they are in the race come trade deadline, (which they should be) they will certainly be looking to add an impact forward. The cap space gained from moving out Cullen (who does have a limited NTC according to capgeek) would give them the financial flexibility to do exactly that.
The Detroit Red Wings might simply be on a downturn for the first time in years and it wouldn’t shock any to see Valtteri Filppula moved. If the Wild could nab him at the deadline, that would be a nice one-two punch at center with Mikko Koivu.
Filppula is also an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and currently comes with a manageable $3.0 M cap hit. Last season he put together a career year with 23 goals and 66 points for the Red Wings.
Unlike Cullen, Filppula is the type of player the Wild need in order to make a push in the playoffs. San Jose however, is already comfortable with the core they already have and are looking to add veteran pieces around it.
Cullen should fit in quite well with San Jose’s veteran group just like he did in Carolina’s run to the cup. Now what would the Sharks have to give up to acquire him? Considering it would be a move to alleviate cap room, a second or third round draft choice or equivalent prospect sounds about right.
From both sides, it’s a deal that would make a lot of sense.