Mired in a season-long slump, the veteran defender has battled injuries and diminishing playing time during his eighth year. Desperate for a change, Minnesota Wild head coach Mike Yeo decided to bench his top offensive defender in favor of younger, hungrier players. Tonight will mark the third consecutive game that he has sat in the press box, and he clearly is not happy with the move.
“I think three games healthy scratch, it’s more than just like a healthy scratch. [Yeo’s] put me in this position that I am in right now. It’s not easy for me,” Zidlicky explained to Michael Russo of The Star Tribune.
When a veteran player voices their displeasure with the team's philosophy, a change likely happens. And with the Wild currently clawing away at a playoff berth, they simply cannot afford distractions or setbacks. Not with only 33 games remaining.
Shortly after speaking with Russo, Zidlicky began a lengthy meeting with GM Chuck Fletcher, which we can only assume went over his future with the team. If the Wild cannot use the crafty defender, another team surely can. Furthermore, keeping your most expensive defenseman in the press box is to no one's benefit.
At 34-years-old, Zidlicky is currently in his fourth year with the Wild with his contract running through 2013 at a $4 million cap hit. His prorated cap hit for the remainder of the season is roughly $1.5 million which is reasonable enough for basically all 29 teams to afford. However, the additional season on his contract will likely shorten his list of suitors.
Someone willing to take on Zidlicky has to, honestly, be desperate for some help on the back end. Not only would that team need a number one puck-mover but that team would probably need a gigantic facelift on the man advantage.
Contenders lacking a solid power play include the St. Louis Blues, Dallas Stars, New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils. Of those five teams, none lack a puck mover and none hold a lack of offensive defensemen. Moreover, none of these younger teams would need dead weight on their salary cap for next season should Zidlicky's slump continue.
Expect Fletcher to ship Zidlicky off to the highest bidder. Still, that market should be relatively small when you consider concerns over his age and his current results. As Russo mentioned in his piece, a talented defender with a big shot will always be coveted but don't expect Fletcher's phone to ring off the hook.
This sudden unhappiness has added yet another intriguing name to the trade market as the hot stove continues to churn. By the same token, his trade value could not be lower, making a trade less-than-imminent.
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