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GM Would Ya: Marek Zidlicky?

For the New York Islanders to step forward, they require both: (A) the patience they've exhibited with their younger assets and (B) the daring to seize opportunities to add established pros without violating (A). We've seen this with James Wisniewski and Brian Rolston (hmmm ... maybe this whole conversation ends now), as well as on lower yet more rewarding levels with Matt Moulson and P.A. Parenteau.

Could Marek Zidlicky fit the bill?

As noted (and discussed some in comments) in the Wednesday a.m. thread, Zidlicky has himself in a fix in Minnesota: First by being so surplus to needs that he was scratched three games in a row, then by airing his grievances to the press outside of Festivus season.

It's possible, though hardly likely, that the Wild could ask him to waive his no-trade clause and dump the final year of his contract. If that happens, should the Islanders inquire? There are a lot of factors in this thought exercise, so we'll take them one at a time.

Note: This is not a trade rumor, this is an exercise.

With the trade deadline approaching this is a good time to state our site's philosophy with regard to silly season: We don't troll in rumors. Feel free to discuss ones you see/hear in comments (with citation, please, so people can evaluate based on the dubious source), but we don't troll for traffic like some by pumping every rumor that comes across some poor sap's impotent synapse.

If you see a rumor published up front here, it's either purely for "Would you?" discussion purposes or because it came from such a respected source that it must be addressed. That is all.

To Zidlicky, or Not To Zidlicky

Okay, back to the question at hand:

Is Zidlicky available?

We don't know. If he is, that means Minnesota really soured on him quickly, which means he might be had at distressed market price. That's good. Of course when a team sours that quickly, that's also a red flag, like he lost his coach and team and is possibly in denial about his declining play. Buyer beware.

Ultimately Zidlicky's a decent defenseman and the Wild have playoff aspirations -- and his NTC reportedly lasts through the draft -- so the Wild should be patient and garner a non-hurried asset swap over the summer. Reportedly his talk with his coach after this drama "went well" ... in the coach's opinion.

Zidlicky is an offensive defenseman. Do the Islanders need that?

Yes. Well, no. Alright, maybe. They need better puck movers. They don't necessarily need ones that are question marks in their own zone. Their powerplay is actually doing fine without another true quarterback opposite Streit (and without, incidentally, Rolston). But overall, given the Islanders' thin depth at this position, it's hard to imagine Zidlicky wouldn't be an instant upgrade.

But his scoring has fallen off a cliff.

Well, true, but obviously there is a disconnect this year with new coach Mike Yeo. He's historically been close to a 40-point powerplay guy on some low-scoring teams. Just competently advancing the puck up ice might be progress for the Isles blueline. And Zidlicky thinks Yeo is misusing him this year:

"I played like 17, 18 minutes ice time, I play just third, fourth line, I stood on the blue line, I didn’t do anything what I did years before. He said everything I do with the puck and without the puck, it’s wrong. So I have a little different opinion."

Zidlicky said that since he doesn’t get out with top guys, he spends most his shifts in the defensive zone and "if you spend most time in our zone, you can’t do anything."

Some Wild fans are understandably unimpressed.

Via stats procured from the venerable and terrifying Gabe Desjardins: Zidlicky's O-zone starts are still highest on that team's blueline -- and in fact much higher than how he was used last year, when his O-zone start pct. was just 46%.

It's possible he has a point about his teammates: He might be lining up with lower-caliber guys. By Corsi he's fine, but again: Higher O-zone starts help that. Last year with lower O-zones, his Corsi was a good bit weaker, and in the negative.

Meanwhile, this season he's still logged 3:19 of PP time per game, tops among Wild D-men (second place: Islanders draft pick Jared Spurgeon) on a powerplay that's solidly in the lower third (15.2%) in the NHL.

He's also minus-10, lowest among Wild defensemen.

Yes, he is. Of course Mark Streit is minus-20, so...

...And Zidlicky's 34.

Yes, as is Streit. Which creates an interesting proposition, actually: Two 34-year-old offensive defensemen, in decline of unknown severity, entering the final year of their respective contracts in 2012-13 at roughly $4 million salaries (Streit's is actually $4.1 million).

That's a lot of money tied up in similar defensemen that might not provide what you want. But it's also low risk in remaining term and I mean if you can burn $5 million for the fumes of Rolston this year ... even with some raises for Frans Nielsen (hopefully) and John Tavares and P.A. Parenteau (hopefully) it wouldn't be a bank-breaking one-year trial.

But how much would the Wild want?

Well again, that's the point on which this exercise pivots. Even in the case of the Islanders' weak defense with four older veterans on expiring contracts, when all is equal you probably don't go after Zidlicky in a value-for-value trade. That risks finding you already had whatever Zidlicky will offer at age 35 in Matt Donovan or Dylan Reese or Calvin de Haan, etc. (Not trying to pump those prospects/AHLers by any means; just saying the risk is that Zidlickly's game has declined and his coach knows it but Zidlicky himself does not.)

But if you can take a Wisniewski-like flier -- if the Wild just want to be rid of him but few teams want to fit his $4 million cap hit this year and next -- well it's at least worth a call. It's surely an upgrade on what you have now, and might even be an upgrade on what you have next season.

Zidlicky still has his NTC and presumed choice of not moving, and the Wild likely still prefer to keep him. Regardless, for a team in the Islanders' position where external upgrades are hard to come by, this one is worth a call.