NHL trade grades: Wild squeeze Ducks for little return in John Klingberg deal

The trade

Want to get: Defenseman John Klingberg (50 percent of salary retained by Ducks)

Ducks get: Fourth round pick in 2025, Andrej Sustr and Nikita Nesterenko

Corey Pronman: Once considered a premier defenseman, the ceiling has come down quickly on Klingberg’s value around the league. He was only able to secure a one-year, $7 million contract this summer with Anaheim, and was now traded at the deadline for a very small return. Klingberg has excellent skill and offensive creativity. However, his defensive play has historically been an issue and limits his even-strength value due to his good skating and below-average competitive level.

The offense hasn’t been there this season as much as in years past to compensate. He’s a good player, just one that needs to be used in a special way now, unlike the former 23+ minutes per night guy he was in Dallas at one point.

Nesterenko is a skilled college player with good hockey sense. He is a good prospect. He is an average skater and competes well enough. However, I wouldn’t say he stands out in any major areas and is more of a “has a chance to do it” type of prospect. It is believed that he did not sign with the Wild and could become a free agent this summer if he chooses.

This feels like the Wild squeezed Anaheim at the 11th hour after the market for Klingberg wasn’t there.

Wild character: A-
Duck’s character:C

Dom Luszczyszyn: Before this season, the highest expected goals against per 60 by a defender was 3.36 by Arizona’s Janis Moser last season. The highest expected goals per 60 by a forward was 3.66 by Auston Matthews last year.

Context is necessary to understand how many chances against John Klingberg have been on the ice this season: 4.15 expected goals against per 60. He has a 0.8 expected goals against worse than the previous all-time worst. He’s half an expected goal worse than if a team faced Hart Trophy-level Matthews every shift. He has been that bad for Anaheim, and it’s a continuation from last season where he obviously fell out of favor in Dallas.

Add a significant reduction in offense to the equation plus a big hit, and it’s easy to see why the Ducks couldn’t get much for Klingberg’s services. Within a year, he became a toxic asset, a player who hurts the team’s chances of winning rather than helping. An extremely risky goal.

But if there was any team that could potentially make a Klingberg trade work, it’s the perennially stingy Wild, a defensive factory that could give Klingberg the support and structure necessary to iron out his warts. Klingberg may be one of the league’s worst defensive defenders now, but it will be much harder to spot alongside a skilled defender. The Wild have some of those ready and could give Klingberg the perfect place to find his game.

One of Minnesota’s biggest needs was a puck-mover from the backend — someone the Wild could count on. The Wild have the league’s 10th-best power play, but have little faith in defenseman Calen Addison outside of that role. Klingberg – in a very sheltered role – could be a much-needed improvement in both facets: On the power play and as a five-on-five puck mover. Despite the warts, Klingberg can still move the puck well and in Minnesota should have a lot more help to do so safely.

The move is not without risk – Klingberg has been bad this season — but the upside is clear given Klingberg’s pedigree and Minnesota’s needs. Considering what he has been through in recent years, it is not possible to get back into the right environment. Minnesota feels like the right environment.

Wild character: B+
Duck’s character: B

(Photo: Rick Osentoski / USA Today)

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