Brodziak is a free agent at the end of the season and will pose a fairly difficult decision for the Wild to make. Given his progression, he’s certainly due a raise on his $1.15 million he’ll make on this final year of his contract. The question is, would it be prudent for the Wild to extend him given what the Wild currently have on roster and coming up through the system?
When the Wild acquired Brodziak in the summer of ‘09 from Edmonton most all of us came away with the impression of ‘who?’ Once the smoke cleared the general consensus seemed to be that he was a fairly limited player who’d be a capable fourth line center and would see time on the penalty kill. Brodziak was a player who, then new coach, Todd Richards was familiar with given he coached Kyle in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton so most just went with what seemed to be a fairly minor transaction.
Fast forward three seasons later and Brodziak has progressed every season and had pushed Matt Cullen out of the role of number two center last season. A role Cullen was signed to fill. As this season begins with a new staff, Brodziak is back down to a role he's better suited for on the third line. While it’s extremely early in the year, it’d be hard to deny that Brodziak hasn’t been one of the more noticeable players on the ice for the Wild. Especially impressive considering this offseason seen a lot of roster turnover and many new faces to keep an eye on. Put simply, Kyle Brodziak has taken to the system head coach Mike Yeo is trying to instill and certainly seems confident and effective within it.
When looking ahead to the 2012-’13 Wild team, Koivu and Cullen are almost assuredly going to be around; for different reasons. Then add in the Finnish kid who’s seemingly toying with the FEL. By all accounts, the Wild will give every opportunity to Granlund to thrive once he steps foot on North American ice. Right there, that’s three centers leaving only one spot open. Cullen will then only have one year remaining on his deal but it’s hard to believe that he and his salary would be relegated to the 4th line. Not to mention the center/wing top 9 prospects all on the horizon such as Coyle, Larsson, and Phillips; amongst others in Houston who are likely capable of playing 4th line center roles.
Would it really be in the team's best interest to have a re-signed (and likely more expensive) Brodziak filling a fourth line role in addition to his PK duties? As much as I’m conflicted about seeing the team part ways, I believe it would best in the long run and give the team more flexibility moving forward. As we seen this week, the Wild lucked out getting Dallas to take Nystrom’s mistaken contract off their hands. Paying a player who eventually/will see limited time isn’t something that should be replicated.
I believe Fletcher’s plan going into the year was to cut ties one way or another with Brodziak. I view the trade for Powe to seal the fate of Brodziak and I do expect him to be moved as the deadline nears. Long story short, I don’t view this team as legitimate playoff threat. But they’re close and should be building for those imminent years ahead. This would involve the team moving Brodziak for solid, albeit not very significant, piece. What could they expect? Chris Kelly netted Ottawa a second round pick from Boston last season. Hell, the Wild got a second for Eric Belanger. Teams with playoff aspirations are always in need of centers like Brodziak as they can contribute up and down the line-up if needed, hold their own at the dot, and be an effective, go-to penalty killer.
The Wild will eventually need players like Kyle Brodziak and while he’s been a surprise and pleasure to watch here in Minnesota, this franchise is just not at that level where it's vital to keep him around. Given the early returns on recent Wild second round picks in addition to the current perceived strength of the 2012 draft, the Wild could do well with that type of selection added to currently ascending prospect pool and franchise.