So what was positioned as the Tim Gleason sweepstakes just a few days ago may now evolve into the Marek Zidlicky sweepstakes, which is what happens when the calendar clicks over to February; 25 NHL teams still think they have a shot at making the playoffs; and almost everybody this side of the Toronto Maple Leafs is looking for help on defence.
Zidlicky is currently on the outs with his employer, the Minnesota Wild, where he was been a healthy scratch for three consecutive games and actually sought out the Minneapolis Tribune’s Mike Russo to communicate his dissatisfaction with how things are going in his career. The Wild, who were a sparkling 13-5-2-1 at U.S. Thanksgiving - tops in the NHL’s Western Conference - have slid back to the pack since then and didn’t get their post all-star schedule off to a great start either, losing 5-4 to the Nashville Predators Tuesday night.
Zidlicky should theoretically have value on the trade market - in a six-year span between 2003-04 and 2009-10, he was one of the more consistent offensive defencemen in the game and five times produced 40 or more points, solid numbers in this day and age. But Zidlicky played just 46 games last year and he has been injured off and on this year as well. In the meantime, a number of coach Mike Yeo’s protégés from AHL Houston have come up and won jobs at the NHL level this year, leaving Zidlicky on the outside looking in at the moment.
As recently as two years ago, Zidlicky averaged more than 24 minutes of playing time per night, which is how he came to earn a three-year, $12-million contract extension from the Wild. The numbers on the contract, and the fact that it runs for one additional year beyond this one, makes teams cautious about inquiring after a player who will celebrate his 35th birthday on Friday.
If teams believed Zidlicky were healthy, able to run a power play and capable of munching all those minutes, there would be a long line of suitors outside GM Chuck Fletcher’s door. For now, Yeo is planning to meet with Zidlicky and hash out their differences. Coming off a difficult loss to the Predators, which loosened the Wild’s hold on the last playoff spot even further, it might be a good time to get him back into Wild lineup, if for no other reason than to showcase his talents over the next month and provide some answers about his continued viability as an NHL player.