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From The Point: The Gabbo conundrum

Marian Gaborik could be on his way out of Minnesota if he doesn't agree to a contract extension. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Marian Gaborik could be on his way out of Minnesota if he doesn't agree to a contract extension. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NHLI via Getty Images)

That didn’t take long.

With Minnesota sniper Marian Gaborik eligible for unrestricted free agency in July, the Wild has been concerned about re-signing its franchise face and the early rumblings aren’t encouraging.

There are reports out of Minnesota suggesting Gaborik is being shopped around the league by GM Doug Risebrough. (“Anyone need a 40-goal scorer? … Uh, yes, of course he’s healthy…”) It may be a bluff – Risebrough might just be trying to convince Gaborik that he’s serious – or, more likely, it could be the beginning of the end for Gaborik’s Wild days.

The franchise’s first-ever draft pick, third overall in 2000, Gaborik is one of the NHL’s most electrifying players when healthy. In 77 games last season, he scored 42 goals and 83 points. He scored 30 times in 48 games in ’06-07 and 38 times in 65 games in ’05-06. At age 26, he has another 400 goals or so left in him, assuming he sticks around for another decade. And that’s a lot of offense for the Wild to lose, considering Minnesota’s love affair with low-scoring, one-goal games.

But losing Gaborik wouldn’t be a deathblow for the Wild. For starters, by being proactive and jumping on the trade train early, Risebrough is ensuring the market will work itself into a frenzy. Every team in the league could use a Gaborik; now, it’ll depend on which club comes up with the most attractive package of players, prospects and draft picks.

Secondly, the Wild is pretty used to playing without its best player. Gaborik has missed nearly a season’s worth of games in the past four NHL campaigns; yet, Minnesota has qualified for the playoffs the past two years – and three times in seven seasons since joining the NHL in 2000-01. That’s pretty darn good for an expansion club in a 30-team league.

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With Jacques Lemaire behind the bench and Minnesota’s defensive ways firmly entrenched, the Wild isn’t in desperate need of Gaborik’s offense. (Having the explosive right winger in the lineup helps, but, as everyone knows, Minnesota wins with defense.) The Atlanta Thrashers may be a completely different team depending on whether Ilya Kovalchuk is playing, but the Wild plays the same game regardless of Gaborik’s status.

It’s important to remember the axiom that states the team that gets the best player in the trade, wins the trade. From that perspective, the Wild can’t win. But Minnesota should be able to minimize the damage by landing a couple of players who can help out immediately, as well as a prospect and/or a pick that could be a boon down the road.

It’s not ideal, but it’s better than losing Gaborik for nothing.

Sam McCaig’s From The Point column appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Have a point to make with Sam McCaig? You can reach him at smccaig@thehockeynews.com.

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