The Minnesota Wild have made a last-minute trade, acquiring defenseman John Klingberg from the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks are receiving defenseman Andrej Sustr, a 2025 fourth-round pick, and the rights to 2019 sixth-round pick Nikita Nesterenko.
The Ducks are also retaining 50% of Klingberg’s $7MM cap hit. Sustr will report to the AHL’s San Diego Gulls, according to a team announcement. The Wild have sent Dakota Mermis to the AHL in a corresponding move.
Notable regarding Nesterenko is the fact that, per The Athletic’s Michael Russo, there “has been talk in recent weeks” that Nesterenko wasn’t planning on signing with the Wild upon the completion of his NCAA career.
While the Wild should undoubtedly be excited to add a player with such an extensive resume at such a minor cost, this trade serves as a stark reminder of just how far Klingberg’s stock has fallen from where it was just a year ago. A year ago, Klingberg was putting the finishing touches on a platform season he would finish with 47 points in 74 games. He was set to hit the free agent market as one of its top defenders and was widely expected to receive a pricey long-term pact from a defense-needy team.
That deal never materialized, though, leading to Klingberg’s one-year, $7MM deal with the Ducks. Implied with that signing was that the Ducks would explore trade possibilities for Klingberg, potentially receiving a significant compensation package were he to find success next to stars like Troy Terry and Trevor Zegras on the team’s power play. That success did not come, and Klingberg instead has had a nightmarish season in Anaheim.
Klingberg’s numbers have taken a major hit, as he has scored just 24 points in 50 games. His fit on their power play never quite clicked, and his overall perception leaguewide began to shift from “dynamic two-way contributor with an offensive bent” to “one-dimensional offensive defenseman with some defensive issues.” Fair or unfair, that shifting perception severely hurt Klingberg’s value, and can help explain why he net his team just a fourth-rounder and the rights to an NCAA prospect when just a year ago he earned a $7MM annual guarantee.
For the Ducks, this is a trade that is likely to be disappointing given what Klingberg likely would have returned were he healthy, although it’s still better than nothing as Klingberg was unlikely to be in their long-term plans anyway. They get to add another draft pick for their building process, a depth defender who played 23 games for them last season, and the rights to a prospect they’ll hope to be able to sign. For what it’s worth, the 21-year-old Nesterenko has produced quite well this season, scoring 11 goals and 30 points in 32 games for Boston College.
For the Wild, they add a talented puck-moving defenseman who just a year ago was considered a quality offensive defenseman. While his stock has undoubtedly declined, it’s easy to see him as an upgrade over the veteran offensive defenseman the team currently employs: Alex Goligoski. While this move may cut into the opportunities puck-moving rookie Calen Addison receives, it would not be a shock whatsoever for Klingberg to improve his form in Minnesota and help them secure a playoff spot.
While this trade won’t solve the Wild’s most glaring issue — a lack of quality top-six centers — it does give them a solid bounce-back candidate to work with and is overall a trade with a chance to pop.
The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun was first on the deal, while The Athletic’s Joe Smith was first on the trade details.