Hankinson addresses Bjugstad trade rumors

A handful of players around the National Hockey League always seem to find themselves in trade rumors, and Nick Bjugstad has been among them in the last few years.  

The chances of the 25-year-old Florida Panthers forward actually being dealt may be slim though.

Agent Ben Hankinson had a conversation July 8 with The Athletic’s Michael Russo on Minneapolis/St. Paul’s KFAN, and alluded to as much when asked about the continual trade chatter surrounding his client.

“I’m pretty close with their GM, Dale Tallon, who’s a big Nick Bjugstad fan,” indicated Hankinson. “Even the last couple of years hasn’t been, numbers-wise, as productive for him so there was a lot of talk. A couple of years ago too. And it’s the same teams - Montreal, Pittsburgh was looking, the Wild have always been in the mix. So every time I go to Dale, he says, ‘Not a chance, Hank. There’s not a chance we’re trading him. I love him.’

“And he struggled through a couple of years where he was banged up a little bit. Last year he had a good year, he scored 49 points - 19 goals. He played in every game, and he had a really good year.

“No player is untouchable. If he gets the right deal, don’t get me wrong, he’d trade Nick Bjugstad. But the price has gone up. I think there may be some truth to it that the Wild would be interested. Obviously someone would have to go the other way. The Wild does not have many right-shot wingers. They’ve got a lot of lefties. The left side and the centers are pretty much all lefties. And then you’ve got Granlund, who’s a left shot playing the right side. Niederreiter a left shot playing the right side. They just picked up Brown. Really Coyle is probably the only right-shot, right wing there. Who knows, maybe Coyle goes back the other way. I don’t know.

“But I don’t think there’s any truth to it because I don’t think Dale Tallon will pull the trigger, unless it’s a real favorable deal coming back.

“You know what? It could be the Wild. They have some guys that he’d probably like to tinker with, I’m sure.”

Russo asked for clarification on Bjugstad as a winger.

“Well, they put him at wing all last year,” replied Hankinson. “The year before he’s a center. Now they said he’s a winger.”

And where does Bjugstad himself want to play?

“I’m thinking wing, but you know what,” noted Hankinson, “As a second or third-line center he would be pretty damn good.”

One common refrain concerning Bjugstad is that there can be another level to which he can rise on the ice.

“Yeah, there is,” agreed Hankinson. “And you know why? For the same reason Michael Russo said that he’s so nice. He’s so nice still. Not to a negative, but it is a little bit. He doesn’t know what a monster he can be. He covers so much ice. He can shoot the puck. It sounds bad, but there’s another level of confidence that he’s going to peel open…

“He finally told me… he didn’t say it this way, but, ‘I am pretty good.’

“He never thinks he’s that good.”

As the portion of the Bjugstad segment wound down, Hankinson mentioned Bjugstad needing to opt to shoot first more often, which would be best for the team.

“He’s going to score 20 this year, if he stays healthy, at least,” asserted Hankinson. “He’s starting to now realize going on the ice thinking, ‘No one can mess with me. I’m 6’6. I don’t have to fight anyone if I don’t want to, but I can be a little bit of a nasty force out there if I need to.’”  

Bjugstad has three seasons remaining on his contract, which comes with a $4.1 million cap hit.

The final year of his pact includes a modified no-trade clause, and he’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent in 2021.