The Wild offseason has been slow when it comes to news in the first couple of months, but that could change in a big way next week.
With the NHL Draft coming up in Nashville, that’s when there’s typically a lot of action — remember last year, with the surprising Filip Gustavsson/Cam Talbot trade?
GM Bill Guerin is closing in on an assistant coaching hire and will have to weigh decisions on potential deals. Will Calen Addison get moved? Could the first key domino in their summer be a Gustavsson signing?
For the first of a two-part Wild mailbag, Michael Russo and Joe Smith tackled a lot of your offseason, big-picture, roster questions in this one. Another mailbag, coming early next week, will focus more on the draft.
Is Marco Rossi, Calen Addison and a first-round pick for Logan Cooley a good hockey trade? Rossi wants to play in the NHL now. If Cooley is getting cold feet to play in Arizona, it’s hard to see them getting back another center with max cost and term control. – John V.
First, let’s hold our horses that a freshman in college is getting cold feet about signing in Arizona. The Coyotes have three more years of control. It made all the sense in the world for him to return, especially because of the turbulence and uncertain future right now there. But that doesn’t mean they’d trade him. He’s their best prospect and at least a top-six center, an area of weakness for Arizona for two decades (sound familiar?).
Now, you are right that if the Wild were ever to cut the cord on Rossi, Arizona makes sense if his junior coach, Andre Tourigny, is still coaching there. As of now, we feel it’s highly unlikely Rossi is traded next week. Things change, but that’s reading the tea leaves for now.
What should we expect the Wild to do with Calen Addison? Will they move him during the draft and what would you expect the return value to be? – Jordan R.
There’s a definite chance Addison is dealt, but we do wonder if it makes sense. He’s still a young defenseman who can run the power play, and fair or not, because there were injuries to players like Kirill Kaprizov, the power play took a step back when he began his string of healthy scratches. Why move him unless it’s something of substance? His value can’t be the highest right now, plus one would think that the Wild took care of him making a ton on a new contract by sitting him so much. It’ll be interesting what happens next week.
The Wild are sort of in a holding pattern until they see how much Gustavsson costs, but the fact that Brandon Duhaime isn’t signed yet, despite trying to get a deal done, could make him vulnerable to a trade. We are starting to get the impression that despite the stress of not playing a bunch last season that Alex Goligoski wants to return to the Wild. And if that’s the case, he’s not going anywhere since he has a full no-move clause.
There’s little doubt they’d be open to trading Jon Merrill. We still would be shocked if they traded Marcus Foligno, but he’s entering the last year of his deal and one would think would attract a lot of interest Guerin were willing to move him. We’re also taking Marc-Andre Fleury at his word at the end of the season that he only wants to play in Minnesota. Obviously, things change with time, but we have no indication as of now that it has.
With Brock Boeser still being linked to the Wild and chatter of Addison, and potentially Foligno being shopped, is that a realistic trade with the Canucks? – Timothy S.
Boeser is not currently being shopped, per multiple sources to Pierre LeBrun and Michael Russo. As of now, we have no indication that Foligno is being shopped. And unless a big salaried player is sent the other way, the Wild cannot afford Boeser … now.
Rossi and a mid-round pick to Ottawa for Alex DeBrincat? – Dylan M.
Incredible trade for Minnesota. Love it, but the Wild have NO money. So this is our answer for all the Elias Lindholm, Mark Scheifele, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Noah Hanifin questions, too. This will be our answer for the next year or two. If you wonder if the Wild are interested in a player, they probably are but can’t really add anybody unless it’s dollar for dollar at least this offseason. We’ll see how much the cap goes up next year. But right now, it’s $1 million this year and that makes every move incredibly tight and difficult to achieve, because the guys making big money on Minnesota either have no-moves or are players they don’t want to move.
With Phil Housley getting hired with the Rangers, how close is Guerin to filling his empty assistant coaching slot? And why does it need to be John Hynes? – Derek J.
We are starting to get the impression that they are close with somebody. We don’t think it’s available guys like Mike Van Ryn, Dan Bylsma, Todd Nelson or John Torchetti. Hynes makes sense because he and Guerin are close from Wilkes-Barre, but Hynes is still getting paid and likely would prefer to wait to see if he can come out of the bullpen if there’s an NHL head coaching position next season. Kirk Muller is an interesting name that has reverberated in our heads, and as we reported, we hear Dean Evason is close with Blaine Forsythe from their time together in Washington.
New alternate jersey coming still? Would they release at State Fair? – Alex H.
Yes, the Wild are expected to take their green Reverse Retros, tweak them slightly and adopt them as their third jersey next season. Russo would love to see them add some black trim like the North Stars, but we don’t have steam on that. It’s logical to guess a release at the State Fair since the Wild have used that as a platform for jersey launches in the past. But we’re heading some time in September.
Where is Kirill Kaprizov spending the offseason? If it’s in Russia, are there concerns getting him back here? – Jim H.
He wisely chose to stay in North America this summer but has been vacationing in some spots overseas where he’s able to get into. There are still a lot of travel restrictions for Russian citizens due to the war with Ukraine. For instance, at least as of last month, it didn’t look like he was going to be permitted into Norway to play in Mats Zuccarello’s giant NHL all-star affair later this summer.
Is Rossi going to get an actual opportunity next year? – Elias J.
The Wild are going to give Rossi every chance to make the team out of camp, and it’s up to him to prove he’s ready. The prized prospect embraced the team’s suggestion to train in Minnesota over the summer. And Rossi is determined to be a full-time NHLer, believing he regained his confidence in AHL Iowa and at the World Championships.
Now, you’re right, it’d be important to give Rossi some looks in the top-six, some power-play time, as long as he earns it. He has the ability to play in the bottom-six because of his defensive acumen, but it’s hard to expect much scoring from Rossi if he’s on the fourth line. Either Rossi or someone else would have to move to wing, however, since Ryan Hartman, Joel Eriksson Ek and Freddy Gaudreau are their top three centers.
Would a one-year contract for Gustavsson be a disappointment? It seems like there could be positives. – Jonathan T.
We’re with you. And this could be part of the issue. The Wild would love to sign him for three years. But a three-year bridge deal buys out one of his UFA years, so that would up the cost significantly. But Minnesota probably doesn’t want to go two years, because that brings him to UFA. So, one year may be the eventual deal because it punts this down the road until next summer. It gets Gustavsson under contract for one year, allowing Gustavsson to bet on himself, and buys some time for the Wild to see if he’s for real.
It also gives Jesper Wallstedt another year in Iowa to develop. By next summer, the cap could rise significantly once the players fully erase the escrow reimbursement to the owners. So, at the end of the day, maybe they either sign him for one year or elect for arbitration before an eventual one-year award or the possibility of negotiating a contract before the decided-upon arbitration hearing.
If Gustavsson’s camp ends up being less flexible than they’ve implied they plan to be, would the Wild consider putting word on the street, either formally or informally, that offer sheet season has arrived? See if anyone wants to pony up a compensatory pick to see if this year was a fluke? The Wild could then use the cap space set aside for Gustavsson to rent Marc-Andre Fleury a backup. – Nate D.
We see what you’re saying, but for point of clarity, it’s always the player who goes the offer sheet route, not the team. And so far, agent Kurt Overhardt has given us no indication he’s thinking of going that route and, let’s be honest, in a league in which offer sheets are a rarity, even though the Wild are vulnerable right now, if you’re another team, are you doing that with Gustavsson? Just seems implausible.
There are more established goalies on the market currently, including Connor Hellebuyck, John Gibson, Carter Hart and Mackenzie Blackwood. There’s free agents like Adin Hill, Frederik Andersen and Tristan Jarry. But you’re not necessarily wrong that if worst came to worst and he signed an offer sheet, or the Wild were forced to trade him, there would be plenty of options depending on the timing of all of this. The deeper you get into July, the fewer quality goaltenders will be sitting there for the taking.
How different is this team if Guerin was able to finalize that Zach Parise trade at the 2020 deadline to the Islanders? Would we have seen Bill taking swings on guys with longer term like Brock Boeser, J.T. Miller, Jack Eichel, etc.? – Scott R.
It’s a terrific question. The team would obviously have more than $7 million to play with, but at the time, Parise didn’t look like a guy who was going to play out the rest of his 13-year contract, and still may not, with two years left. If they had traded him, that would have triggered cap recapture and if the Islanders eventually bought him out or he retired early, the Wild would be at the cap and would have to react immediately by trading significant players in order to get cap compliant.
So, the trade was risky. Remember, Guerin chose the buyout route a year later because at a minimum, it gives them cost certainty. He knows what their cap number is now rather than always being at the mercy of one or both Parise and Ryan Suter retiring prematurely and then getting dinged dramatically.
With hindsight, what is your view of the proposed Eichel/Wild trades? Would the Wild be in better position for the future today if they had said yes to the Sabres’ asks? – Connor B.
Well, of course, the Wild would be much better with Eichel. That’s a no-brainer. But it’s important to remember — and fair to wonder — what Minnesota could have offered that would have beaten Vegas’ package, which included Alex Tuch. It doesn’t sound like the Sabres were interested in Kevin Fiala, who would have been a year away from being a UFA and with no chance would have re-signed there.
Rossi wouldn’t have got it done. Unless they moved Matt Boldy, it’s hard to think Vegas would have picked Minnesota’s offer over Vegas’, because they wanted a young NHLer with games under his belt. Tuch was the perfect guy, a talented, young New Yorker who wanted to buy into the Sabres long-term. Too bad the Wild never had a player like Tuch (sorry).
I know everybody’s figuring that it’s going to be two more years before the buyout pain is over. I see it as more of a one-year window. The cap could go up as much as $4 million, plus there’s substantial money coming off the books with Fleury, Goligoski, Foligno and Mats Zuccarello. Shouldn’t that provide enough space to go out and make a big move to acquire an established center? The Wild should have substantial draft capitol and prospects to make that work, in my mind. I get you might have to re-sign a Zuccarello to appease Kaprizov, but it won’t be at $6 million per year. – Bill P.
The Wild will have the potential for a lot more flexibility next summer, assuming the cap goes up to $87.5 million for 2024-25 (then $92 million for 2025-26). And it will be the last year for Fleury and Goligoski in Minnesota. Foligno and Zuccarello will be interesting cases, because if they’re not going to be re-signed, they could be attractive trade chips at the deadline, depending on how the Wild season goes. And, we think, Minnesota would at least try to re-sign Zuccarello at a lower number. But if you take all those guys off the roster, you still have to pay to replace them. Hartman, currently the No. 1 center, will be due for a new contract by then, too.
Who gets the “A” with Matt Dumba gone? – Lizzy C.
It’s not official, but it’s more than likely that Dumba has played his last game with the Wild. One of the biggest things the team will miss is that he’s such a big vocal leader, an energizer in the room. There are a few quality candidates to join Foligno as the other “A,” but we think the best option could be Eriksson Ek. He’s a heart and soul kind of player, their best overall center, a guy signed long-term, and someone the entire group respects.
He’s coming off back-to-back career years, with his importance to the team very evident with his absence in the first round loss to Dallas. Eriksson Ek isn’t as vocal as Dumba, so that role would have to be by committee. Kaprizov is another option, as he’s their best player and strong lead-by-example type. Zuccarello has the cache, too.
Is a Zuccarello extension to lower his cap hit a possibility (or even legal)? – Caleb H.
Yes, when a player is entering the last year of his contract, that player can be extended after July 1 at any price. You just can’t restructure contracts in the NHL like you can in the NFL. Right now, it seems likely to wait to extend Zuccarello to see how he performs next season, considering he seemed to take a step back in the second half last season — although he was at least playing with a groin injury late in the season.
With the warm-weather markets being so competitive the last handful of years, are traditional markets like Minnesota (cold, northern climate) still premier destinations for star players to sign? It’s hard to beat making millions of dollars playing hockey, while being able to spend your off day at the beach. – Loganation T.
This has less to do with the beach and more to do with taxes. We get that you don’t want to cry for the players, but it’s reality that places like Florida, Texas, Nevada and Washington don’t have a state income tax. There’s a reason also why lots of players with no-trades put Canadian teams on there. Between taxes, escrow, etc., players can lose 55 percent of their salaries north of the border.
Is there any chance OEL would take a deal cheap enough to join the Wild? I feel like protected minutes (with Brock Faber maybe?) and lots of power-play time could vault him back to a payday next year. Obviously, we’re talking near league min, but do you think the Wild will pursue and/or have a chance? – Nameless.
It would make sense if it’s that cheap and if maybe they traded Merrill, but OEL’s game has taken a big-time step back the last number of years. Erik Johnson is another interesting name, too, because him being a right-shot and his physicality is what they need, but we always get the impression that Johnson would rather play other places than with his hometown team and one of his biggest rivals for years. By the way, the same may be said for Blake Wheeler. He could have signed with Minnesota earlier in his career and he chose not to. And he lives in South Florida.
Assuming Arizona is relocated, Mike and Joe, where would you choose as the best place for them to relocate to? – Brett G.
They’d go to Salt Lake City. That’s clearly the backup plan. If you’re asking where I’d choose, I’d go with the Maui Coyotes so I can relocate to cover them. – Russo.
Make that Kauai and call it a deal. Actually, I’d love to cover them in Alaska. — Smith
Had the team won the Stanley Cup this year, what do you think the order of the Cup passing would be after Jared Spurgeon? – Zachary S.
This is a really cool, original question. My gut? Jonas Brodin. Spurgeon arrived in 2010. Brodin was drafted in 2011 and has been through it all with Brodin. – Russo
Brodin is a great call. My guess would be Dumba, another one of the longest-tenured Wild players, an alternate captain and vocal leader in the room. Plus, it would have been a perfect swan song, a goodbye to a veteran in his final game with Minnesota. — Smith
Michael and Joe, when you finish a story, what do you do to celebrate? Take a drink or light a cigar? – Jeff S.
Funny enough, we wrote this from Russo’s cigar club over cigars and … bottled waters.
(Photo of Filip Gustavsson: Jerome Miron / USA Today)