It wasn't you, Tyson Jost; it was the Minnesota Wild. Bill Guerin made a move last year to bring Jost aboard from the Colorado Avalanche, hoping to rehabilitate the former 10th-overall pick. Instead, the experiment lasted eight months. Minnesota waived Jost on Friday afternoon.
The thinking at the time of the trade was that Jost never got a proper shot in Denver. Instead of getting some run with wingers like Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog, or Andre Burakovsky, they pigeonholed the college goal-scorer into a Bottom-6 role. With competition wide open for the Wild, preparing for a post-Kevin Fiala world, maybe Jost would find his place in Minnesota. Maybe he will somewhere else.
But waiving Jost does more than allow him and the team a chance to move on. It also helps Minnesota get back some valuable cap space. If someone claims Jost, they'll take on his $2 million freight. If not, the Wild still will clear a little more than $1 million off their books.
Why do this now, instead of waiting to see if Jost turns it around? For one, it's to maximize dollars. Every day Jost is on the roster, his pro-rated cap hit takes a small chunk out of the salary cap. Those chunks add up, so the sooner Minnesota moves on, the more money they'll have to spend.
The other reason? What if Minnesota is tired of waiting for the team to turn around? Remember, Guerin was rumored to be shopping for a forward in the pre-season until Jost, Marco Rossi, and Sam Steel all impressed in the preseason. Combined, that trio has two goals and seven points in 45 combined games. All on a team ranked in the league's Bottom-5 for goals scored per hour.
Minnesota's projected to have about $2.6 million in cap space today. After Jost is claimed or clears waivers, that'll boost up to about $3.6-$4.6 million. That's not a lot of money, except that no one in the league has any cap room. Only six teams will have more cap space than Minnesota come tomorrow. What's more, of those teams, only two, the Detroit Red Wings and New York Islanders, hold a playoff spot.
So of the teams looking to make the playoffs, Minnesota's sitting pretty. The only question now is: Who's not? And of those teams, who can the Wild acquire for help?
Let's start here: Who's out of it to the point where they can realistically begin packing it in at this point? If we're going to go by teams that are four points or more out of a playoff spot, we've got a list of six teams at the moment. Those are the Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres, Columbus Blue Jackets, Ottawa Senators, and Vancouver Canucks.
Generally, teams in that situation seek to offload pending UFAs (or shorter-term assets), which are likely not part of that team's core going forward. As for Minnesota's side, they're going to have to do some finessing to fit in anyone over $3.6-4.6 million.
So, who are the players that fit the bill?
ANA - Adam Henrique, 32 years old, center, two years, $5.825M AAV
ANA - Jakob Silfverberg, 32, wing, two years, $5.25M
ARI - Nick Ritchie, 26, left wing, one year, $2.5M
BUF - Victor Olofsson, 27, wing, two years, $4.75M
CBJ - Gustav Nyquist, 33, right wing, one year, $5.5M
CBJ - Jack Roslovic, 25, center, two years, $4M
OTT - Alex DeBrincat, 24, wing, one year, $6.4M
VAN - Bo Horvat, 27, center, one year, $5.5M
Should the Wild have any interest in these players?
If they wanted Ritchie, they certainly could have had him any time in the past three years or so. Ritchie's off to a hot shooting start which is bound to cool down, but he's got five straight 20-point seasons under his belt and is 6'2", 230 lbs. If the Wild try to double down on grit, they can make this move. In the grand picture, though, it's probably the one that should be the lowest priority for them.
Nyquist and Olofsson are also on the list. Minnesota could use winger depth at the moment, but what about when Ryan Hartman and Jordan Greenway return? Once that happens, neither player really checks off boxes Minnesota doesn't already have. Both are left-shot wingers who drive offense and aren't especially good defensively. Silfverberg offers a right-shot option but is very unremarkable offensively. No thanks there, either.
But could Roslovic do anything for the Wild? He's a center with a strong offensive season last year. Roslovic not only drove offense on the Blue Jackets but also finished the year with 2.23 points per hour at 5-on-5. That ranked 76th among forwards last year, ahead of players like Kyle Connor, Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby, and Andrei Svechnikov. Add in the fact that he's a right shot, and he might be able to stabilize the top of the lineup, even if his defense isn't pretty.
Henrique could also do the same thing, albeit as an older and more expensive player. But credit where it's due; he's a legit Top-6 center who can take on first-line minutes, drive offense, and win faceoffs -- if that does anything for you. Maybe you don't love that he's a left-shot, but he scored at a 27-goal, 59-point pace on a dreadful Anaheim Ducks team last year. That's nothing to sneeze at.
But if Minnesota wants to go all-in, Horvat and DeBrincat are the targets of these definitely-out-of-it teams. 10K Rinks' Kalisha Townsell looked at what Horvat could do for Minnesota, and as a goal-scoring center, that's an obvious fit.
What about DeBrincat, whose definitely a winger?
Well, if Minnesota couldn't replace Fiala internally, why not make a run to do it externally? DeBrincat's had a slow start in Ottawa, shooting 8%, but he still has five goals and 14 points in 16 games. He's also one of the best offense-generators in the NHL, pushing the pace even on awful offensive teams. Sounds like what the doctor ordered for Minnesota, no?
He also puts up the kind of individual scoring numbers that can take the sole focus of opponents off Kaprizov. Since the start of the 2020-21 season, DeBrincat is 18th among forwards with 1.51 goals per hour and 53rd with 2.87 points per hour. His presence would give Minnesota the same pick-your-poison choice defenses had against the Wild last year.
Of course, there are roadblocks to getting Horvat's, DeBrincat's, or anyone's help. Even with cap space, a player that moves the needle will probably come at a cost in draft or prospect capital. Outside factors, like, say, Ottawa looking to sell their team, might also cloud the picture.
But other options may arise, too, as more teams start falling out of the picture. And when they do, waiving Jost might be the small move that makes an impact move for Minnesota possible.
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