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  • NHL's Salary Cap News Devastating For Wild

    Carlton Bloom

    Not even two months ago, in October 2022, things were looking up for the Minnesota Wild's salary cap picture. Sure, the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts were still going to tank $14.75 million of their cap. But at least the $2 million rise in buyout penalties (they were $12.75 this year) was supposed to be offset by a rising salary cap.


    On Oct. 18, Gary Bettman announced that the NHL's cap would rise by $4 million, that is, up to $86.5 million, if the NHL hit their projected revenue targets. As always, people got excited about this speculated growth, and as always, the league didn't come through.


    At the recent Board of Governors meeting, Bettman announced that the salary cap would only rise by $1 million next season, up to $83.5 million. This is despite the league raking in $5.4 billion in revenues last year, sticking the players with the bill for lost profits during COVID, and a slew of aesthetically-displeasing cash grabs like wonky digital board advertisements and jersey ads.


    If this projection holds, that's not ideal for most teams, all of whom are pressed against the cap. None of those teams have anywhere near Minnesota's cap penalties, though, making them the hardest hit of all by the news.


    Counting the dead cap hit, the Wild have 13 players under contract for next season, taking up $68 million of the salary cap. That means an $83.5 limit leaves just $15.5 million for Minnesota to work with to sign eight players onto their roster.


    While that's about $2 million per roster spot, that money is going to go fast. First of all, the Wild are going to need to sign Matt Boldy, who has 26 goals and 60 points in 75 games, after this season. Signing Boldy to a short-term deal shouldn't be much of an issue. They'll just pay him the going rate on a bridge deal and move on.


    But any hopes of signing him long-term probably went out the window. That extra $3 million a year might have caused him to forgo an opportunity to strike it rich in two-to-three years, when revenues rebound back to normal. Without it? No way. Something like an $8 million AAV on a long-term Boldy deal leaves the Wild with just $7.5 million for seven roster spots.


    It also doesn't help much for flexibility in returning new contracts. If Calen Addison hits near the 45-point pace he's on, he can demand a significant bump in salary. Filip Gustavsson has a .920 save percentage in a backup role, giving him a chance to get a raise as well. Pending UFA Freddy Gaudreau has more value to the Wild, Dean Evason specifically, than to other teams, leading them to potentially pay more than his bargain $1.2 million AAV.


    Then you get into the Mason Shaw, Brandon Duhaime, and Sam Steel types. These might not be expensive contracts, but when you're this close against the cap, even the difference between $900K and $1.4 million is a noticeable chunk of their flexibility.


    Wild fans can probably forget about a long-term trade or free agency, too. A salary like Brock Boeser's $6.4 million AAV might have been workable under an $86.5 million cap. It's not under $83.5. Even in diminished states, big-name centers like Jonathan Toews and Ryan O'Reilly will price themselves out of the Wild's range.


    And if you're looking at UFA center options like Detroit's Dylan Larkin (27 points in 27 games) or Bo Horvat (on pace for 59 goals with 20 in 28)? You have a better chance of getting Taylor Swift tickets below face value than the Wild have of getting them.


    So, yeah, bad news. Better salary cap luck next year for the Wild.

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