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  • Sammy Walker Is In Iowa Due To Forces Out Of His Control

    Image courtesy of © Margaret Kispert-USA TODAY Sports
    Justin Wiggins


    Life isn’t fair, son.

    Oh, my skin crawls just typing that out. It’s what my father used to tell me growing up when something didn’t go my way. It used to tick me off so much. To be honest, it still does. But at least now I understand our parents were 100% right. Life isn’t fair sometimes, and you just have to get used to it.

    Doesn’t mean we can’t still complain about it when life smacks us across the face. For instance, nobody could blame Sammy Walker if he felt that way following his strong training camp and then demotion to Iowa to start the season in the AHL.

    But that’s life as a pro. Walker followed up his stellar rookie season in Iowa last season with a really strong camp. He had checked nearly all the boxes when it came to deciding if he was NHL ready. Walker's speed was noticeable as usual, but his playmaking ability and scoring touch were evident too. The only box that wasn’t checked? His contract.

    Due to their heavy cap restrictions, Walker’s $855,000 salary just didn’t fit within the Wild’s cap space. He wasn’t alone in this regard. Vinni Lettieri and Jujhar Khaira joined him in Iowa with a few roster spots still available in St. Paul. But Walker’s situation is particularly unique, given what he loses due to a demotion almost completely out of his control.

    Playing in Iowa, for however long that may be, is going to cost the 24-year-old former Golden Gopher. Walker’s two-way contract dictates that his salary in the NHL would be $775,000, while it’s just $80,000 in the minors. That's a $695,000 difference. While there isn’t a lot of sympathy for money lost by professional athletes, it still shouldn’t be overlooked.

    Sure, nobody expects the Wild to carry only 12 forwards all season, but they could for the foreseeable future due to their cap issues. Because of how a team can accrue cap space daily, by not having a 13th forward the Wild can save enough space to call up a Walker, Lettieri, or Khaira after just nine days into the official start of the season, according to The Athletic's Michael Russo.

    But that would hamper their ability to make trades at the deadline early in 2024. It’s far more likely, barring injury, that Bill Guerin chooses to ride with 12 forwards for as long as he can to accumulate as much space as possible through the beginning of the season. For every week of the season Walker stays in Iowa, he will lose roughly $26,000 in salary.

    That’s a difficult situation for a young player attempting to make a living, especially one who has conceivably shown the minimum requirements to be in the NHL.

    In his first full season as a pro, Walker was one of the best players in Iowa. He racked up 48 points in 56 games while adjusting to the professional athlete lifestyle and the grind of adjusting to the AHL. He's also a right-shot center, a rarity coveted by many NHL teams. Walker’s stock was high this summer. Many people expected him to make the Wild out of camp.

    But following a few contract extensions and trades this late in the offseason, the numbers started to stack up against him. Before players reported for camp, it was clear Walker’s path to the NHL was going to be nearly impossible. His cap hit was $855,000, and the Wild only had a projected $818,000 in space. That didn’t stop Walker from having one of the best camps on the team. His two goals and two assists in four games would normally be enough for a guy on the bubble to make the team.

    But sometimes life isn’t fair. The Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and the players’ union decide the current rules, and that deal doesn’t expire until after the 2025-26 season. Hopefully, the player’s union can work to adjust the rules that don’t keep deserving players from sticking on an NHL club.

    But for now, all Walker can do is lead a strong Iowa team and keep producing. Because eventually, the Wild are going to have enough cap space or an injury that will require a call up. And Walker should be first on that list.


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    He just needs to keep his nose to the grindstone. The chances of he, Beckman, and Khaira coming up is good. He might be an older prospect but still relatively new to pro hockey. Keep up the good work.

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    Sammy is not taking this hard and probably doesn't care about what's fair.  He is a hometown Minnesota boy who played on his dream college team here. He forgoes an opportunity to sign with Tampa who brought him to the dance.

    He finds his glass skate with the Wild and continues his dream of playing pro hockey with his hometown Wild. He's 24 and he knows some of his years have past and he's taking it all for what it's worth. Still living the dream, getting paid to play the sport he loves and hanging/playing with guyz who he watched as a kid in school and from his college past in Faber.

    He's taking in life and happy to do so. This dream state has not stopped his drive and he is continuing that will and fortitude to be his best, waiting for his time, this year or next. Gotta love cheering for the under dog in this story.

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    On 10/7/2023 at 9:29 PM, vonlonster67 said:

    Sammy is not taking this hard and probably doesn't care about what's fair.

    He probably wouldn't be offended by that $695,000 boost to his income though.

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