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  • The Wild Are Doubling Down On Past Mistakes

    Image courtesy of Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports
    Luke Sims

    When Bill Guerin bought out franchise Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in July 2021, the team knew they were plunging themselves into “Cap Hell.” The $14,743,588 cap penalty for buying Suter and Parise out through the 2024-25 season is steep. Compared to other NHL teams, it essentially doomed the Wild to play with one hand behind their back. 

    In the years since the buyouts, the Wild have failed to advance past the first round and missed the playoffs last season. Fans have been waiting for the magical summer when the dead cap hits from the Parise and Suter deals go from $14,743,588 to $1,666,666. 

    The Wild are then free to spend money and add to a bunch of top talent in free agency to complement their upcoming prospects. The problem is the Wild don’t have this option anymore. 

    They’ve already spent that money. 

    Minnesota could have had a plethora of money to spend if it didn’t lock itself into so many players. The Wild suddenly has $72 million or $73 million, depending on the amount of the Brock Faber extension committed to 15 players for the 2025-26 season. That’s over 80% of the cap. A standard NHL roster has at least 20 players. 

    The Wild have $45.44 million tied up in only nine players and the small cap hits of the Parise and Suter buyout for the 2026-27 season. Most concerning? That number doesn’t include Kirill Kaprizov and Faber, who aren’t under contract for that season.

    Minnesota has chosen to lock in their depth players to long-term deals at expensive cap hits relative to those players' value. The combination of Marcus Foligno, Ryan Hartman, Freddy Gaudreau, and Yakov Trenin at forward, in addition to the freshly signed Jake Middleton extension on defense, will cost the Wild $17.95 million for the next three years. All those deals besides Hartman’s go for an additional year – or more, in Middleton’s case. That’s nearly 20% of the cap space on players at the bottom of the lineup (or should be based on their skill set). 

    The Wild have Marcus Johansson coming off the books next season for $2 million, Jon Merrill another $1.2 million, and Marc-Andre Fleury at $2.5 million. That’s almost $6 million dedicated to those veterans. 

    So we add that $6 million with the other $13,076,922 from the buyouts, and we’ve got almost $20 million to spend. Woohoo!! Instead of watching free agency from the sideline and making small signings, the Wild watching free agency from the sideline will go out and sign some big-name players and bring the Stanley Cup back to the State of Hockey!

    If only. 

    That could have been Minnesota’s reality. Instead, the Wild have chosen to lock up a lot of their money. While the Wild will have almost $20 million in cap space, the team still needs to make more moves. 

    Faber’s extension will come in at least $8 million per year. For argument’s sake, let’s hope the Maple Grove native takes a hometown discount and signs for $8 million per year. Marat Khusnutdinov, 21, will need a new deal and will be worth at least $1 or $2 million. He’s a strong two-way player who projects to have a good season and is a valued prospect. Maybe the Wild want to give him a longer-term deal and will have to pay him more. Those two players will probably combine for at least $10 million. 

    That leaves the team with $10 million. While Fleury will have retired by then, the Wild must sign stud goalie prospect Jesper Wallstedt to a new deal. I have no idea how much or how well Wallstedt will play, but Minnesota’s goalie of the future may command a meaningful salary. 

    If we assume Wallstedt plays well, and the Wild want to keep him (they better!), he should cost $2-3 million on a short-term deal. That’s another little chunk gone. Assuming Wallstedy plays well, Minnesota will have about $7 million in cap space. 

    Marco Rossi is the final piece in this cap puzzle. He’s due for a raise if the Wild don’t trade him. Hockey Wilderness projected that he would earn something in the $2.5 to $4.5 million range for two or three years – a bridge deal. 

    If the Wild trade Rossi, the player they will get back will cost that or more. Rossi will be on the high side of that range or more if he plays well. Assuming Rossi crushes it like the hardworking player he’s shown he is and gets a deal worth $4 million, that leaves the Wild with $3 million in cap space. 

    Maybe some of those numbers come in lower, but not by that much. At most, the Wild could have around $6 million – the same amount the team has available in the Parise and Suter Cap Hell. 

    The team could look to move one of those contracts, but Guerin likes “his guys.” Fans and pundits can speculate about how to move contracts like Johansson, Foligno, and Gaudreau, but I’ll believe it when I see it. 

    Guerin values the locker room chemistry and other intangibles. The front office sees Middleton as an integral part of the locker room and the culture Guerin values. I have no idea how that gets included when Guerin decides how much more money these guys deserve. 

    Another side effect of the long-term depth pieces is that the Wild block their elite prospect pool from reaching the NHL. The Wild tend to bring their prospects along slowly and make them prove their worth in the AHL and bottom six instead of putting them in positions to succeed. 

    How will the Wild work all these prospects with the bottom six spots locked up? The team is uncomfortable with the young guys playing in the top six, and there are no bottom six spots left, so where will they go? 

    On defense, the Wild just drafted an excellent two-way defender in Zeev Buium. On the left side, the Wild has Jonas Brodin and Middleton. Will the team limit Buium to a third-pair role, or will they be paying a third-pair defender in Middleton $4.35 million? 

    I’m not saying that the Wild should never sign long-term deals. I’m in love with the Matt Boldy and Joel Eriksson Ek deals. On those contracts, those players provide tremendous value for the Wild. Eriksson Ek and Boldy are well worth their contracts and then some. Winning teams have those kinds of contracts for their players. 

    Last year, the Wild prematurely signed Foligno, Hartman, Gaudreau, Merill, Mats Zuccarello, and Johansson to extensions. They all had down years and did not live up to the value of their contracts. 

    Now, the Wild are “hoping” that this collection of veterans starts playing better and everything fixes itself. That’s not a solution or a plan; it is a delusion. 

    But that’s all they can do. Moving the contracts is costly, and many of these guys have no-move clauses. 

    In need of a change, the Wild doubled down on what was already wrong.

    All stats and data via CapFriendly (R.I.P) unless otherwise noted.

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    3 hours ago, Will D. Ness said:

    I'm not sold on Wall, Ohgren and Hoos yet and they have had a little time here.  There is optimism and potential for all these guys, but writing them in is a fantasy.

    Given what they are replacing, I'm not too worried about them. I liked Dewar, but Khusnutdinov will likely be in the same realm of player, if not better. Wallstedt will be replacing a below average goalie in Fleury. Ohgren is probably pushing Johansson out of the top 6, not necessarily because he's a goal scorer, but because he can likely be in the same realm of goal scoring while doing everything else better.

    If they can be even average NHL players, which I understand is completely unproven, that could be a big step forward. These were 3 of the top 5 prospects for the Wild leading into the 2024 draft, who have shown themselves to be pretty useful at young ages for their prior teams before reaching the NHL, so it's not crazy to think they may approach average or above average as they gain experience and strength.

    Not writing them in as all-stars next year, but the Wild need to develop them at the NHL level. These guys are young and hungry, and the Wild shouldn't be concerned about losing production from the guys they are replacing.

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    I disagree that were doubling down on past mistakes ,  in the past we would grab guys based on stats  30-40 goal , 30-40 assist vets   thinking we would get those same numbers  . It did work with Stahl , Parise, Suter  the stats proved it  but these newer guys are chosen more for certain roles than any  big stats they previously  put up .   Just my observation  .

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    3 hours ago, Will D. Ness said:

    Yeah the surgeries were major but look how Parise and Kane rebounded from their major surgeries.

    But the problem here is that they're both forwards. Defenders take on a lot more punishment. And don't you know a big winger is just waiting to try to see if the surgeries were successful! Someone in the Landeskog class.

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    On 7/4/2024 at 8:36 AM, Peter Lemonjello said:

    The Wild will have $18ml in cap space next year that includes signing Faber and if they trade Gus that pushes it to $22ml.

    They'll have plenty of cap space to sign one to two top 6 forwards.

    $11 million of that is earmarked for a Kaprizov extension. 

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    3 hours ago, Pewterschmidt said:

    Ok so you are being critical of BG’s ability to perform the GM duties

    Let's see what he is able to do next year, but yeah it looks like he is going to whiff.

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    2 hours ago, Imyourhuckleberry said:

    Not writing them in as all-stars next year, but the Wild need to develop them at the NHL level. These guys are young and hungry, and the Wild shouldn't be concerned about losing production from the guys they are replacing.

    Fair enough.  Hopefully growing pains are minimal and busts are non existent.  We could use some luck after last year.

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    15 hours ago, joebou15 said:

    $11 million of that is earmarked for a Kaprizov extension. 

    This was always going to be the case. Now that MN has good prospects and players internally that are good enough to earn good extensions, it's only getting MN back to level ground with the rest of the NHL. 

    At this point Guerin has secured some depth and redundancy in how he rewarded the Fred, Foligno, Hartman group but if after this season he needs to trade a guy like that or Gus, he can. 

    At this point the prospects are not forced in for a desperate NHL need. UFAs aren't the Wild's silver-bullet. It's a bigger picture plan and it's just not there yet. Was last season a setback? Yes since MN missed the playoffs but overall, no. 2024-25 has lots of promise and positive potential. My prediction is Guerin will watch and see who performs. He'll look at extensions and cap in a deep-dive. Then the Wild will be able to shuffle the deck again plugging in new players that shape the penalty-freedom window. 

    Why trade or sign too many guys before you need to or should? Right now I think the Wild have a great mix of talent at different ages and contract terms. With guys like Rossi, MN can wait and see if that's a player they wanna commit to long-term. Maybe he is, maybe not but MN isn't locked in or screwed on anything yet. Let's see what happens before we draw conclusions and condemn the GM.

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    are you guys thinking Kaprizov will get his current 10 million and 11 more for 21 million  because Kaprizov already accounts for 90% of 11 million  of his salary .   

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    On 7/6/2024 at 7:13 AM, Protec said:

    Why trade or sign too many guys before you need to or should?

    This has been my point exactly! Those guys Guerin re-signed didn't need to be signed for both the money and term at the time they were signed! Why not let things play out, let contracts fall off the books and come into next season with a roster full of young up and comers that have some experience in the NHL and now you can wheel and deal, or supplement with veteran FAs. But instead, he's locked up roster spots that keep the kids in the lower levels of hockey, and extended guys to a lot of money that goes past their age 30 season when the greatest amount of decline begins. 

    Thought the idea was to get younger and faster, and instead he got old and expensive for literally no reason other than he likes the roster, but unfortunately that roster has shown that they are unable to get past the first round of the playoffs.

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    It's not always as simple as what's on paper or most likely. 

    When LA or STL won the Cup, they barely made the playoffs. MN nearly beat Vegas 1st round and FL/EDM went from 1st round outs to becoming Conference Champs.

    I'd say the same thing to Kirill which is, Boston or NYR President's trophy is no guarantee either. 

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