With the NHL Draft now in the rearview mirror, Minnesota Wild general manager Paul Fenton can now divert his attention to free agency, which officially begins at 11 am central time on July 1.
This week, Fenton can begin to talk to prospective free agents in the speaking period which opened on Sunday. If Fenton feels like he has a decent shot at landing one or two of his free agent targets after speaking with them, he may have to make a trade or two to free up some roster space.
The Wild are loaded up front at forward, but not particularly well as the team suffered as a scoring unit last season. Fenton will no doubt be trying to emphasize that in free agency, so there could be some forwards on the way out to make space for a free agent acquisition. The Wild are not anywhere close to the cap, but again, its more about finding space on the roster to sign a player.
Below are some of the players who could be moved if the Wild feel like they are going to strike gold in free agency next Monday.
The Wild have been notably shopping Zucker this offseason. A reported trade involving Zucker and Phil Kessel was vetoed by Kessel back in May, and since the Wild have continued to explore options for the 27-year-old winger who has four years left on his contract at $5.5 million on the cap each year. There are plenty of teams that could use Zucker's services, so the market still has to be good enough to make a deal more likely than not for the player is just one year removed from scoring 33 goals.
Fenton made it abundantly clear at the draft he is not "getting rid of" Zucker unless it was a no-brainer deal which made the organization better. Meaning this week it will take an exceptional offer to move Zucker away from Minnesota, or Fenton was simply just offering up some window-dressing to cover for the failed moves that leaked out.
It could easily be the latter.
Minnesota under Fenton has made moves acquiring forwards who can play center while also trying to get younger. If the Wild feel like the future at center includes other players, Eriksson Ek is a player who could be moved. Eriksson Ek is 22 years old and has yet to put his mark on the Wild roster. He did shine briefly in 2018-19 in the absence of Mikko Koivu, but putting a full season of excellent play together has not yet come for the 2015 first-round pick.
It would again have to be the right move, but Fenton could move on from Eriksson Ek if the general manager feels there is not much room for improvement from the young center. The Wild are going to need a future number one and two center in the very near future and again if Eriksson Ek doesn't have the favor of the front office he could be traded. The Swede is also a restricted free agent this summer after his entry-level contract expired.
There are two years remaining on Foligno's contract at $2.875 million on the cap each year, and if a team was looking for a solid option on a bottom-six forward who had great defensive work this past season, Foligno could be that player to move. The cap hit might be a turn off to some clubs, and with the Wild's cap space both this summer and next summer -- depending on moves they make -- they could be a team to eat a little salary to make a deal more enticing on Foligno.
Not the likeliest of moves, but if someone wanted a decent veteran forward to fill out their roster, the Wild could make a move.
[caption id=attachment_51784" align="alignnone" width="4552] Could Joel Eriksson Ek (L) and/or Marcus Foligno ® be on their way out of Minnesota this summer? Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports[/caption]
The Wild have just three forwards under contract for the 2021-22 season: Zach Parise, Zucker and Victor Rask. Rask's contract -- three years remaining at $4 million AAV -- has become an instant eye sore for the Wild after the January trade that brought him here. The center followed up the trade with very little production -- three points in 23 games -- and the Wild have reportedly been trying to shop the center in the trade market.
However, the market is very grim on Rask -- not a surprising fact -- and the Wild most likely won't be moving him anytime soon. The team could try and move Rask to a team that has a great wealth of cap space, but as we saw over the weekend at the draft cap space became a valuable commodity and teams taking on unwanted salary will require a significant return. Just one season of Patrick Marleau's $6.5 million contract cost the Maple Leafs a first-round pick to move it to Carolina.
Again, do not expect anything significant to happen with Rask. It's still possible, but given his contract, it’s a bit closer to impossible.
Minnesota has just one season left of Brown's contract with just a modest $687,500 cap hit, but that doesn't mean the Wild are just content with holding onto the forward. Brown did clear through waivers this past year after some uneven play and was sent down to Iowa, but for the most part, he was on the Minnesota roster this past season as a 13th forward. If the Wild need a roster spot they can just send Brown through waivers again, but that is not discounting the fact they could try and move him just to clear that space all-together.
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