The Minnesota Wild have tendered qualifying offers to five of their restricted free agents and declined to make offers to two more. The five receiving offers are defenseman Jared Spurgeon, defenseman Kyle Medvec, defenseman Tyler Cuma, right wing Justin Fontaine and right wing Carson McMillan. The offers mean the Minnesota Wild organization retains their rights and the ability to match any offer made by another team. None of the five have reached a new contract agreement with the Wild as of Tuesday night. Most of them will be signed to two-way contracts meaning they can be sent down to the Iowa Wild without having to clear waivers. Jared Spurgeon is clearly the priority among the five to be resigned. He’s one of the Wild’s top four defensemen and is coming off a 3 year entry level deal worth just over $1.5 million dollars. His Salary cap hit last season was just $526,667, quite a bargain for the Wild. I’d expect to see Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher make signing the 5′ 9″, 185 lb Spurgeon a priority over the next 48 hours heading into the free agent signing period. The remaining 4 players are likely to be resigned to two-way deals. None of the four, Medvec (0), Cuma (1), Fontaine (0), and McMillan (15), have spent significant time in the NHL. They have a total of 16 NHL games combined and their qualifying offers total around $2,644,000. Those same players have a total of 418 regular season AHL games at about 10% of the salary they make playing in the NHL.
Two other players, Benn Ferriero and Joel Broda, did not receive qualifying offers and will become free agents at 11am Friday morning. Ferriero was traded to the Wild last weekend along with a 6th round pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Rangers for defenseman Justin Falk. By letting Ferriero go the deal amounts to Falk for a 6th round pick and a contract dump by both the Rangers and Wild. The Wild traded Falk and the Rangers traded Ferriero to stay under the 50 contract maximum, also the reason Ferriero and Broda got their walking papers from Minnesota.
I expect to see the Wild resign the 5’9″, 185 lb. Spurgeon. If Fletcher doesn’t get the deal done there will be several teams lining up to sign the restricted free agent. In the Wild’s favor is the ability to match any offer cheet another team offers. Over the last three seasons with Minnesota Jared has proven himself as a NHL caliber top four defenseman. He possesses excellent puck moving skills, consistently making a good first pass up and out of the defensive zone. Spurgeon also has the ability to escape hits, a useful skill given his smaller stature. In the course of 162 games over three seasons he’s scored 12 goals and 38 added assists for a total of 50 points. Last season he saw time on the Wild’s top power play and penalty killing units averaging 21:32 of ice time per game, third highest on the Wild. Not bad stats for a 6th round pick by the New York Islanders who joined the Wild as a free agent for the 2010-11 season. The 23-year old Spurgeon started the lockout shortened 2012-13 campaign paired with Ryan Suter but missed several games after blocking a shot and suffering a nagging foot injury. In his absence rookie sensation Jonas Brodin paired up with Suter, becoming one of the top D-pairs in the NHL. Spurgeon played with a variety of defensive partners including, Falk, Tom Gilbert, Clayton Stoner and Marco Scandella. One of the Wild’s problems last season was finding consistent pairings on defense. That lack of consistency lead to miscommunication, poor positioning and erratic performances. One thing Minnesota is looking for heading into the 2013-14 season is a solid top two pairings on defense. Whether through free agency or players already in the Wild organization the team needs to solidify it’s defense.
Heading into the free agency period the Wild find them selves short on salary cap dollars. A couple of things are fairly certain; one is that Pierre-Marc Bouchard will be moving to a new team as will D-man Brett Clark. Tom Gilbert in all probability will be the recipient of a compliance buy out, while Matt Cullen will have to take a substantial pay cut to remain in a Wild sweater. The NHL salary cap this coming season will be in the area of $63-$64 million dollars and Minnesota is perilously close to that number with several players including Cullen left to sign. GonePuckWild.com will keep you informed as the crazy first days of the free agency period begin Friday morning at 11am Central (12pm Eastern time). Until then this is Scott Drain chanting, “Let’s Go Wild!”