Minnesota Wild: 2017 Offseason Will Bring Hard Choices Now

As we continue to look at options for the Minnesota Wild to retool their team this summer, one thing that might be overlooked is the effect that moves made now will have on next offseason.  The Wild have a long list of free-agents that will need contracts in the summer of 2017 and choices will need to be made now to be ready for then.

This offseason is far from over for the Minnesota Wild.  With still a bit of cap room left, Matt Dumba unsigned, and trade rumors still swirling the Wild could prove to be busy up until the team takes the ice on September 19th to open training camp.  So it could be called a bit premature to bring it up, but looking at the current contract situation next offseason will prove to be even busier for the Wild.

As it stands right now the Wild will have seven current roster players come up for contract renewal in the 2017-18 offseason and almost all of them are essential pieces to the Wild’s current lineup.  On that list is Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, Erik Haula, Zac Dalpe, Christian Folin, Nate Prosser, and Darcy Kuemper.  Looking further down the depth chart to the current non-roster players, other huge pieces will be up for renewal too like Mike Reilly and Gustav Olofsson just to name a few.

There’s no really easy way to put it, the Wild will need to make some hard choices now and over the course of this season heading into next offseason.  The first choice that might need to be made, is that the current cap space of $5.37 million might need to be banked for next season to pay for the likely pay increases that will need to be given to almost every player on that list.  With Dumba’s contract still waiting to be finalized that number will be even less.  That makes the possibility of another move this offseason very difficult.

The next choice that comes to mind is that the Wild will most certainly need to part ways with Nate Prosser at the end of next season.  The 29-year-old Elk River native has been a gritty depth defenseman for the Wild for seven seasons.  But his production numbers a very low though and with important prospects like Reilly and Olofsson looking to crack the Minnesota lineup, his time with the team must be up for not only his roster spot but his cap space as well.

Feb 17, 2016; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Minnesota Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper (35) during the warmup period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. Minnesota Wild won 3-5. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Additionally, because of this upcoming money crunch Darcy Kuemper will likely see his last season with the Wild in 2016-17.  At the end of his current 1-year deal Kuemper will be eligible to be a UFA and will have more leverage as other teams will be able to sign him.  That means his contract price point could go up and the Wild will not be in a position to go any higher than his current annual cap hit of $1.55 million, so trading him for a return will more than likely be an option as the season wears on.

Another option may be to move one of these players during the season via the trade market.  The hope here will be that the Wild can find a team looking to take on a rental player, and if in the example of say Granlund the movement of him alone could free up $3 million in cap space that could pay for pay raises for most of remaining players.  Still performance will determine which player should be moved, but in the end a trade for picks or a lesser cap constraining player could be a necessity.

A trade this offseason could be another option as well.  If the Wild move one of these players now and save that cap savings for next offseason, that could solve the problem.  If the right deal is done the Wild can trade one of these players for a player with equivalent talent that has more years left on their contract.  This would alleviate the crunch slightly while hopefully keeping the team’s overall talent level the same.

There’s plenty more possibilities to talk about here, but almost all of them depend on how next season plays out.  With players vying for contracts it should be a good from a performance standpoint as they’ll be incentivized to be ranked above the other free-agents on the priority chart.  That might be the only bright spot to this situation.  Still planning for it now and acting soon we could see this blow softened a bit, but make no mistakes about it the 2017 offseason will be a tough one for the Wild.