Here’s a breakdown of the Minnesota Wild’s potential salary cap situation for 2021 and how they could use that space.
The massive amount of roster turnover has made projecting the upcoming Minnesota Wild season a true challenge. Much of this group has never played together before. A lot of the youth is being put in bigger roles of responsibility. For the first time since 2015, we have a new starting goaltender to begin the season.
The Wild could improve by a solid amount or take dramatic steps backward. Neither would be too surprising.
Mentioned with the argument that the Minnesota Wild should explore exposing Matt Dumba to the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft, the Wild will have a great chunk of Cap Space to utilize in the offseason after this next season. Depending on who Seattle selects and considering the UFA and RFAs who will need new contracts, the Wild likely will have anywhere from $28.9M to $32.8M to spend in the offseason.
Some of that will go to Kevin Fiala and Kirill Kaprizov. For the sake of argument, let’s say Fiala replicates the performance last season and Kaprizov has a good rookie campaign. With the cap likely not going up, it’ll be difficult for Fiala to truly capitalize on his strong performances. JFreshHockey on Twitter had this for his value back in April:
Let’s use $6M for Fiala and $5M for Kaprizov; there’s no real basis for this, but Fiala replicating a solid offensive performance and the need to commit to Kaprizov’s predicted success, makes this a bit of a challenge. Plus, we haven’t seen GM Bill Guerin negotiate a difficult contract before. He may have the Lamoriello ability to get young RFAs on bargain contracts.
That removes $11M usable cap space from the Wild’s, leaving the Wild anywhere between $17.9M and $21.8M. Minnesota will also need to re-sign Joel Eriksson Ek. He currently makes less than $1.5M and hasn’t shown that he has the offensive touch to really be much more than a second-line center. I would expect him to sign a contract around $3M, about what a 3rd line center makes.
That leaves the Wild with cap space between $14.9M and $18.8M. Some difficult decisions begin. Marcus Foligno is a UFA and Ryan Hartman is an RFA. Both have been valuable components of a defensively stout Minnesota Wild team. You could utilize some of that cap space in re-signing those two to keep with the Minnesota Wild.
I’m going to propose a much more radical idea. One that begins with the argument that the Minnesota Wild should expose Matt Dumba to the Seattle Kraken.
Assuming the Minnesota Wild expose Matt Dumba to the Seattle Kraken and Dumba is selected in the Expansion Draft, the Wild will have that $32.8M to use in the offseason. Looking at the pending UFA’s, nobody jumps out that solve the Wild’s needs at the center position.
There’s one incredibly compelling RFA Center who will be due for a new contract.
Yeah. The argument that the Minnesota Wild should expose Matt Dumba to the Seattle Kraken is rooted in the idea that Bill Guerin will weaponize the cap space to offer sheet the Vancouver Canucks Elias Pettersson.
It’s the perfect situation to do so. While the respective General Managers may not have any discontent for one another, it seems the players despise the other, and the fanbases nearly hate the other.
It’s also the right situation for an offer sheet to be successful. As it stands right now, the Canucks have zero cap space, and the contracts that expire after next season only open $23.332M and some of that is from RFAs like Adam Gaudette, Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, and Thatcher Demko who are certainly in their long-term plans.
My counterpart at The Canuck Way, Matthew Zator, answered a recent Mailbag question discussing Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson’s next contracts:
"I think both Quinn Hughes’ and Elias Pettersson’s contracts will be bridge deals rather than long-term ones. So, instead of the eight-year $10 million AAV cap hits, they could come in as three-year $5 million AAV contracts, similar to the deal Nikita Kucherov’s signed just before the 2015-16 season."
Some of that may be hopeful and friendly bias as to what could happen rather than what will happen, but hey, we are certainly guilty of that from time to time.
I don’t completely agree with his stance though. Quinn Hughes has less negotiating power because he’s ineligible to be offer sheeted, so he’s probably right there. Elias Pettersson is a completely different story.
The Elite Swede has been dominant in both of his seasons, winning the Calder his rookie season and already near a point per game. In 139 Games Played, he has 55 goals and 77 assists for 132 points. He’s going to be dominant for a while.
First-line centers do not grow on trees, but I’m unsure if the Wild are in the situation where they are bad enough to seriously contend for a top-five draft pick and get that center. Combine that with a weaker draft class upcoming, it’s less appealing to dwell in the basement this year.
It’s also very difficult to see any legitimate top-two line center really consider joining a team that is potentially entering the tank. It isn’t until after the 2021-2022 season (two seasons from now) that there are quality UFA Centers in the market, with names like Aleksander Barkov and Mika Zibanejad.
More from Gone Puck Wild
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- Minnesota Wild open regular season at home against Stanley Cup Finalist
There’s also uncertainty whether or not some of the center prospects are truly top-two line quality. Alexander Khovonov has been struggling to get any time to play in the KHL and recently played in the VHL (KHL minor league). There are doubts about Adam Beckman’s true ceiling.
Really the only center prospect looking to make the Full-Time Roster soon is the recently drafted Marco Rossi, who Minnesota was very fortunate to be able to draft.
Remember, he slid significantly after some odd draft choices, like Jack Quinn to Buffalo, and Minnesota selected higher than projected because of lower-seeded play-in teams Arizona, Chicago, and Montreal upsetting their opponents in the Play-In round. This let the Wild move up to pick 9th overall rather than 11th like they would have originally had.
So, the Minnesota Wild’s best chance to significantly improve the Center Position may just be trying to Offer Sheet Elias Pettersson.
This isn’t something I’m throwing out lightly either. I’m completely serious about this idea. We’ve all seen the models that have the Wild too good to tank but not good enough to contend. Unless they find a steal of a draft pick, it will be really difficult to significantly improve that Center Role, either through the draft or through Unrestricted Free Agency.
The copious amount of cap space the Minnesota Wild could have should be weaponized to steal the Sensational Swede.
The key with offer sheets is pricing the opponents’ team out of the player. The wise GM will recognize when this has happened, and gladly take the unprotected draft picks that they are entitled to. The shortsighted, defensive GMs may foolishly match the contract.
For instance, Shea Weber‘s current 14-year, $110M contract (7.857AAV) was the result of a matched offer sheet. At the time, the Cap Ceiling was $70.2M, meaning Shea Weber’s annual cap hit percentage was over 10% of the total cap. That would have given Nashville two first-round picks, a second-round pick, and a third-round pick.
Perhaps GM David Poile believed that Nashville was close to making deep cup runs, and Weber was a part of that process. They had also just lost Ryan Suter, so maybe losing Shea Weber was simply a non-option.
It’s impossible to project where the Flyers would have been with Shea Weber on their roster, but in the 2012-2013 season, they did not qualify for the playoffs, meaning Nashville would have had two lottery picks (assuming the Flyers adding Shea Weber did not improve team finish, which is unlikely).
The Minnesota Wild need to take a similar strategy. To make an offer sheet work, the signing team has to price the team who owns that player’s rights out of matching him. That’s why the Montreal Canadiens offer sheet of Sebastian Aho was laughed at. It was easily matchable.
Recall, the Canucks will have about $23.3M to attempt to re-sign their RFAs and UFAs, not including the cap relief they will have with whoever the Seattle Kraken will select in the Expansion Draft.
I struggled to predict who the Vancouver Canucks will protect, so I reached out to our friends at The Canuck Way for their thoughts. They reported that the Canucks are likely to protect Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, J.T. Miller, Bo Horvat, Jake Virtanen, Adam Gaudette, Quinn Hughes, Nate Schmidt, Olli Juolevi, and Thatcher Demko.
Crossreferencing that list with the Canucks CapFriendly, there aren’t many great options available. Brandon Sutter, Tanner Pearson, Sven Baertschi, Alexander Edler, and Jordie Benn are UFAs, and the other options aren’t that spectacular. Unless Seattle was given a good incentive to do so, I can’t see them take Tyler Myers or Loui Eriksson.
That leaves Michael Ferland (who may be unavailable due to Career-Ending Injury), Antoine Roussel, Jay Beagle, Tyler Motte, Zack MacEwen, and Braden Holtby. If I’m making the choice here, I probably take Braden Holtby, knowing he might be on the decline, but only on the hook for the last year of his contract.
That would open up another $4.3M, meaning the Canucks would have $27.6M for the offseason. I wouldn’t put it past GM Jim Benning to try to send a first-round draft pick to Seattle to bribe the Kraken into taking Loui Eriksson, opening up $6M and giving the Canucks $29.3M for the offseason.
This is why I think the Wild need to explore exposing Matt Dumba. Should they lose Dumba, it would open up the most cap for Minnesota to poach Elias Pettersson.
Before we dive into the Pitch, let’s discuss the compensation for successfully offer sheeting another team’s Restricted Free Agent. There are seven distinct compensation brackets, lowest to highest:
- 1,439,820 or lower= No Compensation Pick
- 1,439,821 to 2,181,545= 3rd Round Pick
- 2,181,546 to 4,363,095= 2nd Round Pick
- 4,565,096 to 6,544,640= 1st and 3rd Round Pick
- 6,544,641 to 8,726,188= 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Round Pick
- 8,726,189 to 10,907,735= Two 1st Round Picks, a 2nd, and a 3rd
- 10,907,736+= Four 1st Round Picks
What should be noted is that those picks would have to be their team’s own picks, but in each of these situations, the Minnesota Wild would be able to meet that requirement.
So, let’s finally get to the pitch. The offer sheet the Minnesota Wild should submit to Elias Pettersson is 7 years, $76.4M, or an AAV of a flat $10.9M. I think this offer sheet has a legitimate chance of going by unmatched because if matched, it would occupy nearly 40% of the available Cap (assuming Holtby is selected) Vancouver has left, with several RFAs to re-sign and a plethora of expiring UFAs.
This price also keeps the compensation in the 6th bracket, meaning the Minnesota Wild would give the Canucks their 2022 and 2023 First Round Picks, their 2022 Second Round Pick, and their 2022 Third Round Pick (remember the draft happens before Free Agency).
That is a large package of compensation draft picks, but for the quality of player that Elias Pettersson already is, it’s worth it. Combine that with a rather strong draft just recently, they can let some of those picks go. They’ll have just picked twice in the first round and twice in the third round in 2021.
Further, if they unload some of the contracts they just recently acquired (Marcus Johansson and Nick Bonino) this season at the trade deadline, they could further build draft capital and be willing to part with their own picks with the compensation.
Of course, Elias Pettersson has to be willing to sign the offer sheet, but making him the fourth highest-paid active center (by AAV) in the NHL is a pretty great reason to do so, regardless of the offer sheet being matched or not.
The other factor that works against this idea is the fact that NHL General Managers rarely submit offer sheets for other teams’ players. It’s the idea of The Prisoner’s Dilemma, an application of Game Theory. Since this post is already above 2000 words, we’ll let this post by the Talking Hockey Newsletter do the work.
There are some other costs from this. If the offer sheet at that value would go through, the Wild would have as much cap space as $7.9M or as low as $4M. This may prevent the Wild’s ability to bring back both Marcus Foligno or Ryan Hartman. That would open up some roster spots for younger players.
Remember, they would have to fill the roster spots Marcus Johansson, Nick Bonino, Nick Bjugstad, Greg Pateryn, and Brad Hunt currently occupy. However, prospects like Alexander Khovanov, Adam Beckman, Matt Boldy, Calen Addison, and perhaps Louie Belpedio could fill those spots.
But imagine how good this roster could be with Elias Pettersson on it. We’ve also taken some optimistic liberties on who fills out some of those roster spots.
Ok, it’s a bit of a hodgepodge, some holes get filled in weird ways. We also assume Hartman re-signs. If the Wild have the $7.9M available, they could maybe squeeze both Hartman and Foligno in, but that’s optimistic at minimum. They could also fill those holes externally.
Even still, that’s a pretty solid roster, which could further entice the idea of submitting an offer sheet because the unprotected compensated draft picks would be later in the rounds.
We know that Offer Sheets in the NHL are very uncommon, but with the surplus of Cap Space available for the Minnesota Wild, I believe General Manager Bill Guerin should seriously consider submitting a competitive Offer Sheet for Elias Pettersson. The Canucks are already tight to the cap and may be unable to match.
With a bit of hate already between the two teams and fanbases, it could really be an interesting situation for the services of Elias Pettersson.
It might just be the quickest way for the Minnesota Wild to solve their woes at Center.
What do you think of this proposition? Would you be fine losing Matt Dumba to Expansion if the Wild Offer Sheeted Elias Pettersson? Would the Canucks match that Offer Sheet? What would the number need to be to steal Pettersson otherwise? Drop a comment or tweet at us @FSGonePuckWild.
All Cap Information, Expansion Eligible Players, and RFA Compensation via CapFriendly.