The big talk around the Minnesota Wild’s success this year has been consistently laced with undertones of their “Window to Win” closing due to the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyout cap hits that really come into effect next year.
The Wild face large amounts of “dead-money” from the buyouts to the tune of:
- $12,743,588 in the 2022-2023 season
- $14,743,588 in the 2024-2025 season
- $14,743,588 in the 2025-2026 season
- $1,666,666 through to the 2028-2029 season (four seasons)
While there is no doubt that there are some massive repercussions to having to work around the buyouts, I think the Wild are a far-cry from having the window closing. In fact, I would argue instead that the window is opening and that the seasons the Minnesota Wild will be the most dangerous are yet to come.
The Wild have known this is coming and have set themselves up to minimize the damage using excellent drafting, proper player development and atmosphere-building. The approach warrants both players taking pay-cuts to stick around, and a little bit of luck.
Wild general manager Bill Guerin has spent a large part of this season acquiring and signing impact players to team-friendly deals that provide cost certainty moving into next year. Jon Merrill, Jordan Greenway, and the recent signing of Alex Goligoski are prime examples of this.
The Goligoski extension that seemed to materialize out of nowhere had some fans confused, as he had been a healthy scratch before it was announced. In actuality Goligoski has been playing great. In his last 12 games at 5v5 he has a 54.5 Corsi for percentage, a 56.5 Shots for percentage, a 62.9 high-danger chances for percentage, and was not on the ice for a single goal against. Not a bad addition for $2 million AAV.
Jordan Greenway’s extension at $3 million AAV was also questioned at the time by some, but his solo play has been solid and he is an integral part of arguably the best two-way / shut-down line in the entire NHL: The GREEF line.
The GREEF line is 25-8-4 when playing, good for a points percentage 0.730. They are at the top in goals percentage with 0.833 in 393 minutes of ice time. This line is locked up for the next 2 years minimum with Eriksson Ek’s eight-year extension, Greenway’s three- year extension, and Marcus Foligno signed through the 2023-24 season.
Another line locked up for at least two more years is the record-smashing trio of Kirill Kaprizov, Mats Zuccarello and Ryan Hartman.
Kaprizov and Zuccarello are the stars that lead the team in points, their chemistry is unmatched and continue to elevate their play the more time they get. They aren’t going anywhere and don’t look to be slowing down any time soon.
Hartman is an absolute steal of a contract through 2023-24. Having a $1.7 million AAV for a potential 30 goal scorer is unbelievable. Even if his play comes down to earth a little bit in the coming years these are the types of contracts that will allow the Wild to stay top-level competitive through the buyouts.
Another key in the Wild’s continued performance is the deep prospect pool and Entry Level Contracts (ELC).
There are already two ELC’s on the roster in Matt Boldy and Brandon Duhaime. Then you look at players that may be coming into the lineup next year in Marco Rossi, Connor Dewar, Adam Beckman, Calen Addison, Mitchell Chaffee, and maybe some Jesper Wallstedt appearances in net if we are lucky.
The list of youngsters that can potentially slide in as point producing players, not just fillers for open spots, is astounding. These are all players that will make the team better, not just play the role and let the veterans do the work.
Look a little deeper and the Wild are set up to have a constant flow of fresh young players entering the league for years to come. Carson Lambos, Jack Peart, Ryan O’Rourke, Pavel Novak, Sam Hentges, Vladislav Firstov, The list is long and will only get better as the Wild still have three picks in the first two rounds of the upcoming draft.
Unfortunately, there is still some major downside.
Barring Guerin magic trick, one of Kevin Fiala or Matt Dumba will have to be traded in the off-season, and with recent addition Marc-Andre Fleury potentially staying around a little longer it is possible we see Cam Talbot leave to make room as well.
While all of these players have their merits and it hurts to give up beloved Wild players, many teams around the NHL will have to give up much more this summer to stay cap-compliant (looking at you Vegas) and are in a much worse situation than the Wild.
I expect the 2022-2023 Wild to look very similar to the current edition, with a few key young additions to strengthen them, not weaken.
The window is wide open.