Going into next season, the Minnesota Wild will likely have of eight defensemen in the mix to make the NHL roster: Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba, Jake Middleton (RFA), Alex Goligoski, Dmitry Kulikov, Jon Merrill, and Calen Addison.
Spurgeon, Brodin, Dumba, and Middleton are essentially all locks to get big minutes and will likely be in top-four roles. Goligoski, Kulikov, and Merrill are all grizzled vets looking to keep themselves in the lineup rather than in the press box. Addison will be looking once again to make a good impression in training camp in hopes of finally making the NHL roster on a full-time basis.
The list will likely be dwindled down to seven, with one of the three veterans serving as a healthy scratch and possibly rotating in with the other two defensemen. If Addison makes the team out of camp, it will only be in a role where he is playing consistently as it doesn’t do any good for a young player to be spending most of his season as a healthy scratch.
So, who gets the boot?
Barring major injuries to any of these players, the most likely scenarios would involve either a Kulikov trade or Addison returning once again to the Iowa Wild (AHL).
Considering Goligoski just signed a two-year extension in March and Merrill a three-year extension in January, both are likely to not be traded or moved in any way. This is especially the case with Goligoski, who holds a full no-move clause in his contract.
This leaves Kulikov as a player with a strong realistic possibility of being traded. Although Kulikov has an eight team. no-move clause, they should still be able to ship him off for a low draft pick considering his modest cap hit of $2.25 million for just one more season.
There has also been growing concern that Wild management may not see a future for Addison in the NHL the way that many have hoped.
The argument made by some is that the Wild have one of the smaller defensive groups in the NHL and Addison would only make it smaller. The recent acquisition of hard-nosed University of Minnesota prospect, Brock Faber. may be a signal that either Addison doesn’t fit into their future plans or that they want him in a bottom pair role until Faber is ready.
The Wild could also go the traditional route of having a training camp competition by using the extra bodies as motivation to get the most out of each player.
At the end of camp, a significant decision would then need to be made to cut the number down to seven.