Free agency is now less than a month away from opening up and there are quite a few prominent players set to hit the open market while many teams have key restricted free agents to re-sign. Here is a breakdown of Minnesota’s free agent situation.
Key Restricted Free Agents: F Jason Zucker — Zucker has put himself into a great position, posting career numbers in a contract season. Two years ago, Minnesota handed him a two-year prove-it deal, which he certainly has responded to. After the 26-year-old posted 22 goals in 2016-17, he responded with 33 goals this year. In fact, he posted personal bests in games played with 82, goals, assists with 31, points with 64, power play goals with seven and shots with 222. Now a three-time 20 goal scorer and a one-time 30-goal scorer, the team must decide whether it intends to give him a long-term contract, which won’t be that easy considering the team has little room under the cap. His lack of playoff success is also a factor as he’s scored just four goals in 31 career playoff games and just one in the last three years. Regardless, after making $2MM, Zucker should get quite a pay raise.
D Mathew Dumba — The Wild also have another key restricted free agent they must lock up as well as Dumba also has stepped up his game in a bigger role this season. While the blueliner averaged 20:20 of ATOI in the 2016-17 season, it increased even more as Dumba averaged 23:49 of ATOI this season. He picked up several personal bests, including games played (82), goals (14), assists (36) points (50) and shots (176). Most importantly, he took on the role as the team’s No. 1 defenseman when filling in for both Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon, who both missed time at the end of the season. So now, after finishing up a two-year bridge deal at $2.55MM AAV, he is in line to get a big payday as well from Minnesota.
Key Unrestricted Free Agents: F Matt Cullen — Fortunately for the Wild, their unrestricted free agent issues aren’t as important than their restricted free agents. The 41-year-old Cullen put up a solid season in his second trip to his hometown state, posting 11 goals and 22 points in a bottom-six role. The real question is whether Cullen even wants to return for another season in the NHL. He has already played in 1,445 career games and has little more he needs to accomplish. He took a long time to decide last year whether he wanted to return as he didn’t sign with Minnesota until August of last year. Now with changes in management, do the Wild even want him back. He wouldn’t be too expensive as it’s likely he would make something around the $1MM offer he made last year.
F Daniel Winnik — Another depth option for Minnesota, the Wild must decide if they want to bring Winnik back after a one-year deal at $660K. The 33-year-old veteran played in 81 games for the Wild as a bottom-six wing. While averaging 13:34 of ATOI, he struggled to produce points, putting up just six goals on the season. With little productivity in hits and just a 44.7 percent faceoff percentage with 199 faceoffs taken, he didn’t provide as much as the team had hoped other than veteran and playoff leadership.
Projected Cap Space: With a lot of heavily-laden contracts on the books as well as re-signing several of their restricted free agents (don’t forget about Seeler either), there is little cap room to work with at the moment. CapFriendly has them with $7.4MM in available cap space. Don’t be shocked, however, that new general manager Paul Fenton makes some trades to shake up the team, which hopefully will free up some of their cap space and give the team an opportunity to compete for more than just making the playoffs in the near future.