With Minnesota getting eliminated in the Qualifying Round by Vancouver, the offseason has arrived. GM Bill Guerin spoke with reporters, including Dane Mizutani of the Pioneer Press, on a call and spoke about several topics beyond the change to their coaching staff that was revealed earlier today. Here are some of the highlights.
I was disappointed in the goaltending. It needs to be better, that’s just the way it is, and if I said anything different, I’d be lying because it was not a strong point for us.
It was a tough year for Devan Dubnyk. After being their undisputed starter for the last four years, the veteran struggled mightily, putting up a 3.35 GAA with a .890 SV%. The last time he had numbers like that was 2013-14, a year in which finished the season as a fourth-stringer in Montreal’s system. Alex Stalock wound up as their defacto starter as a result and while he had his best numbers since his rookie season, those numbers were still below the level of an NHL number one. Accordingly, Guerin left the door open to shopping for help between the pipes this summer:
If I have an opportunity to make it better, I will. I’m also confident if those guys come back that they’re gonna be battling for a spot, and we’ve got Kaapo Kahkonen pushing them. It just has to be better, flat-out. I can’t promise anybody a spot.
Kakhonen is coming off of a stellar season with AHL Iowa, one that saw him take home Goalie of the Year honors. He’s a pending restricted free agent with arbitration eligibility which gives him a bit of leverage. That should be enough to land him a one-way deal but he is still waiver-exempt and with just two seasons in North America under his belt, more time in the minors would be ideal from a development perspective.
On Contract Talks:
There’s definitely a lot of moving parts right now. It’s a little trickier not knowing the landscape of what the market is going to be, so It could take a little more time than usual.
While the list of pending free agents isn’t the largest, several quality veterans are now eligible to sign contract extensions, headlined by winger Kevin Fiala and defenseman Jonas Brodin. While teams at least know what the cap for next season will be, there are still questions as to what the financial picture will look like beyond that time. That certainly has the potential to delay the extension market (especially for players that will be unrestricted free agents in 2021 with Seattle’s expansion draft on the horizon) so as much as Guerin would like to get deals done – something he acknowledged on the call – he’s likely right in the suggestion that it may take longer than usual for that market to open up.
On Seeking Centre Help:
Teams don’t trade number one centers. They just don’t. Usually, it’s got to be done in the free agent market or through the draft. It’s a position that I think this organization has needed for quite some time. We are going to try to address it.
While Guerin may prefer to address this through free agency, it’s a very weak market down the middle. One of the more intriguing options is midseason acquisition Alex Galchenyuk who was moved back to his natural position after the swap and acquitted himself relatively well. Keeping the pending UFA on a short-term deal could provide them with a little bit of upside but not the type of top-end impact they’re looking for.
With roughly $65MM in commitments to 17 players already for next year, Minnesota may be able to leverage their cap space to their advantage. While teams may not want to trade top centers to clear cap space, it’s not impossible that a second liner or two get moved. Even that would represent a nice upgrade for the Wild and would help boost their middle of the pack attack.
I guess we would use it if we had to. It’s definitely a last resort. To pay somebody to go play somewhere else is not something that I would love to do. Like I said, if we have to do it, we will do it.
The trade that saw Victor Rask come to the Wild in exchange for Nino Niederreiter worked out great for Carolina and was a disaster for Minnesota. Rask has been in and out of the lineup and found himself scratched against Vancouver. During the regular season, he has managed just seven goals and nine assists since being acquired. That’s not the type of production they were expecting from someone that carries a $4MM cap hit. They could plausibly buy him out and replace his production with someone making a lot less while freeing up some money to fill a spot elsewhere. Doing so would cost $1.333MM against the cap for four years.
Dubnyk could also be considered for one if the opportunity to add another starter presents itself. With only one year left on his deal, there isn’t much in the way of long-term repercussions. However, the front-loaded nature of the contract means that there would still be a $2.667MM cap charge for 2020-21 which means they’d only free up $1.667MM for next season by doing so. From their point of view, a trade with max retention may be more ideal, even if it still involves paying somebody to go play somewhere else.