Although we’re less than three months into the season, the trade deadline is already just three weeks away. Where does each team stand and what moves should they be looking to make? We continue our look around the league with the Minnesota Wild.
The Minnesota Wild have been one of the more pleasant surprises of the 2020-21 season. Initially believed to be no more than a bubble team in the West Division, not only are the Wild safely within the playoff picture but they are actually well ahead of the rival St. Louis Blues for third place and nipping at the heels of the Colorado Avalanche in second. Minnesota’s season is not just a fluke, either. The long-awaited debut of Kirill Kaprizov has been as advertised, as the young Russian scorer has been one of the league’s most exciting players and has added a legitimate weapon to a team that has long lacked one. With other young players taking a step forward this season, off-season veteran additions solidifying the forward corps, the trade acquisition of Ian Cole rounding out a solid blue line, and a new tandem excelling in net, the Wild are the real deal. In fact, they don’t have many holes.
Well, except one massive, gaping hole. The Minnesota power play is an assault on the eyes. Unorganized and ineffective, it seems almost impossible that such a capable, composed even-strength team can be so bad on the man advantage. At 10%, the Wild’s power play is the worst in the league and no other team currently in playoff position is within nine spots – or 8.9% – of being as bad. While their No. 15-ranked offense is nothing to complain about, it can certainly be improved. With no issues defensively or in goal, as evidenced by strong goals against and penalty kill numbers, and no lack of veteran experience, an offensive weapon with power play ability is really the only focus. With just enough cap space to make one notable addition, it seems a top-six forward who excels man-up will be the Wild’s target and may just be enough to put them over the top.
20-10-1, .661, 3rd in West Division
Deadline Cap Space
$232.2K in full-season space ($1.04MM at the trade deadline), 1/3 retention slots used, 45/50 contracts used per CapFriendly
Upcoming Draft Picks
2021: MIN 1st, PIT 1st, MIN 2nd, MIN, 3rd, PIT 3rd, MIN 4th, MIN 5th, MIN 6th, MIN 7th
2022: MIN 1st, MIN 2nd, MIN 3rd, MIN 4th, SJS 5th, MIN 5th, MIN 6th
While the Wild are enjoying a great season, GM Bill Guerin is not going to get ahead of himself. Sure, his team could make a run this year, but with some long-term questions still to be answered, such as the team’s future down the middle and the potential impact of the Expansion Draft on his deep lineup, Guerin isn’t going to mortgage the future – and possible years of sustained success – to hope for a Stanley Cup this year. As a result, don’t expect any of Minnesota’s young roster players to be on the market, nor top prospects like Marco Rossi, Matt Boldy, or Calen Addison.
Instead, Minnesota will deal from a nice stockpile of draft picks and try to peddle their top young AHLers and their second tier of prospects. Especially if the goal at the deadline is to add a top-six player with term, a center in particular being the biggest need, young forward prospects such as Alex Khovanov, Marat Khusnutdinov, Adam Beckman, and Damien Giroux could be appealing targets for sellers. Collegiate property Vladislav Firstov, Jack McBain, Nikita Nesterenko and Sam Hentges will also draw interest, especially with the latter three still playing in the NCAA Tournament.
On the back end, there are some questions moving forward in terms of the potential impact of expansion, so the team could be more hesitant to deal top blue line prospects. However, for the right player the Wild may part with Ryan O’Rourke or Filip Johansson.
With the emergence of Kaapo Kahkonen as the apparent starter of the future, Minnesota may also be open to moving their goalie prospects and they own two desirable names in first-year pro Hunter Jones and NCAA star Filip Lindberg.
1) Top-Six Forward/Power Play Specialist – The Wild’s cap situation looks a little bleak right now, but CapFriendly’s numbers currently reflect a full 23-man roster and with Zach Parise counting against the cap despite not being on the active roster. With Parise back and everyone else staying healthy, paired with some cap space-saving roster maneuvers, CapFriendly predicts that Minnesota could have closer to $3MM in flexibility by the deadline. That could be enough to add a weapon up front. Again, the sole focus is on adding a forward with a history of power play success; a play-maker who understands how to use space and create scoring chances.
With a lot of salary about to come off the payroll next season, the Wild are not limited to rentals in addressing this need. They can certainly add an impending UFA to keep the price down, but with plenty of draft picks and prospects to draw from, they can go bigger with an impending RFA or a player with term.