One of the offseason’s biggest stories has undoubtedly been the salary cap situation of the Minnesota Wild. General manager Bill Guerin was faced with an extremely tricky deck of cards this summer – the team’s three best forwards were all restricted free agents and needed new contracts. With a frozen salary cap and increasing market value, it was never going to be easy for the Wild to continue icing a contending team in 2021-22.
However, with Kevin Fiala inking a one-year $5.1MM contract today to stay in Minnesota, the team finally has some clarity in how they’ll be rolling their lineup in the near future. What’s for certain now is that the team will have enough financial flexibility to have Kirill Kaprizov on the roster, at least for next season. With Fiala signed and a full roster, the Wild have $13.1MM in cap space with only Kaprizov left to sign.
But, it seems with every passing day that Kaprizov’s eventual signing price will likely be astronomical, and on a short-term deal as well. The likely outcome here by most accounts is Kaprizov signing a deal equal to or shorter than four seasons, likely between $7-10MM. It’s certainly doable for 2021-22, but the main concerns have never been just about next year.
Moving forward, it’ll be even tougher for Minnesota to stay cap-compliant. The promise of a slightly increasing Upper Limit helps somewhat, but not by much. While 2022-23 sees the combined $9MM cap hits of Victor Rask and Alex Goligoski vanish, they’ll also need a new deal for Fiala, gritty winger Jordan Greenway, and promising netminder Kaapo Kahkonen. The total cap hit increase of those deals, plus an $8MM increase in cap penalties due to the Ryan Suter and Zach Parise buyouts, make a scenario in which all three players are retained nearly impossible, even with some team-friendly deals.
The deal Fiala signed is likely very similar to what he would have been awarded had the case gone to arbitration. It doesn’t exactly show long-term commitment to the relationship between player and team, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see another transaction involving Fiala within the next calendar year.
While cost certainty helps create a clearer picture for the upcoming 2021-22 season, the long-term landscape still remains treacherous for the up-and-coming squad.
All salary cap figures from CapFriendly.com