The Minnesota Wild had a heck of a season, recording a franchise-high 113 points and securing home ice advantage in the first round. Unfortunately, it didn’t result in any postseason success, as they were eliminated in six games by the St. Louis Blues.
Despite the fact that they haven’t been together for very long, many were pointing to this season as a sort of “last dance” for the current Wild roster because of cap penalties coming next year. Minnesota will carry a $12.74MM cap charge in 2022-23, and a $14.74MM cap charge in the following two years because of the buyouts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. With a penalty that amounts to close to 16 percent of the cap ceiling, it’s extremely hard to build a competitive roster, at least when your goal is the Stanley Cup.
That means this offseason, general manager Bill Guerin will have to make some significant changes.
Most notable is the restricted free agent status of Kevin Fiala, who set a career high with 33 goals and 85 points this year after finding immediate chemistry with rookie Matt Boldy. Fiala’s platform year was an outstanding example of the dynamic five-on-five player many have always known he can be, as 67 of those points came at even-strength. Now, as he heads into the summer as an RFA for the final time, the Wild could very well have to move on from their Swiss star. Guerin was clear about that at his press conference today:
There’s uncertainty. We’d love to have Kevin back. I don’t know if it’s going to be possible. We have to dig into it a little bit, to see what we could possibly do. But there is uncertainty, that’s a good word for it.
I’m uncertain. I am. Look, we can do anything–but at what cost?
Guerin explained that there have not yet been discussions with Fiala’s agent but there is no rush at the moment. As an arbitration-eligible RFA, the team still has control over the 25-year-old through the summer and doesn’t necessarily have to rush to get a new contract or a trade completed in the coming weeks.
Importantly, the Wild already have more than $75MM committed to next season with the buyout penalties, and other roster holes to address. That includes the goaltending position, where Cam Talbot is under contract, but Marc-Andre Fleury is a potential candidate for a short-term extension. They also will have several forward spots open even beyond Fiala, with Nicolas Deslauriers and Nick Bjugstad both scheduled for unrestricted free agency.
There are some internal candidates for those spots, with Marco Rossi leading the way after he returned from illness to have an excellent minor league season. The 20-year-old forward is expected to compete for a spot in training camp and likely has an inside track, given his relatively inexpensive entry-level contract. Rossi’s offensive upside could help to soften the blow of losing Fiala, and a trade could net the Wild other pieces to help build their club into a contender once again. It will be difficult, however, which makes this first-round loss likely sting all the more for fans in Minnesota.
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