The Minnesota Wild’s number-one priority as an organization seems to be finally finding the a true number-one center to build around. When he was drafted with the ninth-overall pick at the 2020 draft, it was believed that Austrian center Marco Rossi had a shot at being that long-awaited franchise-altering pivot. Significant health issues altered the trajectory of Rossi’s development early in his time as a Wild prospect, and while he has been an exceptionally productive player in the AHL (104 points in 116 career games) the soon-to-be 22-year-old hasn’t managed to seize the moment in the NHL with Minnesota.
While he’s still undoubtedly someone the Wild are hoping pans out, the Athletic’s Joe Smith reported today that he believes the Wild would “be open to moving Rossi if the right deal came up,” such as one with a 2023 first-round pick as compensation. (subscription link) The Kirby Dach trade that was made at last year’s draft could serve as a template for this kind of deal, with the Canadiens surrendering a draft pick in order to acquire a high-upside center whose development had been a bit of a rollercoaster ride. Given how significant Dach’s developmental turnaround was under Martin St. Louis in Montreal, it seems possible that an organization confident in its player development abilities might be willing to part with a first-round pick in order to acquire Rossi. Acquiring Rossi could afford a team a quicker turnaround to NHL relevance than developing a brand-new draft pick, so perhaps a team looking to speed up its rebuild or quickly inject some cost-controlled young talent into its roster could be a fit as well.
Some other notes regarding the Wild:
- Smith’s article touched on quite a few players of interest to this Minnesota offseason, including 1042-game veteran blueliner Alex Goligoski. Smith reports that Goligoski’s preference is to remain in Minnesota for the final year of his contract, but that his $2MM cap hit combined with the Wild’s significant salary cap constraints could complicate things. Goligoski has a full no-movement clause on his contract so he can control his playing future, but after spending much of last season as a healthy scratch one wonders if he’d sanction a move away from Minnesota simply to re-gain a regular spot in an NHL lineup.
- Perhaps the most significant player the Wild will need to negotiate with this summer is netminder Filip Gustavsson, who had a stellar season. Gustavsson is an arbitration-eligible restricted free agent and Smith writes that his next contract “will end up falling into one of three categories: a one-year deal, a three-year deal or a one-year arbitration award.” With top prospect Jesper Wallstedt waiting in the wings, it makes sense that the Wild might not want to invest long-term in Gustavsson, but should the 25-year-old manage to even come close his numbers from this past season in 2023-24 only locking him down for one season could end up a costly mistake.
- The Wild’s mid-season trade acquisition of enforcer Ryan Reaves injected some much-needed energy and life onto their roster, and he scored 15 points in 61 games helping the team reach the playoffs once again. Smith writes that Reaves, now 36, would like to return to the Wild but is prioritizing maximizing the financial value of his next contract, a deal that could very well end up his last major free-agent cash-in. Reaves reportedly is seeking term on his next deal longer than just one year, so since the Wild are set to be paying nearly $15MM in dead money due to the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts, it very well could be that re-signing Reaves is a luxury they cannot afford.