It’s time for the very last Minnesota Wild report card for this past season and that person is general manager Bill Guerin. He’s perhaps the person under the most scrutiny as he makes most of the big decisions. He decides who to draft, trade, sign, etc. with a whole team alongside him but he makes the final call.
The only position higher than Guerin is the owner Craig Leopold, but he trusts Guerin to make the tough choices. Guerin’s only been in the position for the past two seasons, but he was quick to make an impression. The biggest move to date has been the buyouts of both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, something that had to be done despite how difficult the future would be.
Guerin Knows Who to Sign
The most impressive signing for Guerin has to be Kirill Kaprizov. Guerin got him to sign an entry-level contract to play for the Wild during his rookie season and then worked diligently to get him to re-sign his newest contract of five years, $45 million. The only downside to the contract is that he’ll be an unrestricted free agent when it’s up, so hopefully the Wild either re-sign him before it expires or if it takes until free agency, they need him to want to stay here.
While Guerin got Kaprizov to sign long-term prior to that, he also secured Joel Eriksson Ek to an eight-year, $42 million contract. With that move, he ensured they would keep one of the best defensive-minded centers the Wild have ever had, for a very long time. He also re-signed Kevin Fiala to a one-year deal and Fiala went on to have his best season yet.
Throughout the season and even the offseason, Guerin re-signed Jon Merrill, Jordan Greenway, Alex Goligoski, and Marc-André Fleury to longer-term deals. Merrill and Greenway have proven to be great assets and will continue to be in the future. Fleury and Goligoski are strong players also but many are a little wary due to their age and recent inconsistency. However, Guerin knows what he’s doing and he wouldn’t re-sign them if he didn’t believe they would prove essential to the Wild.
Guerin Loses Some
While Guerin was able to secure some big names, he couldn’t make them all happy. It was unavoidable that as soon as they signed Kaprizov to his big contract, they would lose Fiala. Re-signing Fiala to a one-year deal the first time around was difficult but with trying to keep Fleury and some of the younger guys, Fiala was the odd man out this time around.
The amount of money Fiala wanted was too much for the Wild to swing without giving up a number of players who will be key to their continued success. He was a player they knew without a doubt would be gone, but losing veteran goaltender Cam Talbot was not in the plans. When the Wild re-signed Fleury to more than Talbot, it didn’t go over well.
Guerin was not prepared to trade Talbot despite the animosity, but when things got to be too heated, he had to do something. The best option at the time was to trade him and not make him fulfill the last year on his contract if he was unhappy. Guerin did get a young goaltender Filip Gustavsson in return, but he’s a big unknown. It’s extremely unfortunate to go from a probable 50/50 rotation with two very veteran goaltenders to a probable 60/40 rotation with a veteran and an unestablished goaltender.
Guerin’s Proven his Grade
Guerin’s done the best he can in the situation he inherited. In the Parise and Suter buyouts, he didn’t sign the contracts but he did what he needed to do. The Wild are currently struggling in terms of cap space because of those buyouts but it was the only thing he could do at the time and not make the situation worse in the future.
Guerin secured the Wild’s first superstar-level player in Kaprizov for at least the next four seasons. Guerin also got extremely lucky when he re-signed Ryan Hartman to a lower deal than what he made previously, and he went on to have a career year. With all the signings and the success the Wild had during the regular season, Guerin’s earned himself an A- for the 2021-22 season.
Guerin did a great job putting together a very strong team that cruised through the regular season, but he can’t be blamed for what happened in the postseason. He built the team but he can’t make them perform. His grade isn’t higher because although there was no stopping Fiala from leaving, maybe something could’ve been worked out to keep Talbot.
However, Guerin knows what he’s doing and hopefully, the goalie situation works itself out for the best. The Wild have a little shifting to do for the next season but they’re in good hands. Guerin will make sure they have a team that can continue to get better and make a run for the Stanley Cup.