It’s no secret that the Minnesota Wild will be dishing out some serious money this offseason, primarily to their restricted free agents (RFA’s). With Kirill Kaprizov, Kevin Fiala, and Joel Eriksson Ek all due for significant raises this summer, the Wild will have to find valuable depth pieces for their roster that won’t cost a ton of money.
All the best teams in the league have high-end elite talent, and with that comes big contracts. However, they also have quality players making two million or less who become vital contributors. That’s something the Wild will continue to try to look for in players hitting free agency, and some interesting names could be available at a reasonable price.
Tyler Bozak just finished up a three-year, $15-million contract with the St. Louis Blues, and at the age of 35, is set to become a free agent. Last season, in just 31 regular-season games, he registered five goals and 12 assists for 17 points.
He’s no longer the player he once was, as back in the 2013-14 season, he had 49 points in 58 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs during the lockout-shortened season. He is still a serviceable player that has proven he can play playoff-style hockey. He had 13 points in 26 games for the Blues during their journey to the 2019 Stanley Cup.
Bozak is also great at winning faceoffs, something the Wild struggled with mightily this past season. In the regular season, the Wild were 28th in the NHL with a 46.5% winning rate in the faceoff circle, while Bozak won over 56% of his faceoffs on the season. He would be a massive upgrade in that area and could be someone Dean Evason can rely on in crucial situations to win a key draw.
Michael Del Zotto
Del Zotto provided excellent value for the Columbus Blue Jackets this season, as at just a $700,000 cap hit, he registered four goals and nine assists in 53 games. His advanced stats weren’t terrific, with a -0.45 expected goal differential; however, it’s important to remember he played on a bottom-five NHL team in the Blue Jackets.
The former first-round pick of the New York Rangers is about to turn 31, so physical decline isn’t a major issue just yet. Even with a good season in Columbus, it’s tough to see Del Zotto’s asking price jumping up high enough that it becomes unreasonable.
The Wild have questions about their defence that will soon see answers, especially with Dumba possibly being claimed in the Seattle expansion draft. There’s also uncertainty around if Calen Addison is ready for a full NHL season just yet. It won’t fix everything, but a quality depth sighing of someone like Michael Del Zotto would surely help with the uncertainty of those two situations.
The Carolina Hurricanes have a long list of contracts they have to deal with this offseason, including what to do with pending unrestricted free agent (UFA) Dougie Hamilton and RFA Andrei Svechnikov, as both will demand high cap hits. They also have none of their three goaltenders this year under contract going into next season. Someone who might fall behind those issues in terms of importance is pending UFA Brock McGinn.
If McGinn hits the open market, he could be a great depth forward for the Wild to target. The hard-working forward, who can play both wings, had 13 points in 37 games this season. If it were a full 82 game season and he remained healthy, he would have been on pace to pass his career-high in goals (16).
His previous cap hit was $2.1 million per season, which he signed after recorded 16 and 10 goal seasons. He hasn’t gotten back to those numbers since, and he might cost a little less than two million in the pandemic economic environment of the NHL.
He has great possession numbers, as the Hurricanes are among the best puck possession teams in the NHL. Bringing that style the Hurricanes played could really help the Wild’s bottom-six, which at times can really drive the play in a game.
All the players mentioned above are depth signings, but none will likely be signing for the league minimum. If Bill Guerin and his staff are looking for a real cheap player that could provide value for the price, Travis Boyd could be an interesting name.
Boyd played well for the Maple Leafs early on in the season, but because of cap issues, he was placed on waivers and claimed by the Vancouver Canucks. He is a very serviceable 4th line player that can chip in offensively from time to time. In 39 games split between Toronto and Vancouver, Boyd scored five goals and added five assists for 10 points.
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On Defence, Michael Stone might be a player looking for a fresh new start after falling out of favour with the Calgary Flames. He, like Del Zotto, could be a valuable depth pickup in case of injury. He’s a player that could be signing a professional tryout contract (PTO) instead of a guaranteed contract heading into training camp.
There are lots of quality players hitting the open market this summer, and time will tell if Guerin makes moves on his roster to free up extra cap space to make some significant acquisitions. However, if they become a little tight on cap space, these depth players could be valuable for the Minnesota Wild, who will be trying to build upon an excellent 2020-21 season.
Sports writer covering the Minnesota Wild. Graduated with a degree in sport media, also working with the Oshawa Generals of the OHL.