The Minnesota Wild had a pretty exciting last couple of weeks until free agency hit and things quieted way down. The 2022 NHL Entry Draft was entertaining as they picked up some talented young players who will hopefully do well for them in upcoming seasons. During the first day of the draft, the Wild also announced they had re-signed goaltender Marc-André Fleury for two seasons.
Most of the players on the team were happy with the signing and things seemed okay until word came from Cam Talbot’s agent that things were not so great. Fleury’s contract ended up being more than Talbot’s and that caused some aggravation. Rather than force Talbot to finish his contract unhappy because the Wild were not likely to extend it next season, they traded him.
Guerin: “If you don’t want to be here, no problem. I can’t stress that enough. We’re putting the team ahead of any individuals’ wants and needs. It’s all about the team.”— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) July 12, 2022
But Guerin has over and over again talked about how good of a person Talbot is and “there’s no blame” here
It was the best thing for both the Wild and Talbot to part ways, despite the team having a veteran goaltender in Fleury and a still rookie goalie in Filip Gustavsson. With Talbot, they would’ve had two veteran goalies that could split the workload 50/50, now Fleury will take the brunt of the starts.
Wild Stay Quiet
While many teams were active on Day 1 of free agency, the Wild did some very minor signings and let some smaller contracts go. Other than that, they remained very reserved and didn’t rush into anything these last few days. General manager Bill Guerin keeps things pretty close to the vest in terms of what names he may be targeting, but he’s also not shy about being blunt when necessary.
Guerin’s been involved in the NHL for over 30 years, so he knows how things work. He’s seen many drafts, trade deadlines, and of course numerous free agency days. He’s also seen many teams make mistakes, so to speak because they ran out and signed a player to a big contract that doesn’t end up working out in the long run. An example of this for the Wild could be the big signings of both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter back in 2012.
The contracts seemed like a great idea at the time but the two identical 13-year, $98 million deals took up a lot of cap space towards the end and did not age well. The two players are decent respectively, but the Wild were heading in a different direction and the buyouts were the only option that unfortunately left the team pretty slim moneywise the next few seasons. Thankfully, with Guerin as general manager, he’s figured out a way to secure some talented players under a tight budget.
Wild Know Their Needs
The Wild know exactly what they are looking for, and rather than rush to fill the void on Day 1 or 2 of free agency they prefer to take it slow. They want to find that right player at the right price instead of possibly shelling out way more than they can afford down the road.
It seems their main need is a bottom-six forward to possibly take the spot of Jordan Greenway, who may not be healthy in time for the start of the regular season. Being that the open roster slot would be temporary because the Wild will want Greenway in the lineup as soon as he’s able, they’re not going to want to spend a lot of money on his replacement.
Since they let Nic Deslauriers sign with the Philadelphia Flyers during free agency, they’ll also need someone with a slight physical side. A player like Danton Heinen if they could get him on a contract like he had this past season, a one-year $1.1 million deal would be pretty team friendly. He played in 76 regular season games and scored 18 goals plus 15 assists for 33 points for the Pittsburgh Penguins. During the playoffs, he played in seven games and scored three goals for three points.
As far as the physical side goes, Heinen had 66 hits in 76 games and just 16 penalty minutes. Not over the top, but just enough to get the job done. If the Wild can sign him on the cheap and he puts up those types of numbers, he’d be almost the perfect fill-in for Greenway. Though it would be difficult to justify keeping him on the bench when he returns. However, if the Wild have the injury issues they had last season, he’d fill in just about anywhere and as of July 16, 2022, he was still available.
Wild Fans Should Trust Guerin
It’s a great thing for a team to have a general manager who has confidence in what he’s built and doesn’t rush to spend money. Guerin isn’t afraid to make changes, but he’s also not afraid to take the time he needs to make the right ones. He got Kirill Kaprizov to sign both of his contracts with the Wild and he brought in both Jacob Middleton and Tyson Jost, who added some spark to the lineup down the stretch and into the playoffs.
Other than Kaprizov, they may not have been huge signings but they were the kind of players and personalities the team needed. Wild fans should stay patient, Guerin will make his move eventually. He did let Kevin Fiala go which upset some fans, but that was unavoidable and the right move for both the player and the team. It’ll be interesting to see who he will get to possibly take a bottom-six role for the 2022-23 season. He may have been quiet so far, but he’s got a move coming sooner or later. Past history has only proven that.