Each offseason, every team has tough decisions regarding their roster and who they can afford to keep. This summer, no team might have more challenging decisions than the Minnesota Wild.
The Wild will have over $12.5 million in dead cap this season, followed by $14.7 million the next two seasons due to the buyouts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. All while attempting to remain competitive with star Russian forward Kirill Kaprizov leading the way.
The most valuable assets for a team in this position are players who play above their contract and have term on their deals. That will provide more value than a first-round pick. Since the Wild will be picking around the mid-20s due to their impressive regular season, the player they select likely is a few years away from being ready for full-time NHL action.
Therefore, the Wild might be best suited to move it for a player who can help them right now and should exceed their contract value. Let’s explore some players they might be looking to acquire in exchange for their first-round pick.
The Boston Bruins are in an interesting spot at the moment. They showcased that they were still a team to be feared, with 107 points in the regular season. However, with an aging core and captain Patrice Bergeron’s future yet to be decided, it might be time for the organization to start looking toward the future.
Forward Jake DeBrusk requested a trade out of Boston a few seasons ago, but the team has elected to keep him on the roster for the time being. If there is still a willingness for the two sides to soon split, the Wild should be very interested in trading for the 25-year-old winger.
DeBrusk scored 25 goals and added 17 assists in 77 games during the 2021-22 season and will begin a new two-year deal next season with a $4 million cap hit. That’s far less than the Wild will have to pay to re-sign Kevin Fiala this offseason after he had 85 points in 82 games.
DeBrusk isn’t the offensive threat Fiala is, but he comes with a reasonable cap hit for two of the three years the Wild will have significant cap penalties on the books. If they move their first-round pick to acquire him, they could then move Fiala to another team and recoup some draft pick capital in the process.
The Montreal Canadiens are in full rebuild mode, and it will be kickstarted in July when they draft Shane Wright first overall in front of their passionate fans. They already have a second first-round selection from the Calgary Flames, and surely they’d be interested in acquiring the Wild’s if it were available.
If that’s a deal that both sides could see working, Jake Evans should be someone the Wild would have high interest in as part of the return. He might not be the offensive threat that DeBrusk is, but he comes with a fantastic $1.7 million cap hit for the next three seasons.
Evans had 13 goals and 16 assists in 72 games during the 2021-22 season. However, the Canadiens were a terrible offensive team scoring just 218 goals, the sixth worst in the league. Evans could see his numbers trend upwards on a team like the Wild, who scored the fifth most goals in the league with 305.
He could serve as a very valuable middle-six forward on this Wild team for the next three seasons with a manageable cap hit. He’s fast and works hard, which is the style of hockey they have adopted over the past few seasons.
The Vegas Golden Knights had a disastrous season, as they battled numerous injuries to key players all season long. Although, those injuries allowed them to remain cap compliant throughout the campaign.
This offseason, the Golden Knights will have no choice but to shed some contracts in the hopes that they will remain healthy next season. That will come with some tough decisions, and center Chandler Stephenson might become one of those this offseason.
He had a terrific 2021-22 campaign with 64 points in 79 games and should vastly outperform his $2.75 million cap hit for the next two seasons. The Golden Knights likely have zero interest in dealing him, but honestly, they might have no choice.
The bigger contracts on the roster will be extremely tough to move, and other teams will understand that the Golden Knights are desperate, which will lessen the return. If the Wild offer their first-round pick as the primary return for Stephenson, that might be the best asset they could acquire this offseason, making it something they at least must consider.
For the Wild, it’s a no-brainer that Stephenson would be a perfect fit in their lineup. His cap hit is ideal, and he would replace a large chunk of the offence they could be losing if Fiala departs. It would be a mistake on general manager Bill Guerin’s part if he didn’t at least make the call and see if he could acquire him, as players like him would significantly help his team get through these next couple of seasons.
Overall, many players around the league on fantastic contracts would greatly help the Wild now and over the next few seasons. Acquiring them won’t be easy, but that’s the challenge Guerin knew he would be tasked with when he decided to take the franchise on this route.
One thing is clear, the Wild should be willing to move their first-round pick for these players. The selection likely won’t be NHL-ready for a couple of seasons, and they need help right now. Even if it becomes a bit of an overpay, they shouldn’t be selecting in the opening round of the draft this July in Montreal.
Sports writer covering the Minnesota Wild. Graduated with a degree in sport media, also working with the Oshawa Generals of the OHL.