It’s always a tricky balancing act when it comes to promoting prospects into full-time NHL players. No two players are the same, and there are always valid arguments for either side.
The Minnesota Wild will face some of those questions this training camp with a few prospects who will undoubtedly challenge for full-time roles in the NHL. The biggest names that will draw serious consideration to make the team are forwards Marco Rossi, Matthew Boldy and defenceman Calen Addison.
There are a few crucial reasons why the Wild should be very patient with their top young rookies this season and keep them out of the NHL. From the NHL roster to maybe a reason that some will call suspect, let’s explore why these players shouldn’t be on the roster for the opening night of the NHL season.
The NHL Roster
The Wild have a strong NHL roster and added several quality pieces throughout the offseason to further bolster it.
Their defence has seven players under contract with proven NHL experience. Every single one of those seven defencemen has played at least 400 games at the NHL level.
It’s going to be challenging for a player like Addison to overtake not just one but multiple established veterans on the Wild’s blue line to earn enough ice-time to warrant this being the best move for his development.
It’s not much different in the forward group. Rossi and Boldy will likely have to force general manager Bill Guerin into trading away a player or maybe two for them to get a significant role on this team. With players such a Victor Rask and Nick Bjugstad on expiring contracts, that could help clear the path for Rossi and Boldy to slot into top-nine roles next season.
It’s never wrong for players to over-prepare themselves in the minors before moving up to the NHL.
Boldy had 31 points in 22 games in NCAA last season with Boston College before adding 18 points in 14 AHL games. He undoubtedly performed well in the AHL, but with only playing 14 games, he hasn’t gotten the taste of an entire season of pro hockey. It couldn’t hurt to at least start him off in the AHL and see if that pace continues or improves for the first half of the season and then possibly call him up if he really deserves it.
Addison also got some quality experience in the AHL lasts season with Iowa, where he had 22 points in 31 games. He also got a small taste of the NHL, being called up for three games last season. He could fight his way onto the NHL roster and likely be on the third defence pairing or go back to the AHL and be Iowa’s top defenceman, playing against the opponents’ top players every night.
Then, there is Rossi, who has had his development path interrupted from the after-effects of Covid-19. He only played in eight competitive hockey games in the past calendar year. He could be lights-out during training camp and preseason, but this is a player who needs to get back into the grind of a regular season at some level before he becomes a full-time NHL player.
A complete, healthy season for Rossi in the AHL would be a great comeback story that would make everyone in hockey happy to see. It would also be great for his development for the 2022-23 season, where Rossi will surely be ready to become a full-time NHL player.
The Salary Cap
Many won’t like to hear it, but NHL teams are constantly making decisions around how it will affect the salary cap. Player development isn’t an exception, and the Wild have many concerns with the salary cap moving forward.
They will have between $12 million and $15 million of dead cap for three straight seasons starting after the 2021-22 season. The Wild will need to have impactful players making far less than they are worth during that time frame to remain competitive.
Boldy and Addison both have two seasons left on their entry-level deal. If they were to play one more season in the AHL before moving up to the NHL, they likely would cost a lot less to re-sign after the 2022-23 season. Having only one season of NHL experience, they would probably be open to signing a short-term contract for money that won’t complicate too much for the Wild.
For Rossi, that strategy makes even more sense. He has three years left on his entry-level deal, and if he plays nine or fewer games in the NHL this season, that contract will slide over to next season. Meaning, Rossi could have the first of his three-year deal beginning in 2022-23, which would see him earning less than a million per season for all three years that the Wild face a ton of dead cap.
To have Rossi making less than a million and having Boldy and Addison sign contracts with only one year of NHL experience could really help Guerin manage the cap moving forward. It might already be something Guerin had thought about when he executed the buyouts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
Overall, it’s clear that the path to keep Boldy out of the NHL this season is a little trickier than for Rossi and Addison. Still, though, as everyone is understandably excited to see these three talented players in the NHL, it might be worth considering waiting one more season before they all make the jump.
Sports writer covering the Minnesota Wild. Graduated with a degree in sport media, also working with the Oshawa Generals of the OHL.