The Minnesota Wild’s offseason has begun, which means it’s time to examine each player’s roster security going into an action-packed offseason that includes the Seattle Expansion Draft for the Seattle Kraken, who will become the 32nd team in the NHL.
Here are the tiers for the roster, broken down based on the roster security each player holds and the odds they are on the 2021-22 opening night roster:
Tier 1 – 100 Percent, 2021-22 Roster Locks
Kirill Kaprizov – The likely winner for the Calder Trophy is going nowhere. Kirill Kaprizov is the franchise cornerstone the Wild have desired to have for a decade and counting. The Wild are actively trying to sign him to an eight-year contract.
Joel Eriksson Ek – Already a top defensive center in the league, Joel Eriksson Ek will be returning. His breakout this season and the polished two-way game is exactly what the Wild needed, even more so because of their lack of center depth. There are plenty of youngsters and prospects that would be moved before his name would even be mentioned in any kind of trade.
General manager Bill Guerin has continually said that he won’t sacrifice the future to upgrade the current center situation. There would be no point to trade a budding two-way center like Eriksson Ek. As well as Kaprizov, the Wild would probably prefer a long-term deal here.
Ryan Suter – The 36-year-old defenseman holds a no-move-clause. Ryan Suter is still a reliable top-four defenseman despite his value falling short of the contract that pays him over seven million annually.
Jared Spurgeon – Just like Suter, Jared Spurgeon has a no-move-clause, but he wouldn’t be going anywhere even if he didn’t have one. The 31-year-old defenseman has six years remaining on his contract and will be with the Wild long-term. He was also named the next captain after the departure of long-time captain Mikko Koivu.
Jonas Brodin – He also has a no-move-clause that comes with his seven-year deal that starts next season. He’s one of the best defensive defensemen in the NHL, which is exactly why they extended him. Jonas Brodin has become the second-best defenseman on the team and a huge part of the defensive core.
Mats Zuccarello – He holds a no-move-clause, prohibiting him from being moved or selected in the Seattle Expansion Draft. There is no reason to believe anything other than Mats Zuccarello being on the roster next season. After a poor first season with the Wild, the veteran playmaker rebounded and displayed he still has a lot left in the tank.
Tier 2 – Most Likely Will Be Back
Kevin Fiala – The 24-year-old has lived up to expectations and is playing like the game-breaker that former GM Paul Fenton labeled him, as after acquiring him from Nashville for Mikael Granlund. He has become a dangerous offensive threat and has vastly improved his defensive game too. Kevin Fiala should be in the core for the future, barring any blockbuster trade for a number one center.
Zach Parise – He also has a no-move-clause, however, that means nothing given the complicated situation. After decreased production, a reduced role, and eventual scratches (down the stretch and including Games 1-3 in the playoffs), the relationship between the veteran and front office is rocky, and they clearly do not see eye-to-eye.
This situation will need to be monitored, but Zach Parise will most likely be coming back given his contract and protection. Even if he did waive his NMC, finding a trade partner would be difficult.
Victor Rask – Arguably the most frustrating player to watch on the team, Victor Rask’s future with the organization is unclear. Given the Wild’s center depth and the flat cap environment, they likely just keep him as he’s on the last year of his deal. Perhaps, the Wild would try to unload him to a rebuilding team. However, what would it cost and would it be worth surrendering assets for a suitable fourth-line center? Time will tell regarding this situation and how the center situation takes shape this summer.
Nico Sturm – He has established himself into one of the best fourth-liners in the league, and there is no real reason to think he wouldn’t be coming back. Sturm had an impressive rookie season, especially with his strong defensive results. He’s probably Seattle Expansion safe and barring any unforeseen trade, as he will return for next season.
Kaapo Kahkonen – His name will likely appear on the Wild’s Seattle Expansion Draft protection list. However, Cam Talbot’s strong play and the uncertainty of whether he can be a number one goalie in the future are the reasons behind why he isn’t 100 percent returning. With that said, the 24-year-old goaltender likely will be on the roster next season.
Tier 3 – Coin Flip
Nick Bonino – The Wild’s center depth is thin, which makes Nick Bonino an attractive option in the bottom-six for next season. However, assuming Marco Rossi is healthy, it will be interesting to see how they will fit him in. There is no doubt they would like to re-sign the strong defensive forward who has become a staple on the penalty kill and is a face-off specialist.
Ian Cole – It appears like the Wild would like to bring Ian Cole back, but this will completely depend on what kind of contract they can agree on. The financial climate and the Wild’s RFA’s will make it very tricky to extend the veteran.
Brad Hunt – If Cole asks for too much money, the Wild could decide to go bring back Brad Hunt again for the league minimum. They have three restricted free agents to extend, so defensive depth is on the backburner. Hunt can still be a reliable defensive presence on the third pair.
Tier 4 – Possible Seattle Expansion Draft Selection
Matt Dumba – The Wild have a tough decision regarding Matt Dumba if they don’t trade him before Seattle Expansion. If they choose to go the eight-skaters route, then that will expose some key players such as Jordan Greenway and Marcus Foligno. If they go the standard route, it will expose Dumba, which means the Wild will inevitably lose him for nothing, which would be really unfortunate.
Jordan Greenway – As explained above, Greenway may be exposed depending on the route the Wild goes. It would then probably be between him and Foligno. The 24-year-old power forward has shown flashes of potential, but I am unsure he hasn’t taken the next step yet that would guarantee the Wild protect him. There is no doubt that it would hurt if they lose him to Seattle.
Marcus Foligno – Like above, the Wild would hate to lose such a difference-maker like Foligno, but his exposure will depend on the route the Wild decide to go. The veteran is one of the best defensive forwards in the league, a very physical hard-hitting forward, and brings many intangibles, including his presence in the locker room
Ryan Hartman – A gritty bottom-six forward who can be a strong, depth player with physicality. They just re-signed him to a team-friendly three-year deal. Unlikely Ryan Hartman is selected but if the Wild choose to go the eight skaters route, then he will be exposed.
Carson Soucy – It is unlikely the Wild lose Carson Soucy to Seattle Expansion, but it still remains a possibility as he won’t be protected and can be a reliable second-pairing defenseman. He also has term with a nice contract.
Cam Talbot – He likely will return next season because there are several goalie options better, which means there is little chance he is selected.
Assuming Kahkonen is protected over Talbot, could the Wild swing a deal that sends Talbot and a sweetener to Seattle in order to avoid losing a player like Dumba, Greenway and others? The Wild would need to feel like Kahkonen is ready to even entertain that idea.
Tier 5 – Not Coming Back
Nick Bjugstad – Nick Bjugstad won’t be coming back next season unless two things happen: The center situation isn’t dealt with, and subsequently, Bonino doesn’t re-sign. With that said, it was a steal to get him for a conditional seventh-round pick.
Marcus Johansson – He had a very poor season, to say the least. Marcus Johansson won’t be coming back with all the depth the Wild have and with Matt Boldy expecting to make the team.
The brass has a lot of decisions to make ahead of the Seattle Expansion Draft. There is no doubt that there will be a lot of roster movement this offseason – more than usual – as Guerin set it up like that with the acquisition of several pending free agents.
Aaron Heckmann is a journalism & broadcasting student. He covers the Wild for The Hockey Writers & Zone Coverage’s 10krinks. His data-driven articles are focused on solving problems, telling stories, and discovering unique storylines. Find him on Twitter @aaron_heckmann.