In the NHL, every team has their ups and downs during a season, or even in their history. Dynasties will eventually have to rebuild, just as weaker teams will attempt to create their own Stanley Cup window for a few years. Unfortunately, waiting for that to happen can feel like an eternity and the reward comes and goes faster than Jonas Brodin skating backwards.
Minnesota Wild fans may have a tough three years ahead with a large chunk of their cap space allocated to the Ryan Suter and Zach Parise buyouts, effectively handicapping their ability to bring in or retain high-caliber players, but the 2022-23 season should be a win-win situation for the organization.
If the Wild Can Repeat Ther 2021-22 Season
In the 2021-22 season the Wild proved that they are a team worth paying attention to, with 53 wins, 113 points, and the best offensive production the team has ever managed. Team chemistry developed very early in the season that made the team believe they could win every game, and that chemistry carried multiple players to career-best seasons, breaking a range of personal and team records.
To stay level with their 2021-22 stats, the Wild have a daunting list of factors that must fall into place early; veteran players must continue to step up their game in every way, star players need to contribute a heavier share of the offensive production, and rookies will be counted on for more than just occasional production and fourth-line minutes. Should those things fall into place, the Wild may become one of the most deadly teams in the Western Conference, and once they emerge from their cap deficit, could be on the verge of becoming a dynasty.
If the Wild Plummet This Season
If the Wild should drop in the standings this year, the $12.7 million in dead cap makes it hard to say it was unexpected. Nobody wants to watch their team lose more often than they win, and the Wild would have to have a drastic collapse to do that this season. Yet, weak goaltending and regression from a few key players could send them into an unrecoverable spiral.
On paper, the Wild are still a decent team, but they are not a better team. The loss of Kevin Fiala puts their offensive production in doubt, the Cam Talbot trade puts a question mark on what was supposed to be an elite goalie tandem, and as of yet, there have been no moves to bring in reinforcements this offseason. The vibe coming from management is that they know they are in for a tough season, starting with a $12.7 million deficit compared to every other team, and perhaps a drop in the standings would benefit them in the long run.
The 2023 NHL Entry Draft has been hyped up as one of the deepest drafts in a long time, headlined by a generational talent in Connor Bedard. The Wild will not be in the race for the first-overall pick, but they have a rough start to the 2022-23 season, a top-10 pick could provide them with a much-needed elite center to add to their already stacked prospect pool.
Early rankings have at least six or seven centers considered potentially elite impact players with immediate NHL upside. While the Wild have high hopes for Marco Rossi, their cupboard is fairly empty after that as 2020 Draft pick, Marat Khusnutdinov will be in Russia for at least two more years. Adding another high-end center to go with Rossi would give the Wild a one-two punch down the middle that has been missing for years.
Wild Have an Exciting Season Ahead
As the buyout penalties finally hit the Wild where it hurts, fans may need to temper expectations for 2022-23. Building a competitive NHL team is difficult on even ground, but having 15% of your salary cap unusable may make it impossible. The good news is that if the Wild make the playoffs, that in itself will be a fantastic accomplishment, but should they fall in the standings, they have the potential to grab another future core player to make them even better in the years to come.