The Wild has placed Tom Gilbert on unconditional waivers. That is the first necessary step to buy out the remaining one year of the veteran defenseman’s contract.
When Gilbert clears Thursday, the Wild plans to use one of its two allowable compliance buyouts on the 30-year-old native of Bloomington.
“Due to the NHL salary cap decreasing this season, we needed to make this difficult decision to give the team more flexibility,” said GM Chuck Fletcher in a statement. “We thank Tom for his time with the Wild and wish him the best going forward."
Gilbert will receive $1 million in each of the next two seasons (two-thirds of his $3 million salary), but it will free up an additional $4 million of salary cap space this summer for the Wild. This will be the second time Fletcher has bought out a player. Two years ago, he bought out Cam Barker.
The Wild won't necessarily just run to free agent Matt Cullen and re-sign him now. The move is designed to give Minnesota more flexibility this offseason. One can assume the Wild will now need to add a defenseman or two this offseason.
Gilbert would be free to sign with any team other than Minnesota once free agency opens at 11 a.m. CT Friday.
The Wild has already begun making calls on potential replacements. Starting at 11:01 p.m. CT last night, free agents were free to receive calls from other teams.
Fletcher said after Sunday’s draft that he expects there could be bargains in free agency because so many players could lose the game of musical chairs with so little money in the system. Fletcher also believes some players may be willing to take two-way contracts (smaller salary in the minors) or accept pro tryouts.
Gilbert, acquired from Edmonton at the trade deadline two seasons ago for veteran defenseman Nick Schultz, scored three goals and 18 points in 63 games for his hometown Wild.
While this is a move that likely would not have occurred if the Wild didn’t need the cap space, Gilbert did struggle at times last season. He was minus-11 and had to endure a few healthy scratches and decreased ice time. Prior to the season, Gilbert and center Kyle Brodziak, who also had a rough season, each were hit with a type of pneumonia. While neither used the sickness as an excuse, both players lost a lot of weight and Gilbert himself was actually hospitalized.
In other news, Ryan Suter was named to the NHL's First All-Star Team. He led the NHL in average ice time (27:16), playing over 30 minutes 10 times. He was second amongst defensemen in assists (28) and third in points (32).
The news comes a few days after his partner, Jonas Brodin, was named to the NHL's All-Rookie Team.
As you can see below, Alex Ovechkin made First and Second Team at different positions. First time this has ever happened and one reason why there was such a delay in the announcement.
2012-2013 NHL First All-Star Team
GP W L OT GAA SV% SO
G Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets 38 21 11 6 2.00 .932 4
GP Mins. G A Pts
D P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens 42 23:14 11 27 38
D Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild 48 27:16 4 28 32
C Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins 36 21:06 15 41 56
RW Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals 48 20:53 32 24 56
LW Chris Kunitz, Pittsburgh Penguins 48 18:01 22 30 52
2012-2013 NHL Second All-Star Team
GP W L OT GAA SV% SO
G Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers 43 24 16 3 2.05 .926 2
GP Mins. G A Pts
D Francois Beauchemin, Anaheim Ducks 48 23:27 6 18 24
D Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins 35 25:38 5 33 38
C Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks 47 19:20 23 25 48
RW Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning 48 21:59 17 43 60
LW Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals 48 20:53 32 24 56