After a flurry of signings Sunday when NHL free agency opened, the Wild’s roster looked closer to being ready for competition next season, but a few holes remain.
Winger Jason Zucker and defenseman Matt Dumba are still unsigned, and the two restricted free agents filed for salary arbitration Thursday ahead of the leaguewide deadline.
The two can continue to negotiate with the Wild but, with a hearing set to be scheduled in Toronto between July 20 and Aug. 4, an arbitrator could issue a ruling if a deal isn’t agreed upon beforehand.
If it got to that point, the Wild would get to select the term for Dumba — either a one or two-year contract. Zucker would receive a one-year deal since he’s only a season away from unrestricted free agency.
Each side would present its case, which could rely on related statistics and comparisons to similar players, and a verdict would be announced within 48 hours.
Most contracts, however, get settled before a hearing; last season, 30 players elected for arbitration and only one decision was handed down by an arbitrator.
Despite struggling in the playoffs, Zucker, 26, had his best season to date in 2017-18, posting 33 goals and 64 points. He is coming off a two-year, $4 million deal and could be a trade option for the Wild.
As for Dumba, the 23-year-old also had a career year — scoring 14 goals and racking up 50 points amid more minutes in the final season of a two-year, $5.1 million contract.
Both are poised for raises and with the Wild almost $13.3 million below the salary cap if it keeps winger Jordan Greenway in the NHL and sends winger Luke Kunin to the minors, the team would appear to have more than enough room to accommodate both contracts — even if they each climb to around $5 million annually.
Wild General Manager Paul Fenton said recently he expected to reconnect with both camps after making initial contact at the draft last month.
Deal thrills Seeler
Defenseman Nick Seeler was another restricted free agent who had arbitration rights, but he and the Wild agreed to a three-year, $2.175 million contract Sunday.
“Definitely exciting time, for sure,” Seeler said. “It’s good to get that taken care of.”
Although he parlayed a late-season call-up from the minors into a regular role, Seeler says he will have to earn a spot in the top-six at training camp. But after impressing as a physical defender who could help transition the puck up to the forwards, the former Gophers and Eden Prairie High School player is sure he can handle full-time duty in the NHL.
“I have a ton of confidence from last year being able to come up for those amount of games, and I just continue to gain that confidence,” Seeler said. “But I’m definitely ready to step in for a full season here.”
Good to go in nets
The Wild isn’t planning on signing any more goalies. The team brought in Andrew Hammond on a one-year, two-way contract to push current backup Alex Stalock and give the organization better depth at the position.
Kaapo Kahkonen, whom the team drafted in 2014, will also be in the American Hockey League with Iowa next season.
“Alex had a really good year last year,” Fenton said. “This is just to make sure we have the depth and if [Hammond] can challenge [Stalock] in some way, it should make us better.”
Joining the Wild as its new assistant general manager from his former post in the Lightning’s front office didn’t require Tom Kurvers to move.
Kurvers has lived in Minnesota since 2002, scouting 20-25 Wild games a season for years. He will continue to be based here but will also spend time in Iowa and get on the road with that team as its general manager.
“Other than Tampa,” Kurvers said, “this [Minnesota Wild] team I know as well as any in the league.”