When you’re a team with 12 players ages 25 and under, every year there will be significantly good players that will need to be re-signed and big decisions that must be made.
Last year, it was with Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin and Marco Scandella. All were re-signed: Granlund to a two-year, $6 million bridge deal and Coyle (five years, $16 million), Brodin (six years, $25 million) and Scandella (five years, $20 million) to long-term deals.
This year will be no different. Four significant players have contracts that expire at season’s end: defensemen Jared Spurgeon and Matt Dumba, left wing Jason Zucker and goalie Darcy Kuemper. Spurgeon, Dumba and Zucker, especially, could warrant lucrative new contracts.
Will the Wild — and can the Wild — re-sign all three and remain comfortably under the salary cap while also preserving flexibility to make other roster changes and fit in other quality youngsters in the future?
“It’s going to be hard,” General Manager Chuck Fletcher said. “Depending on how much or how little the cap goes up, it’s going to make it more challenging. The tighter the cap is, the tighter our cap space is.”
Heading into the 2016-17 season, the Wild currently has around $58 million committed to 14 players. Twenty-three make up a roster. The moment Devan Dubnyk was re-signed to a six-year deal, Kuemper’s fate was likely sealed. The young goalie will almost surely be traded at some point with the timing of next June’s draft making sense.
But if the Wild chooses to re-sign Spurgeon, Dumba and Zucker, much of the Wild’s remaining cap space will be eaten up.
“We project what they’ll cost. The math works, but that’s in a boardroom,” Fletcher said, laughing. “So, we’ll see. Obviously the players will have to want to stay. I think everybody knows our situation, whether it’s the players or the agents. If they want it to work, then it’s a good chance it’ll work.”
Fletcher has not begun talks with any of their agents and is in no hurry. There are two reasons: 1) This year’s NHL salary cap rose minimally to $71.4 million. Until Fletcher knows roughly how much next year’s cap will increase (the Canadian dollar being worth 77 cents U.S. hurts NHL revenue), he doesn’t yet know how much he can afford to allocate; 2) he wants to see how his players play this season.
If Dumba has a monster year, that could conceivably affect trading or re-signing Spurgeon. If Dumba’s development isn’t coming as fast as expected, that could make re-signing Spurgeon a priority.
But the Wild already has Ryan Suter, Brodin and Scandella on big contracts and defensemen Mike Reilly and Gustav Olofsson waiting in the wings, so it’ll be interesting to see how the Wild proceeds.
Spurgeon is trying not to think about it.
“You just have to play your game and things will fall into place,” Spurgeon said. “Being here for awhile and seeing the core of players that we have and the people in this room, you want to be a part of it for a long time. You want to stay with the group that you believe in.”
Same thing with Zucker: If he has a big year and re-signs him lucratively, that may force the Wild to put other players on the trade market.
“We may not be able to keep them all,” Fletcher said. “I’m excited about this year to see which young players step up. That’s why we want to play Reilly and Dumba and [Christian] Folin. Let’s see what we have.
“We also have a lot of kids about to turn pro. Maybe Alex Tuch turns pro next year or the year after, we have Tyler Graovac knocking on the door, we have lots of college and junior kids that will soon be signed. This affects all decisions.
“Our situation isn’t a lot different than other teams. Everybody’s constantly forced to make these type of decisions. We have players coming at every position.”
NHL short takes
Teams can’t use their coach’s challenge unless they have their lone timeout remaining, meaning teams will be afraid to burn a timeout to rest players when they’re trapped on the ice after an icing or to stop the momentum shift in a game.
That’s why Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said he didn’t call time during the Wild’s four-goal, third-period comeback in 5 minutes, 7 seconds Thursday.
“I was thinking about it, I won’t lie to you,” Roy said. “My only problem is if I use the timeout, I lose my challenge. If something happens, and it’s a goal and we cannot make any challenge, that’s the reason why I didn’t do it.”
One has to wonder if the league considers after this season adding a second timeout.
Oilers’ buddy system
Playing in the bubble that is Edmonton, Connor McDavid is living with Taylor Hall, another of the Oilers’ horde of first overall picks.
“I know there’s stuff I learned early on, stuff to do and stuff not to do,” Hall said. “I don’t go to the mall anymore, and I’m sure Connor won’t either.”
Big free-agent class
There are a number of potentially huge free agents next summer, although a few of them would seem destined to re-sign with their own teams, such as Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos and Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar.
Some of the big names that as of now are unsigned: Kyle Okposo, David Backes, Dustin Byfuglien, Eric Staal, Shane Doan, Tomas Plekanec, Alex Goligoski, Frans Nielsen and Keith Yandle.
WILD’S WEEK AHEAD
Thursday: at Arizona, 9 p.m. (FSN)
Friday: at Los Angeles, 9:30 p.m. (FSN)
Player to watch: Milan Lucic, L.A.
The hard-hitting forward was acquired by the Kings this offseason from the Boston Bruins.
“We had one glass and celebrated the moment as a family.”
Rookie Tyler Graovac on sharing a glass of champagne with his parents via FaceTime after making the Wild.