CHUCK FLETCHER’S OFFSEASON TO-DO LIST
1. Evaluate coach Mike Yeo, who has one year left on his contract. There are two big-name coaches who could be available: former Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff is unemployed and Phoenix Coyotes coach Dave Tippett’s contract expires June 30.
2. Potential unrestricted free agents include goaltender Niklas Backstrom, center Matt Cullen and winger Pierre-Marc Bouchard. The Wild almost certainly will need to sign or trade for a No. 1 goaltender because of Josh Harding’s uncertain health situation (multiple sclerosis) and rookie Darcy Kuemper’s inexperience. Fletcher said before the trade deadline that he would talk to Backstrom and Cullen about potential new contracts after the season.
3. Potential restricted free agents include winger Cal Clutterbuck, and defensemen Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella and Justin Falk. Clutterbuck could be trade bait this offseason.
4. To improve this summer, the Wild might have to trade some players. The NHL’s salary cap is set to decrease from $70.2 million to $64.3 million. The Wild has about $9 million to spare before even deciding whether or not to re-sign key players such as Backstrom, Cullen, Clutterbuck and Spurgeon.
5. All NHL teams are permitted two compliance buyouts over the next two offseasons. One player who might be an amnesty candidate is Dany Heatley. A buyout would cost the Wild two-thirds of $5 million but free up $7.5 million in cap space. However, because Heatley underwent season-ending shoulder surgery, it is unclear as to whether the Wild would be permitted to buy him out. Another buyout candidate could be defenseman Tom Gilbert, who enters the final year of a contract that pays him $4 million.
6. Forwards Jason Pominville and Devin Setoguchi are two key players entering the final years of their contracts. That typically means this would be the summer to talk to each about extending their contracts. That likely would not occur until late in the summer after the Wild’s roster and salary cap space becomes clearer.