The Minnesota Wild figure to be mildly active when free agency opens on Tuesday. The NHL’s new meeting period, in which teams can talk to agents of unrestricted free agents, has revealed that the Wild are at least interested in the big names.
The overwhelming consensus is that the Wild need to add a scorer. Despite climbing the rankings late in the year, they were in the bottom third in the league in scoring.
General manager Chuck Fletcher has options within options of unrestricted free agent forwards. He could go after a scoring wing like Vanek, Jarome Iginla, Jussi Jokinen, Radim Vrbata, Mason Raymond or Mike Cammalleri. He could also go after a playmaking center like Brad Richards or Mike Ribeiro. He could also go after a two-way center like Paul Statsny, David Legwand or Olli Jokinen. He also could go after a power forward like Dustin Penner, Ryan Malone or Brenden Morrow. He could even go after a physical checking forward like Brian Boyle, Steve Bernier, Ryan Carter or a slew of others.
Each group has their advantages and disadvantages. Fletcher would like to fill the physical checking forward role with Cody McCormick. The veteran fit into the Wild’s lineup and locker room after being acquired from the Buffalo Sabres at the trade deadline. McCormick is the only likely returning unrestricted free agent forward.
Iginla, Statsny and Vanek may be the biggest names reported to have been contacted by the Wild. But, if they cannot get any of the three, Fletcher should target Cammalleri, Malone, Raymond, Richards and Vrbata.
They all have a proven scoring history and could be signed to a short-term contract. Given his recent off-ice issues Malone is the biggest risk. Cammalleri, Richards and Vrbata all recorded 45 points or more. Richards and Vrbata led the way with 20 goals and 31 assists, each. Cammalleri scored the most goals with 26. Raymond, just 28-years-old, recorded his second highest goal and assist total of his NHL career last season.
The salary cap has been set at $69 million. According to capgeek.com, the Wild has $49,075,256 allocated to 17 players and has an overage penalty from bonuses last season of $700,000. That leaves the team with $19,924,744 worth of cap space to spend on their restricted free agents – Jonathon Blum, Justin Fontaine, Darcy Kuemper, Nino Niederreiter and Jason Zucker have already been offered qualifying contracts – and unrestricted free agents. The remaining in-house free agents are becoming less likely to return to Minnesota next season.