On Monday it appeared as if general manager Paul Fenton got a good look at what his Minnesota Wild roster for the 2019-20 season was going to look like when he signed Mats Zuccarello and Ryan Hartman to multi-year deals. The signing of the two forwards have created a bit of a logjam up top for the Wild heading into next year if they do not make any more moves this offseason, but there are ways to get that situation resolved without making any other trades.
Fenton reiterated Monday that the Wild are going to be competitive in 2019-20 with their eyes on the postseason. It’s not a popular strategy among the fan base, but one that appears to be coming down from the top of the front office. With some aging veterans on the roster, the Wild appear to want to take another run at it before a rebuild is considered.
With the Wild aiming to get back into the postseason after their first absence in seven years last season, they should be monitoring a situation out in Las Vegas with great interest.
The situation is that the Golden Knights and restricted free agent winger Nikita Gusev appear to be at an impasse with contract negotiations. Gusev is looking for a contract in the $4 million AAV range with the Knights offering around $2 million.
Vegas is also the only team in the NHL currently over the cap at the moment, as they also have to sign other restricted free agents along with the 26-year-old Gusev.
Why should the Wild be monitoring this situation? If the Knights and Gusev can’t get a deal done and its decided a trade is the route to take, Minnesota should be a team that comes calling for the right shot winger.
It’s fairly simple, really. Minnesota is a team that is lacking high-end skill on the roster, and until they start drafting players of that caliber they can only trade — or offer sheet! — for those types of players. Gusev most definitely has that type of skill Minnesota is lacking, and given the situation in Vegas and his seemingly reasonable contract demand, he is someone they should be taking a run at.
This past season for SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL, Gusev was the league’s leading scorer with 82 points. In fact, he is the leading scorer of the KHL for the past three seasons with a combined 215 points (63 goals, 152 assists) in 173 games.
Gusev possesses speed and skill, and as you can see with just about any YouTube video of him he certainly has the hands to make opposing goaltenders cringe. Can you think of anyone currently on the Minnesota roster that can make moves like that?
Minnesota is a team that at the end of last season badly lacked offense, and as mentioned, is needing players of high-end skill. Gusev fits that mold and Fenton should be working the phones with Vegas to try and find a deal to acquire the forward. Sure, it would further create more logjam at forward, but that would be a welcomed problem for the Wild if they could find a way to bring in the Russian star.
Oh, and by the way, Gusev has the familiarity of playing with another Russian star, Kirill Kaprizov. A player that is reportedly just one year away from coming over to the NHL — and Minnesota — as well. Now that would be a fun tandem to watch.
Plain and simple, Fenton needs to be trying to acquire Gusev. There’s absolutely no reason not to when the organization still has its eyes set on making the postseason.