Lynx

What Can be Expected from the Minnesota Lynx as Free Agency Kicks Off

Mandatory Credit: Michael Zamora/The Register via USA TODAY NETWORK

At this time last year, the Minnesota Lynx went into the offseason filled with uncertainty and no clear vision of where they were headed following one of the best decade-long stretches in WNBA history.

Leading up to the year, Minnesota found out it would be without three of its star players who were large contributors during that successful run, including Lindsay Whalen, Maya Moore and Rebekkah Brunson.

This time around, however, the Lynx have regained that vision for both the present and the future and appear to be in a decent spot with the offseason now in full swing in preparation for the summer of 2020.

When looking back at the 2019 year, which was a season of transition for the Minnesota organization, the Lynx finished with a record of 18-16 overall and ended up falling to the Seattle Storm in the opening round of the WNBA Playoffs.

With a nice mix of both a veteran presence and young players currently on its roster, Minnesota will put last year in the past while it looks ahead to the start of a fresh season.

The offseason officially kicks off on Tuesday for the Lynx and the rest of the WNBA, when players and teams can start negotiating contracts for the upcoming summer. Players won’t be able to put pen to paper and free-agent additions won’t become official around the league until Feb. 10.

Last week, the league released an updated list of core players, reserved players, restricted free agents and unrestricted free agents this offseason.

Core players are essentially the same as franchise-tagged players, giving a team exclusive negotiating rights with that player. Players can receive a core designation three times in their career.

Reserved players are free agents who have played three or fewer years in the WNBA, therefore giving their team exclusive negotiating rights with them.

Restricted free agents are free agents with four or five years of experience in the league and have the ability to sign with any team, but their previous team can match any offer to keep that player, if it wishes.

Unrestricted free agents can essentially do whatever they want, provided they don’t get designated as a Core player.

Let’s take a look at who’s currently on Minnesota’s roster and who it has in the free-agent market, while looking into some needs the Lynx have heading into a new season and some interesting names on the free-agent market.

Who’s on the roster; who’s a free agent?

Entering free agency, the Lynx roster isn’t necessarily in the same situation it was in at this time last year, with a solid amount of the team already signed for the 2020 campaign.

There are, however, a handful of players that will be entering the final year of their contracts in Minnesota, although most of the key Lynx contributors are locked up through the 2021 season

Here’s a full list of players currently counting against the Lynx salary cap going into 2020, according to the High Post Hoops salary database:

Lynx Current 2020 Roster
Player Contract Length 2020 Contract
Lisa Berkani Through 2020 $57,000
Lexie Brown Through 2021 $57,000
Karima Christmas-Kelly Through 2021 $104,000
Damiris Dantas Through 2020 $105,000
Sylvia Fowles Through 2021 $115,627
Odyssey Sims Through 2021 $117,000
Stephanie Talbot Through 2020 $68,000
Napheesa Collier Through 2022 $57,000
Jessica Shepard Through 2022 $57,000
Total Team Salary $737,627
2020 Salary Cap: $1,300,000

As of the start of the free agent negotiation period, Minnesota’s roster consists of a total salary of $737,627, which leaves it with about $560,000 left to spend this offseason under the 2020 salary cap of $1.3 million. Of course, the roster could still change a decent amount when the Feb. 10 date arrives when players are officially able to sign their contracts with teams around the league.

Although Minnesota does have a few free agents that will enter the free-agency period on the market, it still will likely have the ability to go out and sign a player or two during free agency, thanks to the expansion of the salary cap under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Let’s take a look at the list of Lynx free agents this offseason, according to the WNBA’s official free agent list.

List of Lynx Free Agents
Player Free Agency Designation WNBA Salary in 2019
Seimone Augustus Unrestricted $111,000
Bridget Carleton Reserved $6,994
Anna Cruz Reserved Played Overseas
Temi Fagbenle Reserved $48,564
Danielle Robinson Unrestricted $108,000
Cecilia Zandalasini Reserved Played Overseas

Three notable players on that free agent list above are veteran unrestricted free agents Seimone Augustus and Danielle Robinson, as well as post Temi Fagbenle, who holds the reserved player designation.

Augustus won’t be going anywhere this season, as she is expected to retire from the league following the 2020 year.

Robinson and the Lynx have a very good relationship, and it’s likely that we can expect her to return as well, although the organization might also aggressively look to add talent at the guard position throughout the offseason, which could ultimately impact Robinson returning to Minnesota.

Fagbenle, who is coming off her rookie contract, will be interesting in terms of what kind of contract she is looking for and if the Lynx value her as a backup enough to provide her with a larger salary this season.

Anna Cruz and Cecilia Zandalasini are two players that will also be interesting to keep an eye on, as they both also hold a reserved designation like Fagbenle. Cruz and Zandalasini both played overseas once again in 2019, but Minnesota expects Zandalasini to come back to play in the WNBA this summer.

Even with a roster that is starting to fill out even before free agency begins, along with the assumption that at least a few of the current Lynx free agents are likely to return in 2020, Minnesota will still have some flexibility to try and make a move or two this offseason.

Team needs

After going through somewhat of a transitional season in 2019, the Lynx were forced to go into last year trying to fill some large voids within its roster.

After signing a few key free agents last offseason while drafting budding star Napheesa Collier and spark plug Jessica Shepard in the draft, Minnesota quickly started to find its new identity to fill in the gaps left behind by the trio of Moore, Whalen and Brunson.

Although head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve did do a nice job in filling out the roster in 2019, there is at least one need that the Lynx will need to address this offseason, and that lies at the guard position alongside Odyssey Sims and potentially Robinson — if those two players end up playing in Minnesota this summer.

With Robinson already being a free agent this offseason and her future with the Lynx in question, Minnesota also might be without Sims for the 2020 season, as she reportedly might be sitting out the upcoming year.

The Lynx do have the sixth overall pick in the upcoming WNBA Draft, but expect them to try and initially look into the free agent market before turning their attention towards the draft to add a player at that spot. With the sixth pick, a solid impact player could emerge.

And as you saw above with the Lynx current roster layout, along with likely retaining at least Augustus and a few other players, Minnesota should have the ability to add an impact player via free agency. If not, there is also that option of looking at the draft.

free agent market

For the past few offseasons, the free-agent market hasn’t been incredibly deep when it comes to game-changing players who could make an immediate impact on the floor. That has mostly been due to the fact that teams can apply core tags to players they want to make sure stay put.

This year, however, there are some impact players within the free agent market that will take the court for new teams in 2020 and Minnesota might end up trying to be aggressive on the market out of the gate.

When it comes to the unrestricted player pool, according to WNBA.com, there are roughly 40 players on that list with free agency officially underway. The restricted player pool contains 13 players, according to the league.

A few of the bigger names that lie within the unrestricted free agent list are DeWanna Bonner, Stefanie Dolson, Glory Johnson, Angel McCoughtry, Emma Meesseman, Allie Quigley, Kristi Toliver and Courtney Vandersloot. There are also players such as Sue Bird, Elena Delle Donne and Brittney Griner on the list, but it would be shocking to see them move on from their teams in 2020.

If Minnesota is focused on adding a guard in free agency, a few intriguing names (in no particular order) who are unrestricted free agents include Quigley of the Chicago Sky, Alex Bentley of the Atlanta Dream, Toliver of the Washington Mystics, Bria Hartley of the New York Liberty, Leilani Mitchell of the Phoenix Mercury and Sugar Rodgers of the Las Vegas Aces.

The biggest question when it comes to adding a guard — or any player — via the free agent market will be how big of a contract the Lynx would need to give that player, how much Minnesota values Robinson, as well as how that free agent player would fit alongside Sims and the rest of the current guard unit with the Lynx.

The restricted market is a bit more enticing but is also harder to get that player to join the team. There are names such as Chelsea Gray of the Los Angeles Sparks, Rachel Banham of the Connecticut Sun, Tiffany Mitchell of the Indiana Fever and Courtney Williams of the Connecticut Sun, among others, that could be interesting for the Lynx to try and bring to the organization.

Either way, Minnesota will have the ability and cap space to bring a free agent or two in this offseason.

The Lynx are always looking to add to their team and Reeve has traditionally tried to be aggressive in enticing players to come to Minnesota, so we will see who the Lynx are able to add to their rotation ahead of the 2020 season.

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