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Bill Guerin Has Most of the Wild Forwards on Short-Term Deals Now

Photo credit: Jerome Miron (USA TODAY Sports)

Bill Guerin is taking no prisoners.

Since the early days of the Parise/Suter era, the Minnesota Wild have experienced a lack of goal scoring and fallen flat in the playoffs. But there have been changes lately, especially since Chuck Fletcher was fired in 2018. Paul Fenton made tweaks, but it was Guerin who shook the core up. He designed the current roster so he can eliminate the underachieving players after just one year.

While Minnesota’s defensive corps is more or less locked up for the next few seasons, the forward group could be overhauled after next season. Minnesota currently has these only four forwards under contract past the upcoming 2020-21 season:

  • Zach Parise, a supposed franchise cornerstone that set the organization’s course for the last eight seasons, was signed by Chuck Fletcher.
  • Mats Zuccarello was signed to a long, expensive deal by previous GM Paul Fenton, which created a roster jam that ultimately ended Ryan Donato’s time in Minnesota.
  • Victor Rask, who has been collecting dust as a healthy scratch and is signed for two more years.
  • And Nico Sturm, was given a recent extension by Guerin.

Minnesota has more defensemen, five, under contract than forwards for 2021-22. All five are on the payroll through the following season as well, when just Parise and Zuccarello will be on the books.

After the Upcoming Season, This is Bill Guerin’s Squad

Guerin got his first true offseason started as the Wild’s general manager by making quite a few moves.

  • He acquired former Gophers’ star Nick Bjugstad from the Penguins, where Guerin was previously the assistant GM.
  • Next, he traded Eric Staal to Buffalo for Marcus Johansson.
  • Just before the draft, Guerin offloaded both Donato and Devan Dubnyk to the Sharks for draft picks.
  • Then, on the second day of the draft, he sent pending RFA Luke Kunin to Nashville for a pair of picks and Nick Bonino.

The common theme in each of these deals? They are short-term. Bjugstad, Johansson and Bonino’s contracts run out after the 2020-21 season. This paves the way for a major overhaul of the roster in just a year’s time, and Guerin got more draft picks to work with while continuing to stockpile younger talent.

Every player Guerin brought in will have an expiring contract at season’s end, and more importantly so will many of the players signed by his predecessors. Guerin also has a shot at working trades or free agency in the coming year to make his imprint on this organization for the longer term.

Expansion Draft Adventures

Minnesota will be in a much different situation than it was in during the last expansion draft. Currently, the Wild do not meet the requirements for minimum players exposed: They need to have at least two forwards, one defenseman and one goalie under contract for 2021-22 with a combination of either at least 40 games played in the previous season or 70 in the last two seasons.

Right now, the only two players that meet those requirements are Matt Dumba and Alex Stalock. While it makes sense for Minnesota to use the goalie exposure on Stalock, it’s a bit trickier on defense. If Minnesota protects seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie as opposed to eight skaters and one goalie, Dumba is the odd man out. The three defensemen with no-move clauses are automatically protected, unless they agree to waive it.

Among the forwards, only Parise and Zuccarello have no-move clauses.

The only question mark currently on the roster beyond next season is what to do with Matt Dumba and his lack of a no-move clause. Otherwise, Guerin has a lot of room to work and change the roster between now and the expansion draft.

The Wild will undoubtedly be a much different team come next season, but it should be much better organized ahead of the expansion draft. This time, the team won’t likely give away a prospect to protect another player like they did with Vegas in 2017.

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Photo credit: Jerome Miron (USA TODAY Sports)

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