With this week’s bargain signing of free agent forward Sam Steel, the Minnesota Wild’s off-season is all but over. Even while vacationing in Europe, Bill Guerin has conceivably rounded out his roster. Two goalies who weren’t in training camp last year will man the crease. He traded superstar forward Kevin Fiala to the Los Angeles Kings. And with Marco Rossi and Calen Addison‘s anticipated promotions, Minnesota’s roster seems solidified.
Once the Wild officially promote Rossi and Addison, they will have 22 of 23 available roster spots nailed down. Just because they have one more slot available doesn’t mean they need to fill it. Teams are comfortable going into the season with one leftover forward and defenseman. They also currently have $4.08 million in cap space and could allow that number to accrue throughout the season and use it to spend big at the trade deadline if they’re in contention.
But Guerin should consider using that cap space now. Not to acquire a good player to improve his roster, but instead weaponizing that space to take on a bad contract, even if that player wouldn’t move the needle much for his team this year.
Why? Because the timing couldn’t be better.
According to Cap Friendly, 12 of the league’s 32 teams are currently over the cap. All 12 have about a month before the league requires them to lower their spending at or below the roughly $82 million cap ceiling. A handful of those teams currently have a contract that will be placed on Long-term Injured Reserve (LTIR) on the league start date, taking that contract off their books and moving them below the ceiling. For instance, the Tampa Bay Lightning have Brent Seabrook‘s $6.8 million cap going straight to LTIR in October, which would instantly make them cap compliant.
However, a handful of teams will need to move out a player or two via trade in the next 30-ish days to be compliant, even if they have an LTIR-eligible player. Every GM (should) know who these teams are. If you are the GM of a team with an open roster spot and some cap space, you should be licking your chops and dialing some phones.
The reward for taking on a bad contract would be huge. Those teams struggling to get under the cap ceiling are operating with zero leverage and are starting to run out of time. Any trade they attempt to make will require attaching a valuable asset and the player to another team for “future considerations.” The Calgary Flames just traded Sean Monahan to the Montreal Canadiens to make room to sign Nazem Kadri. It cost them an added first-round pick to make it enticing for Montreal to take him.
So why should the Wild do this now? Why not save the cap space to make a run for a top player at the deadline this year? We’ve said it here a couple of times, the true window for the Minnesota Wild doesn’t open until the dead cap hits for Zach Parise and Ryan Suter come off their books in the summer of 2025. (See, I told you I would maybe bring the dead cap hits up again. I promise I’m done this time… maybe.)
Also, who’s to say Guerin would even use the cap space to make a big trade at the deadline? With an elite 2023 draft upcoming and an excellent prospect pool, would Guerin want to part with any of those assets to maybe win this year? So why not utilize that cap space now and get a possible second 1st round pick in this year’s draft? It’s supposed to be an all-time draft, remember?
With other GMs becoming increasingly desperate down the stretch this off-season to get cap compliant, they will be forced to trade away a high asset or two just to get below the ceiling. The time to strike is now. Hopefully, Guerin is working the phone to do so.
Here are two potential trades that could make sense with teams who need to move out money.
Currently $2.24 million above the cap, the Bruins need to move out a contract. It’s more than money, though, as they have 24 players on their current roster and can only have 23 come the regular season. Marcus Foligno‘s brother Nick is particularly intriguing. Guerin has shown interest in him in the past, and his injury problems have made him a limited contributor. Boston is gearing up to make one last push at a Stanley Cup with their core of players, so parting with their 2023 first-rounder to get cap compliant might make sense.
At this point in his career, Foligno would be better served as a part-time player. Therefore, the worry of him taking ice time away from the Wild’s younger players shouldn’t be a concern.
Whose going to play defense for this team? Never mind that, how on earth are they supposed to move out $3.3 million in the next month? A decent player will be traded, and they’ll have to add some juice to the trade. How about Patric Hornqvist? The Panthers would have to retain some of his $5.3 million cap hit, but the Wild could trade for Hornqvist as Jordan Greenway insurance if his injury lingers longer than expected.
Florida has very little draft capital remaining. Still, a package starting with their 2023 2nd rounder is worth discussing.
Those are just the two most obvious teams with contracts that make the most sense to move. There are others in need of shedding salary, too, such as the Toronto Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Vegas Golden Knights. Guerin has a good team that will compete as he constructed it. With the extra roster spot available, wouldn’t it be wise to turn that final spot into another high draft pick or two, giving draft-god Judd Brackett more chances to hit on a top prospect?
There’s a chance the Wild’s off-season isn’t complete yet. There could be another trade coming, one that would allow Minnesota fans to watch the Wild draft two 1st round picks again next summer.