Wild

Bill Guerin Should Avoid Spending His Newfound Cap Space

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As it stands now, the Minnesota Wild are about to open training camp with a full roster and some intriguing roster battles. All eyes are on Marco Rossi and how quickly he can fit into the NHL. But other hopefuls like Andrej Sustr and Calen Addison will fight for the final spot on defense for Opening Night. Plus, injuries to Jordan Greenway leave an opportunity for a forward like Adam Beckman to make the team out of camp until the line-up is fully healthy again.

However, some expect one more move to happen before the season begins. Trading Dmitry Kulikov for future considerations opened up more dollars under the salary cap. That extra money could be burning a hole in Bill Guerin’s pocket, even if he’s saying he’s unlikely to spend it now.

The $5.7 million is enough to get an impact player for one season. It might also be just enough to pounce on a team that needs to get under the cap. Both options are favorable to Minnesota if properly executed.

But if Guerin is transparent about his plans, that’s the right call. What’s the rush to spend that money?

The Wild have a few prospects on the cusp, so why not give those players NHL minutes? It’s a perfect storm. The Wild have a massive cap crunch, NHL-ready prospects, and roster opportunities. Since Guerin decided to buy out Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, there would always be a time for the Wild to depend on big contributions from inexperienced players. 

That time is now.

We’re not suggesting that players just get handed positions on the roster. Of course, they must still earn their keep. But whether it’s trepidation over a lack of size on defense or a perceived lack of toughness in the bottom six, Guerin should remain patient. Why acquire a player for $4-5 million that ends up blocking a roster spot from the kids drafted by the club?

Why bring in a player who won’t provide answers on whether or not Addison can fill in for Matt Dumba? Dumba is a Top-4 defenseman and an emotional leader for the Wild. There’s no doubt that losing him in the locker room will be immense if Minnesota chooses not to re-sign their alternate captain.

However, since the injury to his pectoral muscle a few seasons ago, he hasn’t been the same player offensively. Many think that Addison can fill that role as a power play quarterback and a defenseman not afraid to fire the puck on net. Minnesota knows he can do this at the AHL level. In the NHL? He’s performed well, but it’s been in short stints. What if Guerin gave him 40 games before making a move? At least then there’d be more clarity.

The same goes for Rossi and Beckman, to a lesser extent. The team clearly expects Rossi to be a part of the future of this franchise. Beckman, who struggled in his first full season in the AHL last year, still has loads of promise as a prospect. Until those two prove they’re just not ready to hang in St. Paul, Guerin should keep his phone in his holster. 

The long-term development of these players is what is important here. Minnesota cannot simply bury prospects in the AHL until 2025, then bring them up and suddenly expect to compete for a Stanley Cup. The Wild need to know if these guys can be the players they drafted them to be or if they need to go outside the organization once they regain their spending power in 2025. 

That’s when fans think the team can realistically compete for a Stanley Cup. Guerin already has a built-in excuse until then. Most GMs get a honeymoon period of a couple of seasons before the fanbase’s expectations go up. Guerin all but extended his honeymoon period with these buyouts. Fans knew this cap crunch was coming. If the Wild take a step back, it’s not like fans weren’t anticipating this. 

There’s another incentive to playing the kids, too. It’s because they’re affordable for longer. That isn’t to say that one day Rossi, Matt Boldy, or Addison won’t make Kevin Fiala-like money. For Minnesota, the hope is that they play so well to demand such a payday. But the Wild can control their contracts and generally dictate the cost. And even if Rossi is paid like Parise someday, the return on that investment will almost always be better than signing a free agent at the same price. 

One can only imagine the amount of forecasting and planning that went into the fallout of the Parise and Suter buyouts. This is the season where all of the planning must come to fruition. Now at the hour of execution, Guerin must use restraint by not adding another player from outside the organization before the season starts.

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