USA TODAY Sports
The Minnesota Wild have a problem. Apparently. Not really, but it makes for good press.
Read the pages of the worst sports blog on the planet, read the comment sections on Wild coverage, or just visit Twitter for an hour, and you might think the Minnesota Wild are in some real trouble. You see, the team signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to massive contracts last summer (who knew?) and those two contracts alone handcuff the team for the next 13 years. No. Really. I read it on the internet, and they can't put anything on the internet that isn't true.
If you believe the hacks at Rant Sports, who continue to find new ways to impress with their inability to form a sentence about the Wild without looking stupid, then yes. A few days ago, they must have had a guy on the east coast that needed to write something about a Western Conference team to boost his cred with the floundering and absolutely ill informed editors of the site.
In an article published ten days ago, Mark Donatiello (not a Ninja Turtle I am guessing) wrote that the Wild "have more than a third of the new salary cap tied up in just three players." This is true, of course, with Koivu, Parise, and Suter. What the author doesn't explain is that the cap is not fixed. It has never not gone up year over year. It will, of course, drop next season, which is why the guy in the purple mask running around with a bo stick has to be drolling over the cap trouble the Wild are in.
He admits that the Wild have a stable of prospects ready to jump into open spots, but seems to think that somehow Matt Hackett is going to be an RFA hold out and demand $6 million a year.
In times like these, it amazes me that writers do not know how to access CapGeek. It such a simply fact checking tool.
The Wild, after the cap drop, have roughly $11.6 million in cap space for next season. They have 18 of 24 players under contract. UFAs include Pierre-Marc Bouchard ($4.08 million), Matt Cullen ($3.5 million), and Niklas Backstrom ($6 million). RFAs include Jared Spurgeon ($527K), Justin Falk ($825K), and Cal Clutterbuck ($1.4 million), all of whom are playing regular NHL minutes. Bring Matt Hackett into the conversation, since he is mentioned in the article, for another RFA at a cap hit QO of $740K.
Figure Spurgeon is going to get a rise, and put him in at $800K. Falk may not be long for the NHL, but he'll get his deal, putting him near $1 million a season. Clutterbuck will get his raise, likely pushing $2 million a year. Add it up, the Wild spend $3.8 million to fill three holes.They now have $7.8 million to sign three guys.
If the Wild let Backstrom walk, or if he wants too much to stay, Hackett or Darcy Kuemper are the likely backup for Josh Harding. Hackett will sign his QO, so figure $800K. Kuemper is under contract at $900K. To be conservative, figure a million bucks for one of the two. Down to $6.8 million for two guys.
If, as the author suggests, Josh Harding cannot play, he either retires or is put on LTIR, either way freeing up the cap space, and giving the Wild even more room to breathe.
The Wild's top six looks pretty well set with Jason Zucker and Charlie Coyle playing well, and Mikael Granlund will come around. There is no reason the Wild need to find big money to spend on a top six forward. Filling spots in the bottom six should not cost $3.4 million a guy, and if it does, they can just call up Johan Larsson.
Looking at the actual facts, the Wild have plenty of space to work with. Will they be a cap team again? Most likely, but that isn't a problem, it is a choice. The year after, they get even more space back as Heatley's contract expires, and several UFAs who can be replaced easily also come off the books. All this while cap is very likely to go back up.
The Minnesota Wild do not have a cap issue. The writers at podunk sports sites simply have an issue with accessing basic information while assessing an extremely simple concept. Whatever you do, don't buy into the hype of a mythical cap problem for the Wild. There are writers and fans who simply refuse to do the leg work to see that it is no more real than Abraham Lincoln riding a unicorn down Kellogg Blvd.