The Minnesota Wild will again feel a cap crunch this season.
After being unable to shed the contracts of Dany Heatley, the Wild needed to do some creative maneuvering to stay under the cap. Well, maybe buying out Tom Gilbert wasn't creative. But signing Ballard early for 1.5 million was a good move, and swapping Clutterbuck for El Nino seems like a creative no-brainer. And hey, you can even make the argument that trading Devin Setoguchi to a division rival for the ability to sign Matt Cooke was creative, too, right?!
Anyway, the point is, Fletcher re-made the depth of this team while being under some pretty tight financial limitations. Whether those work or not will have to be seen.
And there's 2,784,466 dollars remaining to finish that job, if need be.
Chuck Fletcher recently stated that he had no plans to alter this team, opting to go into training camp with the team as it is right now. Of course, he said this hours before trading Devin Setoguchi and signing Matt Cooke, so you never know.
But is that the right course of action he should take?
There's the feeling that's been communicated by the Wild's front office that they want to have spots open for the young players to compete for, and that's completely valid. Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, Jason Zucker, and maybe even a guy like Erik Haula are players that are NHL-ready, and deserve opportunities to show that.
But on the other hand, installing youth in prominent roles can be a risky proposition- see Mikael Granlund, second line center. But while last year, the fail-safe was Matt Cullen, which worked out wonderfully, this year's fail-safe is... um... more youth.
Perhaps Fletcher should look at if the prices of guys like a Damien Brunner or Mikhail Grabovski are coming down. If so, it might be wise to snap guys like them up while the price is only money, even if it means more of a cap crunch. The only option to bolster this team during the season is (quite likely) going to be by trade, where you're usually giving up assets and money, at least if you are looking to make a significant improvement.
Having money and flexibility at the deadline can be a really good thing. An even better thing would be a savvy decision now that eliminates the need for money and flexibility at the deadline.