The Minnesota Wild are in an interesting situation with one of the top prospects, Matt Boldy. After finishing his second season at Boston College, the powerful winger can take different paths to his eventual professional turn.
At 19, there is still plenty of time to make that choice, but with the team that drafted him 12th overall in 2019 gearing up for a significant postseason run, it convolutes the typical straightforward decision.
For the Wild, it’s an interesting case to think about the present or the long-term future of this team.
Play in NHL this season
Surely after scoring 11 goals and 31 points through 22 games for Boston College, every single Minnesota fan is urging the player to turn pro as quickly as possible and add an offensive punch to a team that really needs it. Boldy would certainly help the Wild currently and can no doubt take a lot from the second half of this weird season, but would it be the right move long term?
Even if Boldy plays one single game after signing his Entry-Level Contract, that year is burned. There is no nine-game trial period for rookie contract expiration to slide one year like there is with players coming out of the Canadian Major Junior circuit. Doing so would guarantee a contract extension being needed after the 2022-23 season, but it’s not necessarily all that bad.
With Kevin Fiala, Kirill Kaprizov, Joel Eriksson Ek, and Ryan Hartman all needing new contracts this summer, Minnesota’s cap structure is really unknown beyond a few months from now. It’s tough to determine whether or not this team will need all the cap space they can get, or that they can afford to have Boldy expire that offseason.
Matt Dumba, Carson Soucy and Cam Talbot are all going to be unrestricted free agents at that time, giving the Wild even more room to move some contracts around. And even after that Mats Zuccarello’s deal is up the next year, giving possibility for a bridge contract if the team is really strapped with their cap.
All in all, the Wild might be the one team that will offer Boldy the option to turn pro, and he would certainly help this team and would be such an interesting boost to a forward lineup that has lost some dynamism mid-season. Hell, the Montreal Canadiens just signed Cole Caufield to his ELC and they’re slotted to get shitkicked in the first round by the Toronto Maple Leafs, so who really cares if it makes a season more worthwhile?
Iowa Wild ATO, sign later
One of the more common options — and one that The Athletic’s Michael Russo thinks will most likely happen — is Boldy going to Iowa with an Amateur Try-Out in hand and the Entry-Level Contract to be signed this summer. This way, management and all of us in the fanbase would get a solid glimpse at what Boldy can do at the next level, among actual professional hockey players and not beating up on some other college dudes.
It makes the most sense considering how valuable any player on their rookie deal truly is to a contending team. If given one more year—even if it means that both him and Marco Rossi will need extensions at the same time—that can reap a whole bunch of team-friendly benefits.
Not to get too glossy-eyed and crystal ball-peering, but during that 2023-24 season that Boldy will be in his last year of his rookie deal in this scenario, that should be when Minnesota has some more significant prospects all graduated to the team by then. Marat Khusnutdinov? Ryan O’Rourke? Adam Beckman? Even whoever they select in the upcoming 2021 NHL Draft could be knocking on the door by then, so that is a significant year if it means building a new core around cheap players hoping for a few substantial postseason appearances.
Return to Boston
The most boring—and honestly I cannot see it happening—is Boldy returning to college and spending his junior year at Boston College. The dude already has blasted the league out of the water, scoring 31 points through 22 games and is only getting better. To go back and try it again when other teammates, like Colorado Avalanche top prospect Alex Newhook, are most likely turning professionally, would just be stunting his evolution into a damn good hockey player.
It’s just my personal hunch, but I would put the option of not playing hockey within the Wild organization next year at 0.0001 percent. It just doesn’t feel realistic.
Him being a player with such regard and hype surrounding him, returning to college would only spell disaster for Minnesota. The most likely cause of this ever happening would be him wanting to hit the free market after his college career and the Wild’s draft rights expire. We’ve seen it before with some other highly touted players like Jimmy Vesey and Adam Fox, but those were rare circumstances and Boldy’s situation does not feel similar.
Again, the most likely scenario would be the Wild leveraging their power and offering him a chance to play in Iowa for the remainder of the season. He benefits from a professional coaching staff and direct contact with the NHL organization, while the team benefits contractually and financially, getting that extra year of his rookie contract.
Even if we have to wait until the fall to see him on the ice wearing a Wild sweater, it would certainly be worth it.