The Seattle Kraken are entering the NHL this summer and with that, the (most likely) final ever expansion draft will be taking place.
Beyond its headaches and looming doom affecting every single transaction in the league this calendar year, the Minnesota Wild are in a precarious spot in regards to who they will protect.
With Mats Zuccarello, Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, and Jared Spurgeon having all earned No-Move Clauses in their current contracts, they will have to be protected automatically. Due to the rules — seven forwards, three defenseman, and one goalie, or eight total skaters and one goalie — the Wild can lose some key talent before an important season.
Well, luckily for us and for the future of this team, GM Bill Guerin is planning on asking players to waive those clauses ahead of the expansion draft, to give him full flexibility in regards to protection.
According to Ryan S. Clark of The Athletic, there is a plan to have those conversations after the Wild either walk away with the Stanley Cup, or are knocked out of the playoffs.
It is understood the Wild are yet to hold any discussions with the Kraken because there are too many variables still in play ahead of the expansion draft. One of those variables being when the Wild will start asking their players who have NMCs to waive those clauses. The belief is that the front office wants to have those discussions after the season. That way, it can lessen the burden on those players and their families while explaining how exposing them is part of an overall plan to fully assess all of their options ahead of the expansion draft.
Jonas Brodin, Zach Parise, Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Suter and Mats Zuccarello are the five players with NMCs. Getting at least two of them to waive their clauses allows the team to potentially retain defenseman Matt Dumba and forward Jordan Greenway. If they don’t get players to waive their NMCs, going with a 7-3-1 format allows the Wild to protect Greenway but risk losing Dumba, and taking eight skaters means the Wild could protect Dumba but run the risk of exposing Greenway.
If they are able to protect Dumba and Greenway, it likely creates the possibly the Kraken could be in play for defenseman Carson Soucy. Even then? The fact Soucy carries a $2.75 million cap hit makes him a coveted piece at a time when every team is conscious of the flat cap. But there is one more thing to consider. What about goaltender Cam Talbot? The Wild are likely going to protect Kaapo Kahkonen and leave Talbot – who has two years remaining at $3.6 million annually – exposed. Could it be a situation in which the Wild speak to the Kraken about a side deal?
In the quick write-up within the article detailing potential side deals teams can make ahead of the expansion draft, there is no mention of how many players Guerin will speak with. The two most likely candidates are veterans Parise and Suter, though.
Instead of potentially losing stellar defenseman Matt Dumba because fourth-liner Zach Parise has one of those dreaded details in his deal, this will help Minnesota stay competitive and not lose a key talent.
If Suter is the one to waive his deal—and that contract is not going to get picked up by Seattle anyways—then that gives them the optimal protection with limited players exposed.
Dumba, Brodin, and Spurgeon are the easy option for the defensemen to protect. Zuccarello and Parise have the clauses, while Kevin Fiala, Marcus Foligno, Jordan Greenway, Joel Eriksson Ek, and Ryan Hartman are the most likely forwards to get that extra security. Kaapo Kahkonen will be the one goaltender, in all of this estimation.
You can even sub in Nico Sturm instead of Hartman or Greenway—whichever player you prefer in your own hypothetical scenario.
With all that in mind, the Wild are basically giving up Cam Talbot as the most talented option for the Kraken to take, or (as Clark mentions in the aforementioned article) defenseman Carson Soucy will be at risk.
If no player decides to take the option of waiving their No-Move Clauses, that means the likes of Foligno, Greenway, Sturm, and Hartman would be added to the list. I can simply not see Guerin opting to leave Dumba exposed, but considering what Foligno has meant to this club in his time here, he might take that risk.
That is why it is so important for maximum flexibility and for at least one player to waive their clause. If the status quo is kept, the Wild will no doubt lose a vital contributor that is not easily replaceable for next season and beyond.