Before the Seattle Kraken gets their pick over the NHL during the expansion draft on July 21, we’ll take a look around the Minnesota Wild roster and determine how and why certain players might be heading west.
Victor Rask has been under the microscope in Minnesota ever since former general manager Paul Fenton brought him over from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for fan favorite Nino Niederreiter. Believe it or not, his 2021 campaign was his best in a Wild uniform, scoring 10 goals and adding 13 assists over 54 games played, despite bouncing around the lineup and mostly spending time with Mats Zuccarello and Kirill Kaprizov. But as a player whose ceiling seems to be about 15 goals and 30 points a season, at $4 million a year, his rate of production is not commensurate to his rate of pay.
And as many Twitter GMs have pointed out in recent days, Kaprizov might have second thoughts about signing a long-term deal if Victor Rask is slated to be his centerman for too much longer.
In a perfect world for Wild fans, Ron Francis and the rest of the Seattle Kraken front office go down the list of unprotected Minnesota players, stop at Rask and go, “now that’s a guy we can turn into a 30 goal scorer.” That alternate universe is also one where Kaprizov signed with the Wild immediately after being drafted and Alex Tuch has a second-line spot with a Wild team that still wears their green script alternate jerseys.
But seriously, in the best used car salesman voice I can muster... “What do we have to do to get
you into this car Seattle to take Victor Rask in the expansion draft?”
How They Would Get Picked
With options such as Matt Dumba, Cam Talbot, Jordan Greenway or Ryan Hartman, the Kraken are not going to take Rask of their own accord. No, the Wild are going to need to go the route they went with Vegas, and give Seattle a few accommodations in order to get them to agree to take Rask and his $4 million off their hands.
But while the Wild were able to get the Golden Knights to look past Dumba and Marco Scandella by offering up Alex Tuch for a conditional third-round pick and getting them to agree to select Erik Haula, getting Seattle to take on Rask and his $4 million contract might take a little bit more - especially when there’s precidence.
One example is how Tampa Bay handled the Vegas expansion draft in 2017. The Lightning had a year remaining on Jason Garrison’s six-year deal at $4.6 million AAV. Garrison, who came to the Lightning in a 2014 draft day trade from the Vancouver Canucks, had an impressive first season in Tampa Bay with 30 points, and while his goals improved the next season from four to five, his assists crashed in 2015-16, finishing with just 11, while his Corsi percentage dropped over his three years with the Lightning. Desperate to move on and clear cap space, Tampa Bay ensured Vegas would make Garrison their choice by giving Vegas second and fourth round picks, as well as the rights to Nikita Gusev, a highly touted prospect that was overseas, and wasn’t showing any signs of wanting to cross the pond. Gusev eventually did sign with the Golden Knights and joined them as a black ace during their 2019 playoff run before being traded to the New Jersey Devils later that summer.
Other potential examples of pre-expansion payouts include Vegas’ selection of off-injured and overpaid forward Mikhail Grabovski from the New York Islanders, whose $4 millon deal was absorbed for the hefty price a first-round (15th overall) pick and an additional second rounder in 2019, and defensive prospect (and former Minnesota Golden Gopher) Jake Bischoff, and the Columbus Blue Jackets deal to get the Golden Knights to take David Clarkson and his remaining three years at $5.275 AAV in exchange for a 2017 first, a 2019 second, and William Karlsson, who remains a staple on Vegas’ squad to this day.
Why Seattle Would
Seattle needs contracts in order to get to the $48.9 million dollar mark, which is 60% of the current salary cap. They wouldn’t specifically need Rask in order to make that happen, but his $4 million certainly helps. And the fact that his contract will expire after next season means that they won’t have to deal with the rule that expansion teams cannot buy out their expansion players until the summer after their first season - they could let Rask walk either way.
That being said, Seattle would be looking for a windfall to take Rask in line with the hauls that the Golden Knights were able to obtain. Francis asking for one of the Wild’s first-rounders in 2021, along with an early-to-mid round pick in 2022 and/or a mid-to-upper level prospect along the lines of Adam Beckman or Ryan O’Rourke, wouldn’t be a surprising first salvo from Seattle.
For those who think that’s a huge overpay to get them to take on Rask, remember it’s not about Rask per se... it’s about getting Seattle to overlook Dumba, Greenway, Foligno, Hartman, Carson Soucy AND Cam Talbot.
Would Bill Guerin go for that kind of deal? I can’t imagine he would - especially when Rask has only a year left on his deal and would be a prime candidate for a buyout , with a cap hit that (according to CapFriendly) would cost the Wild only $1.33 million over the next two seasons - a savings of $2.67 millon in an offseason where Kevin Fiala, Joel Eriksson Ek, and of course Kaprizov, are due significant raises.
How Does This Affect The Wild?
But lets say it does happen, Guerin works his magic, and Rask is the newest third-line center for the Seattle Kraken in 2021-22. Assuming the Wild get a deal done with Eriksson Ek, the Wild have some serious decisions to make at the center position. Ryan Hartman has one spot, and Nico Sturm can take another, but Nick Bonino and Marcus Johansson are both UFAs.
So where would the Wild turn? Re-sign Bonino? Sign an old veteran at more money than they’re worth? Swing a massive trade for a top center that will likely cost more picks and prospects? Hang your hopes that Marco Rossi is fully recovered from COVID and is NHL-ready? And are any of these options better than just swallowing hard and rostering Rask for one more season?
Realistically, getting Seattle to take Rask is a proposition filled with ifs, ifs and more ifs. If Seattle’s interested in looking past Dumba, Greenway or Talbot. If the price isn’t too high. If Guerin and Evason aren’t ready to move on, despite the vitriol from fans. If just buying him out wouldn’t be a better option. And the biggest “ifs” of all - if Zach Parise and/or Ryan Suter are willing to waive their no-move clauses.
And we all know the kind of Christmas we could have if “ifs and buts” were “candy and nuts.”