It has been a pretty quiet summer for the Minnesota Wild and the league in general. Free agent signings have been infrequent and dare I say a level of sanity has been restored to a time normally ripe with clubs overpaying, giving too much term and other needless concessions like no trade and no movement clauses. As the latest issue of the Hockey News speculated, perhaps its the fact so many teams find themselves in tight with the salary cap they’ve finally been forced to not just give into nearly all of the demands of the players. It only took 12 seasons for the leagues’ teams to come to their senses, I guess its better late than never right?
The Wild got past a major hurdle this off-season by signing Nino Niederreiter to a 5-year, $26.25 million contract extension and avoiding his arbitration trial that was set for August 3rd. That leaves two more restricted free agents for the Wild have yet to have signed in Marcus Foligno and Mikael Granlund. Foligno isn’t up for arbitration but if you’ve listened to Michael Russo‘s latest podcast, the two sides are far apart from what they feel is a fair deal. Granlund does have an arbitration date set for August 4th. Russo believes that once Granlund’s deal is settled whether through arbitration or otherwise that the team will be able to know what it can offer to Foligno and possibly one other roster player.
Nino’s deal of $5.25 million per season seem appropriate for a player who has scored at least 20 goals the last 3 seasons while having a limited amount of power play time. The former 5th Overall selection from 2010 can at times be the Wild’s most dominant player but is still somewhat streaky offensively. The team chose to compel the Swiss-winger to prove he could produce offensively, so they put him on a bridge deal and after proving himself he got a sensible payday. The team did not give Niederreiter a no-trade or a no movement clause as they had done with some of its other deals that served to deprive the team of flexibility. Minnesota has $10.5 million in cap space to use on its remaining deals and should be enough to accommodate Foligno and Granlund.
Some Wild fans were hoping the team was going to bring back Matt Cullen to play 4th line center but that seems more and more unlikely. The 40-year old is coming off of back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins and I can’t imagine him wanting to put himself through the grind of another NHL season with a team that seems to still be a ways away from being a true contender. On another level, I’m not in favor of the Wild of becoming yet another Minnesota professional sports team to give a player a victory lap (see the Minnesota Twins and Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor, etc). Cullen still has some game left in him, but the Wild spurned him a few years ago and I think any player likes the idea of finishing on top.