Hey brother, can you spare a dime might be the way the Minnesota Wild feel as they begin their 3-year self-imposed cap crunch due to the twin buyouts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. $12.7 million this season and then $14.7 million the next two seasons after that. Belt tightening and most likely uneventful activity in free agency are something Wild fans should expect moving forward.
Minnesota’s ‘cap crunch’ is the focus of our next two questions of this 3-part series. Fans now get the chance to put on their General Manager hat and assess and evaluate the team’s challenges moving into the next few seasons.
In what has become an annual tradition for my blog is when I ‘pass the mic’ so to speak to a panel of 7 Wild fans to hear what their thoughts and expectations are for the upcoming season. All of their responses have not been edited and they will not have seen the responses of the other participants until I publish this article.
One of these days I promise to invite them down for a beer at Tom Reid’s Hockey City pub or some other place like that and do this in person. I would like to thank all of them for their time, effort and passion for the game to participate in an article like this.
To start it off, let’s meet the respondents who have provided a short bio of themselves so you get to know who they are and then we’ll start with our first two questions.
Johan (@mnjohan) ~ My name is Johan Gumaelius, a native of Sweden but a starter Minnesotan when I attended St. Cloud Cathedral as an exchange student in 1985-86. I then became a full time Minnesotan after I went to college at St. Cloud State and graduated in the mid 90’s and have lived here ever since. I’m a Wild season ticket holder since the beginning. I’ve been involved with hockey basically since I could walk/skate both as a player, youth coach and even dabbled in the equipment area for a bit. My active playing career ended when I was cut as a walk on at St. Cloud my freshman year in the fall of 1989. I continued to play in bar leagues both in St. Cloud and later in the Twin Cities area. I’ve been blessed with many friends that have made hockey their career which have given me an opportunity to peak under the hood so to say of this great game at its highest level both on the player and coaching side. When it comes to the Wild I’m mostly an optimist but try to stay as level headed as possible.
Jodi (@jodi_halvy) ~ My name is Jodi, I have been a Minnesota Wild season ticket holder for the last 16 years with my dad. We share a passion for hockey, and even through the ups and downs of cheering for a franchise that tends to disappoint, we are still huge Wild fans! We both fall in to the trap of consistently being overly optimistic about this team and then watching them unravel at different points throughout the season, we will continue to show up for the State of Hockey though!
Joey (@palodinolive) ~ My name is Joey Awaijane, I’m a 43-year old, born and raised in Golden Valley Minnesota. I’ve loved hockey my whole life, but didn’t become a full-time fan until approximately the 1990-1991 season, when the Minnesota North Stars coincidentally went on their Cup finals run. The North Stars leaving in 1993 scarred me for life, as I’m still one of those old timers wanting the Wild to adopt the old name, or at least resurrect the original green and gold color scheme. Despite the North Stars leaving, my love for the game just grew, and when the “ Minnesota NHL Team” was approved in 1997, I went berserk! Many years later in August 2008, I started the Brave The Wild podcast, things didn’t start out all so well, as I learned the hard way that there’s more to talking hockey on a podcast than just being a “knowledgeble fan”, and the numbers stayed low for years. In time, I got better, as did the Wild with the signings of you know who, so the numbers went up gradually ever since. Two more recent major arrivals have since made things much better than ever, yes Kirill Kaprizov is one. I also have dabbled a bit in writing with “GonePuckWild” but have been M.I.A. for awhile in that department. One of these days I’ll dip my pen back in the ink dispenser, if it hasn’t totally dried up by then.
Tim (@Timnado) ~I’m a thick-skinned 40-something Wild fan perpetually waiting for ‘Next Year’ since 2003. I maintain a foxhole at Summit Brewing along West 7th in the event that a Parade ever materializes. Drop me a line at @Timnado if you like your hockey takes with a healthy dose of satire. Cheers!
Justin (@deast2004) ~ My name is Justin Bakke. I am a lifelong Minnesota sports fan and huge hockey nut. As a kid I grew up with the North Stars. My time with them was brief though, since I was 7 when they left. From that point on I was mainly a UMD Bulldog fan. Growing up in Duluth that was the closest thing and I went to many games. The pro team I became a fan of between Minnesota franchises was the Colorado Avalanche, Joe Sakic was my idol as a hockey player. I not only was a huge hockey fan, but I also grew up playing through the Duluth East system through Bantams. Currently, I am a huge Minnesota Wild fan and run or help run multiple pages. Most commonly are the Sound the Foghorn Podcast, Kaprizov Kountdown, and MNW Young Guns. My wife and I get to as many games as we can. I am a hockey dad of 2 hockey players and have a third that seems primed to play when he is older, too. Needless to say, hockey is deeply entrenched in my family and life.
Brian ~ I’m Brian Felska and have been a long time hockey fan at all levels. Growing up in out state Minnesota in the 50’s and 60’s where it was tough to participate in hockey as a school sport. The only school teams were in the metropolitan area or in northern Minnesota. We did spend a lot of time at the rink skating, shooting, and playing pickup games. We had very little formal coaching but did have rec. teams from junior high on. Seasonal high school sports took the spotlight but I did manage to play some hockey in my senior high years. When I was in college the St. Cloud State program was in its infancy just switching from club to a varsity sport. Even then the players shoveled their own rinks. I was lucky enough to coach some peewee teams before starting a family. I have always enjoyed the speed and physically of sports so hockey was I game I loved.
3. As the buyout penalties for Ryan Suter and Zach Parise take a sizeable amount of cap space the next 3 seasons, the lack of space compelled the team to part ways with players like Kevin Fiala, Cam Talbot, Nic Deslauriers, Jordie Benn, Nick Bjugstad and Dmitry Kulikov. Which player of this group do you think this team will miss the most this upcoming season and why?
Johan ~ This team will for sure miss Fiala the most. He had a great break out year and due to the salary cap constraint they could not afford to keep him. Now I think Billy G basically made this his choice last year when they agreed on a one year deal and he knew there was noway they could keep Kevin regardless of how well he played. Second on this list is Cam. They will miss his stability in net. Him and Flower sharing the goaltending load would have been awesome. Now Filip Gustavsson is more of an unknown commodity and this might give Flower a bit more pressure to be the true #1 goalie but who knows. It will be one of the early things to look for.
Jodi ~ I mean the obvious guy on this list is Kevin Fiala, how do you possibly replace his production? I do believe that there is a massive difference between a player like Kaprizov and a player like Fiala. Fiala has stretches throughout each season where he disappears, and he struggles to play responsibly with the puck. Whereas Kaprizov appears to be a genuine superstar, shows up every day, even when he is the focal point of the other teams top line, and he is a responsible player. In my opinion there is no comparison between Fiala and Kaprizov. Fiala reminded me at times of guys like Jason Zucker, Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund. Spurts of greatness, and seemingly bubbling with potential, but always a failure to deliver and disappearing from time to time. Parting with Fiala shows that Guerin trusts his scouting department and his player development group, and that will hopefully go a long way in building a strong roster moving forward.
Aaron ~ Fiala is easily the most missed of this list. Yes, Kirill was the first to break the 100 point barrier, but Fiala put up the second highest scoring season in franchise history, besting even Gaborik, and most organizations cannot just “replace” that sort of production.
Joey ~ Of the departures in the offseason, Kevin Fiala will be the most missed by far, quite simply because he has special skills that few players in the NHL have. Fiala’s 85 points last year alone would have been a franchise record, if not for Kirill Kaprizov’s remarkable 108 point season. Raw numbers are one thing, but when you factor in Fiala’s chemistry with Matt Boldy, that also will be a gaping hole to fill, going into 2022-2023. Fiala and Boldy were a near perfect match for each other, as before Boldy was ultimately called up to the NHL, it seemed like Fiala was moved
up and down line after line like a tossed salad. Next thing you know, the pair was together until the Wild were knocked out of the first round by St. Louis, ending Fiala’s tenure in Minnesota unceremoniously.
Tim ~ Fiala. While admittedly streaky, Fiala blossomed last year. On a a team that has historically rostered a lot of “pass-first/defer to teammates” players, Fiala never hesitated to lead the charge. He also was a significant contributor on both sides of Special Teams play.
Justin ~ I am going to start by saying the latter 3 are players that are replaceable. I think the former 2 will be the biggest impactful losses. The one that I think we will miss the most may come as a surprise, but I think it will be Cam Talbot. It will be hard to replace Fiala’s 85 points, but this may give another player a chance to take a leap like Fiala did getting a better chance. I don’t think anyone will get to 85 points, but a player like Marco Rossi, Tyson Jost, or both could get that opportunity to make a leap. Jost was a guy that was crammed down the lineup in Colorado, but may find that scoring touch in a higher role here. I don’t think we have someone like that in the crease…yet. Now back to Cam Talbot. He was huge for us down the stretch. Especially his last 15 starts where he didn’t lose. He gave us the stability we needed and provided a good duo with MAF despite some rough patches in season. I think he should have gotten a better shake in the playoffs. His demeanor in net, no matter the situation, was a calming presence. He handled adversity with professionalism and I think that will be missed. I think Gustavsson, who we got in return, could do well with a change of scenery, but so far his numbers aren’t stellar. Then again he was in Ottawa. Hypothetically if MAF gets hurt or regresses with age, we could be in a world of hurt in net. We went from a strong duo that could split time, to a duo that gives me less confidence. I do think we have a great thing in Jesper Wallstedt, and I do think he is here sooner than later, but Talbot will be missed this season.
Brian ~ I definitely feel we downgraded ourselves at goaltender. Talbot, at this stage in his career was in a much better position to be a stopper for the next three years. Fleury is way past his prime and it showed anytime he played against competitive teams. I think Kevin Fiala will be missed not only as a goal scorer but as a playmaker but also for his defensive skills. Last year he spent a lot of time on the penalty kill and was always a threat to create shorthanded scoring chances. I am concerned that without Kevin, that his linemates, especially Matt Boldy will not be the offensive players they were last year. Who is going to make up for the goals?
4. Because of the team’s current cap crunch, the organization has mostly avoided free agency and have decided to promote from within. Many of these were players that spent a majority of their season with their American Hockey League affiliate in Iowa last year as Calen Addison, Marco Rossi, Connor Dewar, and perhaps Mitchell Chaffee and Adam Beckman vie for roster spots on the big club. Which of these players do you feel will have the most pressure to fill a critical role with the team? What do you think fans should expect from these players?
Johan ~ Marco Rossi for sure have the most pressure on him to take one of the center spots that are available for him as far as the team is concerned. The biggest spot this team never have been able to fill is a true #1 Center. I think is not fair to say that Rossi will fill this spot but he will for sure help with true skill depth at this position. I have high hopes but it will take time. The second person that have a lot of pressure on him is Addison. He might have the most personal pressure of anyone. This is his show us what you got year. He has proved everything he needs to prove in Iowa now can he take a spot on the big stage or will he bounce from team to team for the next stage of his career. What should we fans expect? Well, it would be great if it all of them will be on a straight trajectory to stardom but we are Minnesota sports fans and we know this doesn’t happen to us. I think it will be a 2 step forward 1 step back trajectory I just hope there are much more steps forward and then set backs.
Jodi ~ I am really excited to watch both Calen Addison and Marco Rossi this season. I feel like both of them have an awesome opportunity to step in and get a chance to play. I am also excited to watch Adam Beckman play, and I wish he would get more of a chance but it doesn’t seem like the Wild are willing to bring him up unless he can break the top 6. I do not understand what Connor Dewar brings to the table, good player, but people seem really high on him and I just don’t see it. Personally, as a fan I would much rather cheer for Addison and Rossi, then Kulikov and Bjugstad. Younger players are exciting and hopefully these guys will be worth the wait!
Aaron ~ I think Rossi is going to have the most pressure, as his name has been ballyhooed for years now, and this will likely be the year where the rubber hits the road. None of these players really stand a chance to fill the huge gap that Fiala’s departure created, but if the Wild are going to be successful this year, they absolutely need someone to step up.
Joey ~ To me, Marco Rossi has the most critical role to file, considering he is a center, and the fact he is so highly thought of to be taken with the 9th overall pick in the 2020 NHL draft, which was an extremely deep draft at the top.
The pressure is on Calen Addison as well, now that a defenseman spot has been opened with the Dmitry Kulikov trade, to not only make room on the potential roster, but also provide much needed cap space. Addison needs to literally grab that spot, not just barely make it, that is what Bill Guerin and Dean Evason are hoping for. Adam Beckman is a year older and wiser, unfortunately last season wasn’t all too great after a very strong start, including getting his first NHL assist very early on. He needs to take that next step, which will be crucial for this franchise, as we enter the heart of the cap squeeze for the next three years, not to mention the departure of the Wild’s second best player this summer.
Mitchell Chaffee and Connor Dewar are bottom six players when you consider their career potential. Connor Dewar represented well last season, which should give him the upper hand, but I suppose you never know, Chaffee just might surprise and be a late bloomer, he was a heck of a college player.
Tim ~ Rossi will face the most pressure due to his higher draft pedigree. Many “prospect whisperers” have stoked the flames of the Marco Rossi Potential Engine, and the fact that he is a Center on a team that has never had a true #1 Pivot on its roster and that takes the pressure to a new level. Based on what we saw from him in the AHL, I think it’s fair to expect Marco to eventually find his way in “The Show”, becoming an effective 2 way player with 40-some points to his name, and a top 5 finish for the Calder (barring injury).
Justin ~ I don’t think the pressure will land on Calen Addison. I think the top 4 are set unless injuries occur. He has seen a few games with the big club as well and looked pretty good overall. Connor Dewar played a decent role in the bottom six and seemed to thrive in that spot. I think that will, for the most part, be his career role. I don’t think there will be too much pressure on Michael Chaffee. I think he will be a good call up option, but could also end up surprising fans a bit, kind of like Brandon Duhaime did last season. Adam Beckman is a player that I feel can come in and fill where he is needed. I am unsure if the club feels he is ready to make the jump or not. He had a great preseason last year. He didn’t score as much in Iowa that I thought he would, but he was put in between players that don’t suit his skills well at all. I think he is a player that could come in and fill Jordan Greenway’s role while he is injured. I don’t think the pressure will be there though like fans will put on Marco Rossi. He is considered to be a top 1 or 2 prospect in the system. Fans are excited and expect him to come in and perform as such. I feel he will be on a line with Boldy and Jost/Gaudreau. That would put him on a line that lost Kevin Fiala. I think he will be a very good player and a star. However, I think some fans will be too critical of him if there are some growing pains. That is one thing that we can expect, is growing pains, from any and all of these guys. Yes, they could come in and be great off the bat, but the NHL is hard and we can also expect some mistakes to learn from. We saw the chemistry Boldy and Rossi had in Iowa, and it excites me that we will probably see it in Minnesota. It just may take some time. We are soon to find out.
Brian ~ It might not be fair but Marco Rossi, Connor Dewar and Adam Beckman are going to be expected to make big jumps in their games this year. If this trio can do that then the Wild have a chance at repeating last year’s numbers. If not, we are in for a very mediocre season. We need the guys who don’t make millions and millions of dollars to step up.
What are your thoughts on the Minnesota Wild this season? Tell us on Twitter at @CreaseAndAssist!