I’ll be looking at some teams whose salary cap situations, place in the standings, or any other variety of reasons will cause them to part with some pieces over the summer, and how the Red Wings may benefit from their misfortunes. Click here for my look at the Philadelphia Flyers. Up next are the Minnesota Wild!
The Wild are in a really, really crappy spot for two simple reasons:
1. Their team isn’t any good.
2. They have a payroll that says they should be really good.
They finished in 12th place in the Western Conference, and only the pathetically bad Edmonton Oilers finished with fewer goals scored in the West.
Minnesota somehow managed to be tight to the salary cap all year long, with absolutely nothing to show for it. Aside from the high-spending New Jersey Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs, who were directly below them in the NHL standings, every team with a worse record than the Wild’s was near the salary cap floor. There is simply no excuse for paying that much money out for that little results.
They have also missed the playoffs each of the last three seasons, after flaming out in Round 1 for the first two post-lockout seasons.
Normally, the GM would have already been sent packing in a case like this, but Chuck Fletcher only just completed his second year on the job, and is still trying to clean up the mess Doug Risebrough left him with.
Fletcher has made his intentions known to the rest of the league. He is having a sale, and everyone is invited.
If you’re Minnesota Wild property, and your name doesn’t start with “Mikko” and end with “Koivu”, don’t extend the lease on your apartment just yet.
Detroit’s needs are for a top 6 forward and at least one top 4 defenseman. Minnesota has exactly zero forwards whose play or contracts excite me, so we’ll skip to the D.
The Wild already have some good, young pieces on the blue line like Marco Scandella, Tyler Cuma, Chay Genoway, Clayton Stoner and Jared Spurgeon.
They are probably looking to add draft picks and prospects, because they have very little hope of competing in their division for a while. Vancouver is the reigning President’s Trophy winners, and went to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Calgary isn’t the elite team they used to be but is always competitive. Edmonton is a team on the rise, and could be one of the heavy hitters really soon. Colorado has a good young core to build around. That leaves Minnesota way behind in just their division, let alone the conference or the league.
They won’t be looking to add veteran pieces to build for a championship run. They are starting from scratch. This makes just about all of their NHL blue liners available.
Nick Schultz is a rock on the blue line for them, a real shut-down type of defenseman. Think of Brad Stuart. They have virtually the same cap hit, although Wild fans seem to think Schultz is a bit over-paid, probably because he contributes little offensively.
Cam Barker is a guy I’ve always liked, even though he’s played most of his career so far for Chicago. The Blackhawks dumped him at the deadline a year ago in a salary cap move, but it also landed them stud defensive prospect Nick Leddy. Minnesota would probably take a redo on that one if given the option. Even still, Barker is a solid player who put up 40 points just two seasons ago, but seems out of place in Minnesota. He could be moved.
Marek Zidlicky has been a very solid offensive defenseman for a long time in the NHL, and in Europe prior to that. He has loads of experience, including representing the Czech Republic numerous times at the international level. He helped lead the team to a bronze medal at the 2006 Turin Olympic games. He’s slown down a bit recently, but he can still generate points.
Brent Burns is the stud of this group of defenseman, and the one I really hope the Wings take a run at. For those not familiar with Burns, I’ll give you the quick hits:
26 years old.
6’5″, 220 pounds.
Right handed shot.
Check that, right handed cannon, at nearly 100 mph.
2008 IIHF World Championship’s Best Defenseman
2011 NHL All-Star.
Excited yet? Thought so.
He played forward throughout his minor and junior hockey career, until joining the Minnesota Wild in 2003 where he was converted to defense by then head coach Jacques Lemaire.
The move has paid off in spades for the Wild, as the offensively-gifted Burns has put up basically a point every other game on a team that starves for offense. I can only begin to imagine what he’d do when he had guys like Nick Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg feeding him the puck, instead of Zidlicky, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, or Martin Havlat.
The Wild will probably want a lot for him, and he is a free agent following this season. Would the Wings wait until next year to take a run at him, or do they see him as too valuable to let him get to unrestricted free agency? With a cap hit of only $3.55 this season, they could have him at a great value for a season before he ultimately commands a big raise next year.
Burns is a guy that, if acquired, could form the beginnings of an elite top four for the future with Kronwall and Brendan Smith.