Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Minnesota Wild - It's Easy To Forget About Them All Tucked Away Down There

(Editor's Note: No introduction on this one. I am going to try to cut down on the introductions, otherwise I will likely not be able to finish all 30 teams.)

Minnesota Cap Situation

Cap Health: The Wild have an excellent salary cap situation, with over 10 million dollars of room this year, and almost 20 million next year.

How'd Minnesota Do Last Year, I Wasn't Paying Attention: Minnesota finished in 9th place in the Conference. They were a below-average offense but well-above-average defense. Their best forward sat out most of the year. They actually had an above-average power play too - their 5 on 5 play was what kept them out of the playoffs.

But Then They Fired Everyone: Minnesota hired assistant Pittsburgh GM Chuck Fletcher to be their general manager, after dispatching the only GM in their history, Doug Risebrough. Fletcher is well known, for, uh, helping to pick Sidney Crosby 1st overall. Or maybe it was picking Evgeni Malkin 2nd overall. Well, he's probably a great guy, and regardless he has to be better than Risebrough, who violated the 'Take Only Pictures and Leave Only Footprints' commandment by leaving Fletcher a ludicrously overpaid goalie.

What Was Risebrough's Strategy, Anyway? It's hard to tell - the man clearly deserved his firing. It seemed to be piling up overpriced free agents without many special skills. Signing Nick Schultz to a deal comparable with Willie Mitchell, Jay McKee, and all the other overpriced D-only players around the league also seems foolish. Mark Parrish was a particularly stinky signing who will affect the Wild's cap until 2013-14.

Where's Dan Fritsche, He's An RFA? Dan Fritsche clearly has skills, but he's not worth an $850,000 qualifying offer. Odds are that he will be non-tendered.

2009-10 Projected Lines

This indicates a player RFA in 2008-09
This indicates a player UFA in 2009-10
This indicates a player RFA in 2009-10




The Future? Nothing on the horizon. The young players for Minnesota are already in their lineup.


Dan Fritsche: Non-tendering him might be a little harsh for a 24 year old, but the Wild have too many young forwards like him, and he did not impress in his brief time in Minnesota. Someone else may want to take a shot at this depth forward. The Wild may look to trade some of their younger, inexpensive players for contracts that more wealthy teams need taken off their hands - Simon Gagne could be a Wild player next season, for instance.

Free Agent Discussion

Money To Spend: 12.7 million
Money Likely To Be Spent: 10 million
Holes To Fill: 3

Left Wing

Marian Gaborik (7/45) - They got rid of the coach whom he supposedly didn't like - is that enough to keep Gaborik in Minnesota? There's not many other places for him, except for one which players tend not to go to. Gaborik is a legitimate finisher, something the Wild desperately need, he is a 50 goal man when healthy.
Martin Havlat (6/36) - Havlat fulfills the Wild's a great deal less than Gaborik - Havlat has 169 goals in 470 career games, which works out to 29 per 82 games. He's not a pure finisher like Gaborik. He can play left wing and has top-line skills, something which the Wild decidedly lack.
Mike Knuble (2/6.2) - Knuble would fulfill the same role as Andrew Brunette, but it's not like redundancy has stopped the Wild in the past. Has 10+ PPG goals per season since the lockout.


Jordan Leopold (4/11.5) - Leopold is from Minnesota, he went to the University of Minnesota, and there's a need for a long-term puck-moving type guy.
Nick Boynton (3/7.5) - Boynton is a physical defender with some offensive skill - it's possible that someone remarkably overvalues him and pays him $3M+, but if not, there will remain a lot of interested parties.
Martin Skoula (2/4) - Skoula is one of those guys who doesn't really excel at anything but isn't terrible at anything either.
Marc-Andre Bergeron (2/3) - A liability at even strength, but who cares? That slapshot is awesome. Actually managed a +5 this year too.
Cory Murphy (2/2.75) - Murphy has power play skills but who knows how much else he has to offer?

Conclusion: Minnesota has a decent skeleton in place but if Gaborik departs and no one fills his place they lack top-end talent. The Backstrom contract is an unfortunate setback, but also the kind of thing that happens when a team has lots of money to spend. The Wild can put together a competitive team if they make the right moves in free agency, but right now they are in that middle of the pack in the Western Conference - there's Detroit, Chicago, and San Jose at the top, and then between Team 4 and Team 13 there's not a large difference right now. Ownership in Minnesota has never gotten that one star player besides Gaborik, but perhaps with Lemaire out of the way, they start to open the checkbook a bit. Signing Gaborik would be a step in the right direction for a franchise that besides one unlikely playoff run in 2003 has very little to show for its time in the NHL.


  1. Chuck Fletcher was not in Pittsburgh for the picks of Crosby nor Malkin. What he is known for is the ability to find the pieces that make a TEAM. Guys like Max Talbot, Chris Kunitz, Miro Satan... Pittsburgh had some awesome luck with getting Crsoby and Malkin, but he had nothing to do with either one.

    He has served as an AGM on three Cup finalists, so he must be doing something right.

    Don't know where you are at, but Fritche impressed greatly here in MN. He brought a passion most guys on the ice had lost. He showed his speed, and his physical toughness. Not worth $850K? That's fine, we'll keep him.

    "The Backstom contract was an unfortunate setback." Because it would have been better to what, give up one of the best in the game?

    "but is gaborik departs, they will lack top-end talent." He already departed, and they do lack top end talent. No need to beat around the bush here. "Signing Gaborik would be a step in the right direction." Yep, pay the guy who has missed almost as many games as he has played. The rest of the NHL is more than welcome to him. Open that checkbook boys.

    Marc Andre Bergeron is more than a liabiity at even strength. He is a liability at all times. He is shoot first, defense second. Not good for a blueliner. Sorry, but the d-men need to play defense, or they can play wing. Slap shot or not, he played under 10 minutes on the PK. He is a liability in every situation.

    We agree on a few points, but looking at it from the outside, on your brief stop on your trip through the league, you seem to have missed on a few points.

    A quick recap for you: We don't want Gaborik, you can have him. We want Fritche, back off. Fletcher will do just fine. As long as he actually DOES something other than trade away draft picks, he is a major improvement. He had NOTHING to do with Crosby or Malkin. Nothing.

  2. first, thanks for the input.

    however, the comment on crosby and malkin was made tongue in cheek. second, talbot, kunitz, satan.. 1 out of 3 isn't a great ratio, or haven't people noticed that chris kunitz has stopped being effective in the playoffs? kunitz is quite overrated, he's always played on top lines, and he's rarely produced great numbers. eric tangradi was the real prize of that trade. and miro satan, the less said about him, the better, he's on his last legs as an NHLer and Game 7 might be his final in the league. anyway, i'm just being pedantic - i don't see the penguins as this tremendously well-built team, though (and i'll say why when i get to the penguins).

    didn't see much of fritsche on the wild, but i did watch him as a ranger - he has speed, he's willing to hit, but the wild are going to pay $850K for a fourth liner who's maybe a third liner? they may non-tender him and sign him anyway, as the devils did with johnny oduya 2 off-seasons ago. i guess they have the money to spend for that, but fritsche's been dealt twice because he's too expensive for what he brings.

    re: gaborik - if you leave gaborik, there's not much else out there for the wild unless they do something crazy and go after hossa. and if they don't really sign anyone, they're kinda the same team they were last year. which is, a pretty decent club that will probably miss the playoffs, but not miss them by enough to grab a truly juicy draft pick.

    re: backstrom - is backstrom really one of the best in the game? seems to dispute it and i've read similar criticisms elsewhere. the wild play great defense and harding has similar numbers to backstrom - why pay all that money if his backup's almost as good?

    anyway, admittedly the wild were the last team i would choose to watch on NHL center ice last season, so i didn't see as much of them as i did other teams. i appreciate the feedback from someone who did - minnesota is a tremendous hockey state and deserves a winner. and i do think fletcher will be better than risebrough, who seemed like a well-intentioned fool.

  3. here's a better link re: backstrom: