Four Players the Wild Could Trade Away to Create Cap Space

Photo: Rick Olson - Minnesota Hockey Magazine

The Minnesota Wild are one of the most cap-strapped team in the NHL and we all know why. They have $14.6 million in salary cap dollars committed to two guys, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, who no longer play for their teams.

But Bill Guerin cannot reclaim any of the cap space that’s already been set aside for Parise and Suter’s old contracts. If the Wild general manager wants to make any moves this offseason, he will have to turn a blind eye to what is already done and, instead, look at players on the active roster who can be bought out or traded to create more space.

For the purposes of this blog, we are going to assume these players can be traded without the Wild retaining salary. In reality, there’s no point in Guerin making cap-clearing deals if he has to pay a bunch of outgoing salary to get them done.

Alex Goligoski (D) – 1 Year ($2 million)

Trading Alex Goligoski seems like the only no-brainer on this list. He was scratched more often last season, than he was active. While it’s nice to have an able veteran available in the press box, the Wild cannot afford such luxuries.

Guerin needs to move on from Goligoski. Save $2 million against the cap and let Alex finish his career on a roster where he’s active for every game. It sounds like there was some interest in Goligoski at the 2022-23 trade deadline. I’d imagine there would be even more in the offseason, when teams have fluctuating and incomplete rosters.

Mats Zuccarello (RW) – 1 Year ($6 million)

Like I said, finding more cap space gets a lot more difficult after Alex Goligoski. The biggest savings Guerin could find, on a realistic level, is Mats Zuccarello, who is going into the last year of his deal. Trading Zuccy would save up to $6 million against the cap for someone who was nearly useless when Kirill Kaprizov was injured and out of the lineup toward the end of last season.

Up until then, Zuccarello seemed like an integral part of what the Wild did offensively. He and Kirill have a type of on-ice chemistry that would be hard to duplicate. But Mats was so bad in Kaprizov’s absence, that you wonder if Kirill’s genius is the only thing keeping his hockey above par?

Is it possible that Kaprizov would be even better with someone more talented on his opposite wing? There are no indications that the Wild want to move on from Zuccarello. But if they can find a team willing to take on his entire 2023-24 salary, Guerin might be able to find a better way to spend that $6 million. Mats has a 10-team no move clause on his deal so he has some control over where the Wild would be able to trade him.

Marcus Foligno (RW) – 1 Year (3.1 million)

Just a couple of seasons ago, the Minnesota Wild’s best line had Marcus Foligno on it. He was 1/3 of the GREEF line, which had Jordan Greenway on the opposite wing and Joel Eriksson Ek at center. They were productive offensively and opponents NEVER scored while those three were on the ice.

But that all changed last season. Ek was needed on other lines and Greenway struggled mightily, before being traded at the deadline. Foligno wasn’t very good either, posting one of the most unproductive seasons in his career.

Then, in the playoffs, Foligno’s physicality became a detriment to the Wild’s ability to win. Whether fair or not, he was repeatedly called for penalties throughout the series, and got tossed out of game 5 for a questionable “kneeing” call.

Whether you side with Foligno or the refs during that series, there’s no denying the negative impact he had had. As a team leader. moving on from Foligno would be risky and could hurt the locker room. But… for $3.1 million Guerin, again, must ask himself if that money would be better spent elsewhere.

Marc-Andre Fleury (G) – 1 Year ($3.5 million)

If there is any move that might seem obvious on this list, beyond trading Goligoski, it’s moving on from Marc-Andre Fleury. It’s clear that Filip Gustavsson is the Wild’s #1 goaltender, if they are able to re-sign him this summer.

And if they do, then backup Fleury falls into the same category as press box Goligoski. A luxury, not a necessity. Having one of the best backups in the league is nice, but the Wild are poor and can probably spend some of that $3.5 million on a player who will be on the ice regularly.

Fleury and Guerin are buddies, however. And Fleury has already announced that he’s fine with taking on a backup role, behind Gustavsson. Would Guerin take salary cap space over keeping his buddy, “Flower”, in the locker room?

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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