The Minnesota Wild have $57.9 million committed to 18 players, and with the salary cap lowering to $64.3 million next season, it means that they will only have roughly $8 million to spend in free agency.
The first priority should be re-signing key veterans like goaltender Niklas Backstrom and center Matt Cullen, but there are also a couple fish in the sea that Minnesota should reel in.
Goaltending and defense are the primary areas of concern and the Wild have to ensure that is squared away if they are going to take the next step and make a playoff run next season.
All numbers via CapGeek.com.
G Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota Wild
Salary: $6 million
Backstrom has been the Wild goalie since the 2006-07 season and, for the most part, has held his own. There is some truth that he looked a little better than he was under Jacques Lemaire’s defense
first only system and took a little step back when Todd Richards and Mike Yeo opened things up.
Having said that, Backstrom was a workhorse this season and Minnesota would be wise to keep him in town for the remainder of his career.
C Matt Cullen, Minnesota Wild
Salary: $3.5 million
Two young players with high ceilings—Devin Setoguchi (26) and Jason Zucker (21)—played well alongside Cullen this year. Not only did he serve as a mentor in the locker room, but on the ice he also gave them plenty of scoring opportunities.
Even though he passed 30 long ago and is in the final stage of his career, Cullen is still quick and sharper than ever with his passing.
This Virginia, Minn, native should retire in a Wild jersey.
G Mike Smith, Phoenix Coyotes
Salary: $2 million
Going outside the Wild bubble for a second, Minnesota needs to secure a second goaltender for next season. Josh Harding is still battling multiple sclerosis and Darcy Kuemper needs more seasoning in the minors.
By adding Smith, who comes at a reasonable salary, the Wild have either secured a starting goaltender or at least given Backstrom someone he can split games with.
F Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Minnesota Wild
Salary: $4.08 million
There is a segment of the Wild fanbase that is going to dislike this move.
Bouchard has missed significant time with a concussion and does not look like he is going to put up the numbers Minnesota thought he would as the eighth overall pick in 2002.
Even if he never does, Minnesota can probably get the Wild lifer at a discounted rate and have a highly skilled depth scorer to place on the third line.
D Jordan Leopold, St. Louis Blues
Salary: $3 million
Leopold will register for college hockey fans, as the Golden Valley, Minn, native won the Hobey Baker as a member of the Minnesota Gophers back in 2002.
A journeyman defenseman that was dealt from the Buffalo Sabres to the St. Louis Blues at the trade deadline last year, Leopold found an offensive spark in Western New York, scoring 25 goals for the Sabres in the past three years.
Leopold is not a long-term solution, but he is a nice player to put alongside Tom Gilbert on the second pairing for the time being until Nate Prosser and Justin Falk develop into reliable defensemen or Mathew Dumba is called up.