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The Wild at the Deadline

The Minnesota Wild aren't a very good team this season. They've spent pretty close to the salary cap, and yet the team is getting crushed. Since the lockout, no team that was outshot by more than 4.5 shots per game has made the playoffs - the Wild have been outshot by 5.7 shots per game. The Wild have outshot their opponents just seven times in fifty-nine games this year, by far the worst total in the league; the Oilers, who we all know are horrible, sit 29th having outshot their opponents fifteen times in fifty-nine games. It's bad. The only thing keeping the Wild competitive are some tremendous percentages that we already know aren't likely to last. Further, two of their best forwards, Mikko Koivu and Guillaume Latendresse, are out long term with injuries, which will only weaken the squad further. It would seem, then, that the Wild are in the perfect position to sell over the next few days and build toward the future. At least they would be if they weren't also one of several teams right on the playoff bubble.

The Big Picture

The cap for next season will likely be slightly more than $60M, and the Wild have spent to the cap in the last several seasons, so it makes sense to use $60M as a loose guideline for their budget. Here's the chart I've used before for spending guidelines:

Top 3 Forwards - 27.5% or $16,500,000
Middle 6 Forwards - 20.0% or $12,000,000
Top 4 Defenders - 27.5% or $16,500,000
Goaltending - 10.0% or $6,000,000
Bottom 8 Players - 15.0% or $9,000,000

Here it is again with the players the Wild have signed for 2011-12 with the percentages reflecting the Wild spending to a $60M budget (I've used cap hits for the calculations rather than real dollars):

Top 3 Forwards - Koivu, Havlat, Bouchard - 26.4% or $15,830,000
Middle 6 Forwards - Cullen, Latendresse, Clutterbuck, Brodziak, ???, ??? - 14.3% or $8,550,000
Top 4 Defenders - Zidlicky, Burns, Shultz, Zanon - 21.6% or $12,983,333
Goaltending - Backstrom, ??? - 10.0% or $6,000,000
Bottom 8 Players - (Parrish), Nystrom, Almond, Staubitz, Sheppard, Barker, Stoner, ???, ??? - 11.8% or $7,054,916

The Wild are in pretty good shape for next season. The only area that they're almost certain to overspend relative to the spending guidelines is goaltending, and even then it won't be by much. During the summer, they should be able to add a couple of players to their top nine forwards, and if they make the right choices, they may just be able to get things turned around at evens. There are some players listed above that they'd no doubt like to move, but the lineup going forward isn't a disaster. Here's Minnesota's current depth chart:

Clutterbuck - Cullen - Havlat
Bouchard - Madden - Kobasew
Brunette - Brodziak - Miettinen
Nystrom - Almond - Staubitz
Latendresse (Inj) - Koivu (Inj) - O'Sullivan (AHL)

Zanon - Zidlicky
Schultz - Burns
Barker - Stoner
Spurgeon - Scandella (AHL)
Falk (AHL) - Prosser (AHL)

Khudobin (AHL)

The Wild have made just one move this season involving a player who didn't start the year on the roster: they claimed Patrick O`Sullivan off of waivers. That's it. If I was a fan of their club, I'd be hoping for a lot more action over the next few days. It's hard to do when you're tied for seventh in the Conference, but the Wild have a great opportunity to sell. Andrew Brunette, Antti Miettinen, John Madden, and Chuck Kobasew are all on expiring contracts, and all of them are likely to have reasonable value. Cam Barker has been disappointing on the blueline, and the deadline might represent a chance to move his deal as well. It's almost comical that the Wild are in such a good position to sell, but will be paralyzed by the winning they've done to this point. Moving these players is almost certainly in the mid-to-long term interests of the team, but doing so would submarine any chance (I think it's small) that the Wild have at making the playoffs, and "giving up" could cost them big with their fans, and thus, at the gate. The team is too bad to buy and too lucky to sell. In the end, Chuck Fletcher may just end up doing nothing, but I, for one, will respect the man big-time if he has the nerve to sell.

NHL Trade Rumors and Hockey Blogs - SB Nation NHL Trade Deadline