This is going to be a difficult summer for many teams thanks to a salary cap which has risen by less than expected early in the year. For a team like the Edmonton Oilers, there’s a chance to land talent from a team in cap trouble.
Taking Advantage of Cap Hell is dedicated to looking at clubs reportedly in cap trouble and figuring out who might shake loose. Today our focus turns to a team that has been suggested as a possible trading partner for the Oilers: the Minnesota Wild.
Previously in this series:
The Depth Chart
The Wild still have some important holes to fill and some key pending free agents (restricted and unrestricted alike) to get under contract. As it stands right now, the team’s roster looks like this:
Total Cap Hit: $61.9 million.
Estimated Cap Space Remaining: $8.1 million.
This poses Minnesota with some problems.
Niklas Backstrom is on a 35-plus contract and is currently injured after undergoing elbow surgery. The Wild may or may not be able to buy him out, and even if they do they’re stuck with his cap hit for one more year. It’s the kind of situation where one wonders if a team like Toronto might swoop in and take the contract off the Wild’s hands in exchange for an appropriate incentive. Barring that, Minnesota is in an ugly bind.
It’s particularly ugly because the team still needs to re-sign Devan Dubnyk. The Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo speculates (and makes it clear that the speculation is sourced) that Dubnyk will end up costing the team $5.0 million annually if they stick with him. That’s most of the available cap space right there, assuming the Wild go that route as expected.
That leaves the team with $3.1 million or so to get Granlund, Folin and Haula under contract, as well as to add a third-pairing defenceman and a middle-six winger. It’s going to be very difficult.
Targets for Edmonton
We talked about Jared Spurgeon last month after some back-and-forth between Russo and the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson brought him to the public’s attention as a possible trade target. If the Wild are looking to shed his salary there’s no doubt in my mind that the Oilers should be interested. Here’s what I wrote at the time:
Outside of size, Spurgeon does pretty much everything. He makes a good outlet pass and has strong overall skill with the puck. He’s extremely intelligent, both knowing when to pinch offensively and where to be in the defensive end. As one might expect given his size, skating is one of his strengths. Spurgeon would be a very strong addition to the Oilers’ blue line and the best two-way defenceman on the roster immediately. Looking at the players on the way on the left side, he’d be a long-term fit, too; a partner like Darnell Nurse or Oscar Klefbom would bring the elements that Spurgeon lacks in terms of size in the crease. Even at 5’9”, it would make a lot of sense for the Oilers to be interested if Minnesota decides it can’t afford him.
Some will suggest that Edmonton should have no interest in a defenceman Spurgeon’s size; those people are wrong, just like the people last year who said the team should have no interest in a defenceman Anton Stralman’s size. The Oilers’ blue line has a lot of size on the way, Spurgeon’s a competitive sort and most importantly he’s a good young player who will instantly make the team better now and can be a fit potentially for years down the road.
Unfortunately, that’s pretty much it on the back end; the Wild aren’t likely to move Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin or Marco Scandella and everybody else is nice and affordable.
Up front there are a bunch of possibilities. Russo’s offseason guide goes through most of the names, suggesting that Charlie Coyle, Erik Haula and even Mikael Granlund might potentially make sense as trade options in the right deal. Coyle, a 6’3”, 221-pound forward who plays mature two-way hockey at the age of 23 would obviously be an extremely desirable add, but he’d also be costly; Russo suggested he might be moved if the right piece became available (like Logan Couture).
I would imagine that wingers like Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville are signed for too long or for too much money relative to their performance to be terribly interesting to Edmonton. Matt Cooke only has one year left on his current deal, but his play collapsed last year and besides that the Oilers would then be employing Matt Cooke.
Mikko Koivu is an interesting possibility, particularly if Edmonton really wanted to break Connor McDavid in on the wing, but he still plays awfully important minutes in Minnesota and it doesn’t make sense for the Oilers to part with the kind of return necessary to bring in a 32-year-old centre at this stage in the team’s evolution.
As far as I can see, if the Oilers and Wild are talking the guy to talk about is Spurgeon. He’s an obvious fit for Edmonton in terms of age and ability and the Wild will plausibly be shopping him. It could be a very good fit.