Taking Advantage of Cap Hell: Minnesota Wild Edition

Chuck Fletcher

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.

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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:

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Left Wing Centre Right Wing L. Defence / Goal R. Defence / Goal
Zach Parise Mikael Granlund Jason Pominville Ryan Suter Jonas Brodin
$7,538,000 RFA $5,600,000 $7,538,000 $4,167,000
Jason Zucker Mikko Koivu (vacant)  Marco Scandella Jared Spurgeon
$900,000 $6,750,000   $4,000,000 $2,667,000
Thomas Vanek Charlie Coyle Nino Niederreiter (vacant)  Matt Dumba
$6,500,000 $3,200,000 $2,667,000   $1,603,000
Matt Cooke Erik Haula Justin Fontaine   Christian Folin
$2,500,000 RFA $1,000,000   RFA
  Jordan Schroeder   Darcy Kuemper Niklas Backstrom
  $600,000   $1,250,000 $3,417,000

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.

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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.

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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.


  • Joy S. Lee

    I also see Spurgeon as an excellent fit for the Oilers. His brand of hockey would fit very nicely.

    What would the Wild be expecting from the Oilers for his services? Picks and Prospects?

  • IM80

    Good insight on this one Willis. There is a lot to like about Coyle and Koivu, but you correctly point out the $$$ will be too much. For the record, i really like Koivu…a quiet multi-tool, all situations centre (though injury prone)

    I agree Spurgeon is affordable and a good fit right now (save for his size), especially considering how thin the Oil are on D as of today. The question is how much it will cost? 57th + Davidson? The Wild are in a jam so maybe less than this…

  • Joy S. Lee

    Any deal with the Wild should also target Backstrom.

    Not to actually PLAY for the Oilers, obviously, but I suspect you could get a pretty favourable deal from the Wild in exchange for taking him off their hands. Sure it would be inconvenient to carry him on the roster this season, but considering his recent injury history he’s likely to spend at least half the year on LTIR anyway.

    I think the ask would be Spurgeon, Backstrom and a 2016 first or second for a minor cheap asset. I hate to say Marincin, but he would make a lot of sense, both for the Wild to ask for and the Oilers to move in such a deal. If you were able to add Spurgeon and, say, Matt Carle from Tampa Bay, a favourite of mine from their Cap Hell entry, you’d actually be getting pretty close to having a functional NHL level defense.

    • Just to clarify, you are saying a possible deal would be Spurgeon, Backstrom AND a 2016 1st or 2nd for a minor asset like Marincin…

      Who do you think is GM of the Wild, Mike Milbury?

      • Marincin on a cheap deal actually makes a lot of sense for the Wild. He’s like Spurgeon without the offense, but plays the left side and could be signed for less than half the price.

        The draft pick ask is high, sure. But you’re going to see more deals like this over the summer than you will “two high draft picks for Boychuk” type deals. Too many teams have cap problems and their are going to be too many good players available for the Wild to get that kind of price for Spurgeon. If $5 million really is what it’s going to take to get a deal done with Dubnyk and they go through with it, they don’t have a lot of choice; they need to entice someone to take Backstrom, who has serious negative value, and to move at least one of Spurgeon or Cooke (who also has negative value), preferably both. Their prospect depth is terrible, with nobody below the NHL likely to challenge for a spot next season, and they’ve painted themselves into a corner with all the long-term, no-movement deals they handed to veteran players. Improvements from younger guys like Coyle, Zucker, Brodin, Scandella, Dumba and Granlund is now their only path to becoming a real contender, because Vanek, Koivu, Suter and Parise ain’t getting any better than they already are. Giving them a cheap guy to add to that cluster in Marincin is a big plus, and taking Backstrom off their hands might give them just enough cap space to fill a hole at next year’s trade deadline.

  • Jaxon

    Hard to make a deal that works for both sides. They were another team that had poor FO% during the playoffs. Maybe Gordon, Pitlick and Vesel for Cooke, Spurgeon and Kuemper? Saves them 2.67M and Gordon helps an area of deficiency for them. Gives us a decent backup in Kuemper if we want to shop Scrivens, although I hope we don’t shop him as I expect he’ll have a major bounce back season. Best of all, gives Pitlick another chance with a fresh new start in his hometown. Like you, I really hate employing Cooke as well, but his contract isn’t terrible so you could turn around and trade him for a draft pick or keep him until the trade deadline and ship him out for a pick.

    EDIT: One note. I am fairly certain Minnesota will plug the hole at RW by signing at least one of their 3 exceptional RW prospects to entry level deals. Alex Tuch (19yr, 6’4″, 220lbs, NHLE:25), Mario Lucia (22yr, 6’3″, 205lbs, NHLE: 25) and Adam Gilmour (21yr, 6’3″, 194lbs, NHLE: 24). If the Oilers take back one of their albatross contracts, then they would be a good return as well.

    Gordon, Pitlick, Vesel and Simpson for Spurgeon, Kuemper, Cooke and one of Tuch, Lucia or Gilmour. Throw 3rd or 4th round picks in to balance one side or the other.


    No thanks on Spurgeon. Size does matter in this league especially on defense. The Oilers team is not a big team and to add a small defenseman at 5’9″, 185 lbs. exacerbate our size problem further.

    • The_Angershark_Lives

      have we not already established that this guy can play?

      He is demonstrably an effective NHL dman…. But he’s not big enough whiiiiiile he plays effective NHL defence to be an effective NHL dman??

    • camdog

      If they can get a Marancin type from another team to fill the roster spot they may do it, but yes they need to get a body at less than 1 million to play that position.

      • MacT's Neglected Helmet

        That still only saves them about $1M. And now they’re out a draft pick (or whatever it costs to get a Marancin type) and now they also have an unproven dman in their top 4 (who do they think they are, the Oilers?!)

        That said, I’m looking at their roster and I’m not sure what they do. They must be kicking themselves that Vanek “picked” them last summer…

  • MacT's Neglected Helmet

    I’m a fan of spurgeon loads of talent my only concern is his size the oil have been pushed around in their own zone for to long now I think a guy like Dougie h in Boston will be a better fit if PC can make that happen it would be instant payoff. As far as DD is concerned he had many years here to prove himself and did not could not stop anything smaller than a beach ball.his half season with the wild was his best by far good for him but as an huge oil fan I don’t want him in our net again. The oil played with no confidence at all when he was here why go backwards go for talbot he is the best risk available if the price is right

  • freelancer

    One word you said that summarizes why we should look at Spurgeon. Competitiveness. Spurgeon is a small guy but finds a way to make plays and play a complete game. Maybe his game could rub off a bit on other guys like Schultz.

  • Jaxon

    Hope this year they have a good look at hunt the guy has an unreal shot and would help huge on the PP if I have to watch Shultz wrist the puck at the net at 20 mph one more time I’ll be sick

  • The_Angershark_Lives

    If Minny moves anyone out , it would be Vanek by trade or buying out . doubt we would want Vanek anymore either . I’d cross out any deal with Minny therefore .

  • Zarny

    The Oilers’ D last year included the likes of Brad Hunt and Jordan Oesterle.

    Spurgeon isn’t the 1-2 D everyone wants, but he makes the Oilers better and would be a reasonable replacement for Petry.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Not a fan of doing anything with the Minnesota Bland. Go with Nurse so we don’t have to watch him get run over every night. Spurgeon is a tad on the soft side and often plays the marshmallow minutes.

    I have the solution….how about trading up from that 16th and getting Provorov. That’s the ticket. A 6’1 and 200lb Beauty and the beast all in one compared to Spurgeon.

    • Zarny

      Assuming the 16th is included what else do you think Tor/Car/NJ/Phi/CBJ etc would want to downgrade from Provorov to Chabot or Svechnikov?

      Keep in mind why any of those teams would choose to do so instead of just selecting Provorov.

      Werenski is a more likely target that the Oilers could trade up for.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Who knows what’s taking place in those team interviews that go on before the draft. Teams/scouting crews are often impressed with a number of kids despite the draft order. The temptation may be enough if a team can get more than one of the kids on their list inside of one round.

        Maybe the Canes want to rid themselves of Wards contract. There’s always the curb appeal of next seasons No.1 that could be attractive as well. We’re talking the 7/8/9th selection in this draft, not the first or second.

        Can i plead if there’s the will, there must be a way? Darn you and your Vulcan logic again Zarny. Always raining on my parade.

        Your explanation paints a bleak picture on this possibility….You are the murderer of hope.

        • Zarny

          Hey, I simply asked a question.

          I think the Oilers should investigate moving up in the draft. There are 30 or so really good prospects but scouting reports suggest 11-12 real high-end talents.

          But it’s easy to say move up. How? Taking a stank contract back would help. 16, 33 and 57 are great bargaining chips; I’d look at packaging all 3 for certain picks.

          Usually though, teams are looking for slightly older, but comparably good prospects or players for the picks Edm covets. Basically the other option the Oilers should look at with 16.

          Hanifin, Provorov and Werenski are the consensus top 3 D. I think it will be tough to move up enough to get Provorov, but a few spots to get Werenski is doable.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            Like sintaxi mentioned, Draisaitl +16 might be a decent base/starting point. That might be overpayment enough to get a teams attention.

            I’m not thinking of this as an added benifit. I feel this is a doable must do for the Oilers this summer. Think this kid is going to be as good as or better than Drew Doughty. Pluck Provorov right from the tree rather than trying to find one in the barrel.

            If this was urgent in your books. What would be your meaningful offer? With Nurse potentially no better than a #3 blue liner, would you make him a primary piece?

            Draisaitl and Mirincin straight up for that 6/7 or 8th spot if he’s still available?

    • Normally your comments require a cold bevvy to take seriously…….

      but this one….quite interesting. I wonder what it would take to move up. Provorov from what I read is the real deal…

      • I was thinking the very same thing. 😀

        Provorov would be my top choice for D in this draft. I’m guessing it would take a lot to move up to draft him.

        Best guess is Draisaitl strait across would get the job done or Klefboom + 16th. Not sure if either of those trades are worth it. We shouldn’t get any younger if we can help it.

  • Tritchie

    I would 100% give our 33rd pick to get Spurgeon, Haula, or Coyle. Spurgeon fights every night to get the puck whenever I watch him play. Works harder than 80% of our dmen. Haula and Coyle are the power forwards we need as well as the same age as our core. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF MINNESOTA.

  • Spoils

    mind boggling to see how respected Petry is with the Habs now. IMO McTavish should have packaged Petry with a core player and a high pick to get a Seth Jones. Nashville would have been as good on D and would have added an Eberle for offence.

    Spurgeon is a nice pickup, but he isn’t enough.

    So, the Wild offer no help with – the Hard Target – The #1 D.

  • Provorov would be amazing to have in the stables but doesn’t solve our defensive problems for the next two seasons that are limiting our ability to increase the value of our current assets.

    ‘Stop torturing yourself man, live in the now!’

  • HarryB

    No deal to be has here. I can’t see Minn trading away a top 4 defenceman who plays pp1 and only makes 2.6 mill. They have thier top 4 figured out and should leave it alone. Btw I hate Minnesota. I think Minnesota is where Kessel will land. Only 2 of the 8 teams he named can actually make it happen. I see them trading Kessel for vanek ( who the can flip in a year or at deadline for picks or prospects) backstrom (to help with thier cap) and Minnesotas first rounder. That takes 2 mill off thier books and replaces a 6.5 mill third liner with a 8 mill first liner. Add additional secondary picks or prospects if required.

  • Joy S. Lee

    I’m guessing you’ve all noticed how Hedman is doing in Tampa? His rise has appeared to come suddenly, but it’s been a process. For a while there, people were even talking about him being a bust. He could win the Conn Smythe, for pete’s sake.

    Stocking the shelves with high-end potential on D – if that’s the only option available without giving up the farm – would be worthy of consideration. I mean, our forward corps is also high-end potential, and McLellan is here now, so… I’d target the higher upside of Dumba if Minnesota was willing to move a defenseman. I like Spurgeon, but wouldn’t want to give up too much, especially if he’s due for a big raise. Dumba for a 2nd & 3rd, maybe, but there’s not a lot else on the Wild from the blueline back (that would be available) that gets me excited.

      • Joy S. Lee

        Sure, maybe – that’s not an entirely unfair suggestion – but it takes two to tango. I like both players’ potential.

        Also, just to finish off my sentiments with regards to Spurgeon: I’m absolutely fine with him as an option. I guess my question is: will he be there when we win a Stanley Cup? If the answer is no, then look elsewhere. If the answer is yes, then by all means. If the answer is maybe – which I suspect it is – then tread carefully, because you’re then making lateral moves instead of forward ones. IMHO. In other words, trade for guys who you are confident will be part of the Cup winning team we’re building (wink-wink). Lateral stuff is just… lateral stuff. Support moves, nothing more. And I wouldn’t give away the farm for those.

  • Zarny

    Folks keep talking about moving up, but that looks really expensive and not likely to get us high enough to take Provorov. How about moving down ?
    #16 to Leafs for #24 and 34 (and maybe we even add something else to get a 2nd or 3rd for 2016 or 2017 when we will be losing ours for signing Pete and Todd). Then take Samsonov at 24 and use our 3 second round picks and 2 thirds to draft or trade for D or G.
    Or how about #16 plus something to Buffalo for 21 and 31 ?

    Think outside the box.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    What about Dumba+Spurgeon for Jultz and the 16th pick? That will help the WILD cap space wise, at same time if we cant get a legit top 2 D, this should improve our D.

  • Johnnydapunk

    Maybe I don’t understand it so well, but I am a bit baffled why Dubnyk wouldn’t take a pretty “sensible” salary in exchange for term as he is in a good place right now regarding a team that works for him and Minnesota is actually a pretty nice place to live, there is even a direct flight from MSP to Edmonton if he was still keen on living here. 5 million is a lot and yeah, I understand that’s what a proper number one commands (on the lower end) but surely taking 2-3 million over a longer term would still be not bad.

    I just don’t know of Dubnyk’s magic was a one season wonder or the start of something amazing, it could go either way with him.

    They could even roll with a 3 headed goalie monster (4 I guess if Harding is still around) and wait for Backstrom to heal and either waive him or buy him out.

    In the end I just don’t think Dubnyk is in a super strong position, he is in a good position, but one lights out season isnt enough leverage to command too much.

    And also I really hope he doesn’t come back here as the Oil don’t have the Wild’s defence or system and it could be ugly again.