The Minnesota Wild major issues are everywhere, as their 2015-16 season has officially hit Defcon five. The Wild currently find themselves four points out of a playoff spot, which is currently held by the Nashville Predators. To make matters worse, the Wild who have a record of 24-22-10, and are tied for ninth place in the Western Conference with 58 points, along with the Arizona Coyotes.
Minnesota Wild Major Issues
So in order to make the playoffs Minnesota has to beat out one of the current wild card teams, along with Arizona, while the Vancouver Canucks, who they defeated last night, are still lurking just two points back. That seems like a very tall order since Minnesota is 2-6-2 in their last ten games.
How the Core Was Built
The core of this team has been built with the philosophy of getting the hot toy on Christmas Day. Minnesota has provided a good amount of home grown talent to their main roster and as for now, this team is led by Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Jason Pominville, Mikko Koivo, Devin Dubnyk and Thomas Vanek. While the Wild have added a lot of talent with big splashes in both free agency and trades, they find themselves with a roster that is in a salary cap lockdown.
There is no question Minnesota has given their fans a lot of off-ice excitement by landing premier free agents in Parise, Suter and Vanek in recent years, along with big ticket players via trade, as was the case with Pominville. But given all these moves, and a franchise that spends up to the cap, it has not resulted in a season that has had a deep playoff run.
Yes, the last two years the Wild have won a playoff series each season. Last year they beat the Blues, and the year before they knocked off the Avalanche. But when they faced a top team like the Blackhawks the last two years in the Western Conference semi-finals it was game, set and match for Chicago. While the Wild have been a very good team these last two season, they have not been on the level of the elite teams, which is the ultimate the goal of this organization. This season they are struggling to stay above an NHL .500 record.
Report: Minnesota Wild fire Mike Yeo https://t.co/zjJr7CUyaM
— NBC Sports Hockey (@NBCSportsHockey) February 14, 2016
Where do the Wild Go From Here?
The Wild are currently at the brim of the salary cap ceiling with very little help in sight. As we all know the NHL cap ceiling has been crawling upwards on an annual basis. That does not appear to be changing anytime soon. Yes, Niklas Backstrom and his $3.4 million cap hit comes off the books following this season. However, the lion’s share of those cap dollars will go to this off-season’s restricted free agents Matthew Dumba and Jason Zucker.
Vanek and his $6.5 million cap hit comes off the books in 2014. But, the Wild have a trio of RFA’s after next season in Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter and Mike Reilly. Pominville has taken a major step back and is locked up at annual cap hit of $5.6 million for another three seasons after this seaspm. No question that Dubnyk is a solid goalie, but is he the guy to get Minnesota to the promised land – or at least close to it? Dubnyk is signed for another five seasons at annual cap hit of $4.33 million.
Minnesota dolled out nearly $100 million contracts for their big two in Parise and Suter. Now they are both 31 with still 10 years left on their deals that have annual cap hits of $7.5+ million. The organization has received a great return on their investment. Age and high paycheques are reasons for their declining value to the organization.
According to Hockey’s Future the Minnesota pipeline has seen better days. In their recent fall team rankings the Wild came in ranked 25th, so it doesn’t appear there is a wave of future studs on the horizon for the Wild.
The Wild are currently in the worst possible position for a sports franchise. They are a good team that has reached it’s potential, are a longshot at post-season magic, and are locked up for the next several years with very difficult contracts to move. It’s going to take creativity, very shrewd decisions, and a good amount of luck to have the Minnesota Wild be a Cup contender anytime soon.