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The Wild may need to cut their grit – Minnesota Wild

The Wild may need to cut their grit – Minnesota Wild


The Minnesota Wild doesn’t have much cap room and enters the off-season with numerous players vying for the same spots in the lineup. Currently, Ryan Reaves, Marcus Foligno, and Brandon Duhaime fill the role of enforcer or goon.

The Wild has $8,234,745 in cap space to work with this off-season. Therefore, the front office will not add NHL caliber free agents unless they change the roster. Instead, Bill Guerin needs to focus on bringing back the players who helped them last year. The only problem is that they have a lot of similar players competing for limited seats.

Here’s what the Wild setup looks like with the players under contract:

Kirill Kaprizov – Ryan Hartman – Mats Zuccarello
Marcus Johansson – Joel Eriksson Ek – Matt Boldy
Foligno – Freddie Gaudreau – ???
??? – Connor Dewar – ???

There are three spots open and about seven likely candidates to fill them: Reaves, Duhaime, Sam Steel, Mason Shaw, Adam Beckman, Sammy Walker, and Marco Rossi. It’s safe to assume that the Wild doesn’t have the room to bring back Oskar Sundqvist or Gustav Nyquist after they re-sign Johansson.

Can the Wild afford to fill two of those three open spaces with “Grit First” players in Reaves and Duhaime? Does it make sense for a team that scored 13 goals in six playoff games to have only one top nine place open to the Rossis, Walkers and Beckmans of the world?

Or even more literally, can they afford to spend about $6 million or more in cap space on three players whose business card is physical? It seems that at some point they will have to make a choice between Foligno, Reaves and Duhaime. So let’s break down their options.

Marcus Foligno

With one year and $3.1 million left, Foligno will become the Wild’s fifth-highest-paid forward in the 2023-2024 season. However, his production this year has dropped significantly compared to last season. He scored just 21 points in 65 games, compared to 23 goals and 42 points the year before. He failed to score double-digit goals and was inconsistent throughout the year. Not to mention, his undisciplined play hurt Minnesota in the playoffs.

Ryan Reaves

Guerin has stated that he wants Reaves back. However, Reaves doesn’t offer much production on the ice. He massively loses shot attempt share at 5-to-5 (46.9%), and the Wild only generated 2.21 expected goals (xG) per hour with him on the ice. For a player who does not move the needle on the stats sheet, it will be difficult for the Wild to find the cap space for him.

Still, Reaves had a solid year. His services require a higher number on the open market than the Wild can probably afford, at least at the moment. If Reaves wants to return, it would have to be less than the $1.75 million he made last year. Reaves brings an alpha personality to the Wild locker room. Considering that Minnesota will likely lose Matt Dumba, an emotional leader and alternate captain, the Wild Reaves may want to get back in the locker room.

Brandon Duhaime

Finally, Duhaime isn’t afraid to throw fists or get out of hand. He embraces the role of the bottom six grinder. He was even trusted to play in the top six in no time as the Wild suffered a plethora of injuries midway through the season.

He also kept the game in the strike zone wherever he was. Of Minnesota’s 13 forwards with 300 plus 5-on-5 minutes, Duhaime ranked sixth in controlling xG share, with the Wild recording 52.3% while on the ice. He also led the team in actual goal share, with Duhaime seeing 59.5% of goals scored at 5-on-5.

There’s a strong sense of bringing Duhaime back, and it seems the Wild agrees. According to The athleticFilip Gustavsson and Duhaime are considered Minnesotans top priorities.

Now that we’ve looked at them, we have to ask: who should keep them?

Look at the four teams still standing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Which of those teams rocks an enforcer? The Vegas Golden Knights just have a line of cheap guys looking hard ahead, not exactly a heavyweight like Reaves or Foligno. The Florida Panthers, Dallas Stars, and Carolina Hurricanes do not have an enforcer.

But you would have to say that Vegas, Florida and Carolina are physical teams. The Wild doesn’t need to have an enforcer like Reaves to be a physical team. They’ve got plenty of guys playing a stubborn two-way game.

The offensive and defensive value Foligno brought to the role of an enforcer is what made him so good. While throwing the body around and acting as an enforcer, he was also a goal-scoring nightmare. Foligno was a legitimate two-way force. However, that was not the case last year. But if Foligno can get back to that form he had when the GREEF line ran, then he’s valuable as a two-way enforcer as long as the offense comes with it.

Similarly, Ryan Reaves didn’t offer much value when he wasn’t fighting or being a maniacal beeper. He threw a fit here and there, but that was few and far between, outside of two big weeks. Reaves certainly doesn’t diminish the negative value he shows when he’s not in physical altercation.

The Wild doesn’t need a man to fill that role. While it would be acceptable to channel Reaves’ energy back onto a team-friendly deal and allow him to play sporadically, he can’t play 70 games on a $1.5 million deal.

But with Foligno possibly on the way back, Duhaime is the most valuable of the bunch. He offers much more offensively and has a gritty side to his game. He’s not afraid to get into trouble before and after the whistle and should bring more bang for his buck than Foligno and Reaves. If they could only keep one of those three players, Duhaime should be that man for the Wild.

Will Foligno, Reaves and Duhaime all fit in green and red on opening night? Perhaps, as the Wild likes, appreciate and respect all three. Should this be the case? Probably not.

The Wild can’t keep dumping money into a role they don’t need. If they bring all three back, assuming they make at least a million a year, that’s $6 million in precious cap flexibility to fill a bruiser role.

But it’s hard to imagine Guerin wanting to trade Foligno, even if the situation demands that he be moved. Guerin values ​​his locker room presence and would not want both team substitute captains (along with Matt Dumba) to leave in the same off-season. Still, Foligno would be valuable to a contender at the right price, and the Wild could probably get something for him in return.

If the Wild redraws Duhaime and Reaves, it will take up two of those three available spots. Presumably they would both fit on the fourth line. That leaves only one wing spot of the third line open. Is that going to Beckman? Steel? Hiker? Who knows?! But it might be wise for Minnesota to make more room for these players to play a big role by displacing Foligno.

If you want a tree to grow strong and faithful, you have to prune the branches. The role of the enforcer in the NHL is gone. The Wild doesn’t have to cling to the past. The players they rely on to give them a physical presence also need to bring other things to the table. The Wild has to make a choice and the clock is ticking.

All statistics and data via Evolving hockey And Cap friendly unless otherwise stated.




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