On the Wild’s financial future

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Over the last three years, few teams have been as financially aggressive as Minnesota. The team dropped a combined $196 million on Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, acquired big salaries at each of the last two trade deadlines (Matt Moulson and Jason Pominville; the latter inked a $28M extension in October) and gave Thomas Vanek a three-year, $19.5 million deal in July.

One reason GM Chuck Fletcher’s been able to spend like this is because he’s had a number of good, young contributors playing on entry-level deals: Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Jonas Brodin, Darcy Kuemper and Erik Haula, to name a few.

But things are about to get tight.

The Wild have roughly $8M this year to get deals done for RFAs Neiderreiter and Kuemper, and both figure to be signed in due time. Next year, though, is when things will get tricky — Brodin, Coyle, Granlund and Haula will all need new deals (as will fellow RFA Marco Scandella).

More, from the Minnesota Star-Tribune:

When Fletcher says spending too much money on players impacts other things, remember, the Wild next summer has Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella and Erik Haula – among others – to re-sign. Overpaying, say, Niederreiter even by a few hundred grand would have ramifications and likely cost the Wild on the others. That’s why Fletcher says he has to be mindful with his RFAs in a cap world. That’s also why Fletcher, later this summer and into the season, will look to try to extend the contracts of guys like Granlund, Coyle, Brodin and maybe others.

Fletcher will be looking to sign all his young players to contracts of two to four years. Short-term deals are easiest because it’s less likely neither side will make a mistake.

Fletcher’s biggest task might be figuring out a financial hierarchy for his prized youngsters. Brodin’s a gifted 21-year-old d-man that plays 23 minutes a night and has immense value. Granlund, 22, had 41 points in 63 games during a breakout ’13-14 campaign and showed legit star potential. Coyle is huge (6-foot-3, 222 pounds) and endeared himself to fans and the organization by playing through two separated shoulders during last year’s postseason. Haula is remarkably fast and was a vital contributor in the playoffs, scoring seven points in 13 games.

(Don’t underestimate Scandella’s worth, either — at 23, he’s an 18-minutes-a-night guy that had 17 points and a plus-10 rating last year.)

Looking ahead, the Wild only have 11 players under contract for 2015-16… for $50 million. Even with the cap projecting to rise, that’s still a lot of money dedicated to a core of players that aren’t the future of the club. Pominville turns 32 in November and is on the books ’til 2019; Vanek’s now on the wrong side of 30 and will make $6.5M annually for the next three years.

Add it all up, and next season promises to be an intriguing one in Minnesota — both on and off the ice.

Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

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Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.