Nino Niederreiter


Top prospect Kunin has eyes on making Wild roster this season

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After losing Jason Pominville, Alex Tuch and Erik Haula this offseason the Minnesota Wild have some open spots that will need filled this season.

They are hoping that 2016 first-round pick Luke Kunin will be one of the young players that is capable of stepping up to fill one of them.

By all accounts he was one of the most impressive players at the Wild’s development camp and has his sights set on making the roster this season.

“My first camp was about putting a footprint down and trying to get the organization to see what I’m all about,” Kunin said this week, via the Pioneer Press. “I want to show growth and get better every day. That’s the way I like to look at things.”

The Wild selected Kunin with the No. 16 overall pick in 2016 and he followed that up with a pretty dominant performance this past season at the University of Wisconsin where he scored 22 goals and added 16 assists in 35 games. He was a point-per-game player in his two years with the Badgers before turning pro.

He ended up getting a brief look with Minnesota’s AHL team, the Iowa Wild, at the end of last season and made an immediate impact with five goals and three assists in his first 12 games.

With big money players like Mikko Koivu, Ryan Suter and Zach Parise at the top of the lineup the Wild had to shed some salary this offseason by trading veterans Jason Pominville and Marco Scandella to help create space to re-sign restricted free agents Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund (neither has happened yet).

They will almost certainly get significant raises and become part of that big money core. As long as teams are going to invest that much money in the top of the roster it is always going to be essential to have cheap, young talent filling spots on the roster to make an impact for a low cap hit.

Based on what he showed in his brief look in the AHL last season, as well as his pedigree as a top-16 pick in the draft, there is reason to believe that Kunin could be just that type of player for Minnesota.

Key players from Penguins, Sabres, Lightning headline salary arbitration list


The NHLPA released a list of players who are filing for salary arbitration during this off-season on Wednesday.

It’s important to note that arbitration hearings rarely happen, and with good reason, as they can be harsh situations that may lead to hard feelings between a player and his team. Hearings take place July 20-Aug. 2, with a 48-hour window for verdicts to be made.

Also, the deadline for club-elected salary arbitration is set for tomorrow (July 6) at 5 p.m. ET.

Another key note: offer sheets are not an option for players who file for arbitration. Now, onto the list, which began with 30 players and is now down to 28:

TORONTO (July 5, 2017) – Thirty players have elected Salary Arbitration:

Arizona Coyotes

Jordan Martinook

Boston Bruins

Ryan Spooner

Buffalo Sabres

Nathan Beaulieu

Johan Larsson

Robin Lehner

Calgary Flames

Micheal Ferland

Colorado Avalanche

Matt Nieto

Detroit Red Wings

Tomas Tatar

Edmonton Oilers

Joey LaLeggia

Los Angeles Kings

Kevin Gravel

Minnesota Wild

Mikael Granlund

Nino Niederreiter

Montreal Canadiens

Alex Galchenyuk (signed for three years; more on that here)

Nashville Predators

Viktor Arvidsson

Marek Mazanec

Austin Watson

New York Islanders

Calvin de Haan

New York Rangers

Jesper Fast (signed, read about the deal here)

Mika Zibanejad

Ottawa Senators

Ryan Dzingel

Jean-Gabriel Pageau

Pittsburgh Penguins

Brian Dumoulin

Conor Sheary

St. Louis Blues

Colton Parayko

Tampa Bay Lightning

Tyler Johnson

Ondrej Palat

Vancouver Canucks

Reid Boucher

Michael Chaput

Vegas Golden Knights

Nate Schmidt

Winnipeg Jets

Connor Hellebuyck

Report: Niederreiter files for arbitration


Last month, the agent for Wild forward Nino Niederreiter said he and his client wanted to avoid arbitration.

But on Tuesday, the Niederreiter camp made a somewhat expected, if not required move — filing for arbitration ahead of tomorrow’s deadline, per the Star-Tribune.

Back in June, agent Andre Rufener told the Star-Tribune Niederreiter wanted to stay away from arbitration and hoped to get a long-term deal done Minnesota. Rufener also addressed trade reports involving his client, explaining that — while he doesn’t envision a deal happening — he is aware that Niederreiter’s in demand across the NHL.

“We’re just taking this as a positive thing,” Rufener said. “There’s interest in him across the league.”

It’s easy to see why. Niederreiter is only 24 and has cracked the 20-goal plateau in each of his last three seasons.

As such, one would expect him to get a significant raise from the three-year, $8 million deal he just wrapped. That one carried a $2.67M average annual cap hit.

One has to think Niederreiter is well aware of the big money being splashed to keep talented young forwards locked in long-term. Jonathan Drouin, for example, scored a six-year, $33 million extension from Montreal just hours after being acquired from Tampa Bay.

The tricky part for the Wild, of course, is that Niederreiter isn’t the only talented youngster needing a new deal. Mikael Granlund, who led the team in points last year, is also a RFA that could file for arbitration by tomorrow’s deadline.

It is worth noting, however, that teams and players can continue negotiating after the filing.

Wild extend d-man Olofsson — two years, $1.45 million


Gustav Olofsson, the Minnesota defenseman taken in the second round of the ’13 draft, has signed a two-year, $1.45 million extension, per the Star-Tribune.

Olofsson was a restricted free agent, having just wrapped his entry-level contract. This new deal will pay him $725,000 per season and, importantly, it’s of the one-way variety.

The Star-Tribune reports Olofsson is expected to play in the Wild’s top-six defense next season, especially since GM Chuck Fletcher appears primed to trade one of Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella or Matt Dumba. Fletcher needs cap space to finalize new deals for RFA forwards Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund.

Speaking of contracts, the Wild opted against making a qualifying offer for d-man Christian Folin. This means he’ll be able to test free agency, though it’s reported Minnesota might try to re-negotiate with him as a UFA.

Fletcher isn’t too worried about Wild’s cap situation


A lot of eyes were on the Minnesota Wild at the NHL draft watching to see if they would make a move involving one of their defensemen.

No move happened (at least not yet).

Part of the issue for the Wild — and the reason for the trade speculation — is their need to re-sign restricted free agents Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund this offseason, while also making any other necessary additions to the team. They have to do all of that staying under the NHL’s salary cap.

As of Saturday, the Wild have around $14 million in salary cap space (via CapFriendly) with only 15 players under contract for next season, while the new deals for Niederreiter and Granlund are almost certain to eat up a significant portion of that remaining salary cap space.

That is going to make things tight under the cap because they certainly do not want to let either of those RFA’s get away. That led to speculation that a defenseman such as Marco Scandella or Mathew Dumba could be on the move this weekend.

But general manager Chuck Fletcher doesn’t sound too concerned about the situation and seems convinced the team can open the season the way it is currently constructed with a few minor moves to fill out the fourth line.

Here is Fletcher, via the Star-Tribune:

“I’m not too worried about that. We have some young guys ready to make the team that will carry good cap hits. We need to fill a couple spots probably in free agency, but again, we’re looking more at fourth-line type players. We like our group, the defense is the strength of our team, we’ve got three lines up front that we like.”

The Wild were determined to keep all of their defensemen out of the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights at the expansion draft and were willing to part with prospect Alex Tuch to steer the Golden Knights toward Erik Haula.

Overall, Minnesota’s roster is pretty solid as it stands so it doesn’t need a ton of work. They have an excellent goaltender, a deep defense and a balanced group of forwards making up their top-three lines so if they have to stick with the status quo it wouldn’t be the worst situation to be in. They were one of the best teams in the league until a late-season slump cost them the top spot in the Central Division. It carried over into the playoffs were they lost to the St. Louis Blues in five games.