Tyler Ennis

Getty

Wild agree to terms with Foligno on four-year, $11.5M deal

9 Comments

The list of remaining restricted free agents still waiting for new contracts is down to three, after the Wild announced a deal for Marcus Foligno.

The Wild announced the contract on Thursday. It’s a four-year deal, worth a total of $11.5 million and an average annual value of $2.875 million.

That’s a bump up from the $2.25 million he earned last season in Buffalo.

Minnesota acquired the 26-year-old Foligno — as well as Tyler Ennis — on June 30, while sending Jason Pominville and Marco Scandella to Buffalo.

Foligno isn’t known for producing big offensive numbers, scoring a career best 13 goals last season. His career high for points in a single season is 23 — a mark he set in two consecutive years with Buffalo. That said, he has quite the goal in mind for 2017-18 with his team, aiming for 20 goals as a member of the Wild.

“We are happy to officially have Marcus as a part of our club for the next four seasons,” Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher said in a statement.

“Marcus is a big, physical forward who is capable of playing a heavy game while also contributing offensively. We are excited to add his presence to our lineup and watch him continue his growth as a player.”

Per Michael Russo of The Athletic, Foligno is expected to join the Wild on Friday.

Horvat, Pastrnak highlight list of remaining restricted free agents

Getty
3 Comments

The dog days of August are over. The hockey world is ramping up for NHL training camp.

Seems like a perfect time to take a look at the key remaining restricted free agents, per CapFriendly, still looking to sign contracts for the upcoming season.

Josh Anderson, Blue Jackets:

Josh Anderson remains the lone restricted free agent for the Blue Jackets to sign, after they were able to get Alexander Wennberg under contract on Friday. Anderson, 23, finished his first full NHL season — the final year of his entry-level deal — with 17 goals and 29 points. After the Wennberg deal, the Blue Jackets have $7.987 million in cap space. According to the Columbus Dispatch, there had been a report stating Anderson would skate with a team in Switzerland if a deal with Columbus was not reached before training camp.

More from the Dispatch:

His agent, Darren Ferris, said in a text message that he had been misquoted and that Anderson is not set to practice in the Swiss National League.

“That is not the plan at this time,” Ferris said. “It is just an option.”

Earlier Friday, Kekalainen said he wasn’t worried about Anderson’s situation.

“He can skate wherever he wants,” Kekalainen said. “We just want him here when training camp starts, that’s all.”

Andreas Athanasiou, Red Wings:

Andreas Athanasiou is one of the promising young players for a Red Wings team that finished out of the playoffs last season. He scored 18 goals and 29 points in the final year of his entry-level contract. While Red Wings general manager Ken Holland has said the organization has made numerous offers to the 23-year-old forward, Athanasiou is, according to his agent, considering offers from the KHL. There were indications a couple of weeks ago that signing in Russia was a possibility.

“Andreas is evaluating the pros and cons of all the offers,” his agent Darren Ferris recently told MLive.com. “Andreas loves Detroit and especially the Detroit fans but he has to really consider the serious offers from the KHL he has before him. There is a considerable difference in the amount of money.”

Sam Bennett, Flames:

Sam Bennett garnered headlines during the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, as he entered the league at just 18 years of age. After a 36-point 2015-16 campaign, his first full season in the NHL, Bennett’s production dipped this past season with only 13 goals and 26 points. The Flames have about $7.165 million in cap space, so they certainly have room to get something done, with Eric Francis of Postmedia pointing out that the salary range for comparable contracts for Bennett should be about $2.5 to $3 million per year. With camp approaching, general manager Brad Treliving remained confident a deal would get done.

Marcus Foligno, Wild:

The Wild acquired Marcus Foligno, as well as Tyler Ennis, from the Buffalo Sabres at the end of June. However, they still haven’t signed the 26-year-old Foligno, who scored a career high 13 goals for Buffalo last season. Minnesota has only $2.14 million in available cap space. While he waits for his new contract, the physical forward has made his plans known for this upcoming season, aiming to score 20 goals in his first year with the Wild.

Bo Horvat, Canucks:

Bo Horvat led the Canucks in points last season — the final year of his entry-level contract. He’s due for a sizable raise, and the Canucks, after a busy summer for them, have about $5.3 million in cap space with Horvat still to sign. The biggest question now is whether a new contract will be long-term, or a bridge deal? Jason Botchford of The Province told TSN Radio that he heard Horvat’s new contract is a bridge deal. Team president Trevor Linden, a few hours later, told Ed Willes of The Province that there was “nothing at all” to that.

Petteri Lindbohm, Blues:

The Blues currently have one remaining restricted free agent to get signed for the upcoming season. That would be defenseman Petteri Lindbohm, who has split each of the last three seasons between the Blues and their former AHL affiliate in Chicago. Cracking the lineup full-time next season may be a tall order, given the club’s top-four defensemen are basically set, with plenty of competition for bottom-six and depth roles. Lindbohm’s three-year entry-level deal had an annual average value of $700,000.

David Pastrnak, Bruins:

Negotiations between the Bruins and Pastrnak’s camp were expected to continue Friday, according to the Boston Herald, with Pastrnak’s agent, J.P. Barry, ready to make his client’s case for an eight-year deal. That left Bruins president Cam Neely to discuss the possible impact Leon Draisaitl‘s recently signed eight-year contract in Edmonton may have on these specific negotiations with Pastrnak. Having turned 21 years old in May, Pastrnak enjoyed an impressive offensive surge last season with 34 goals and 70 points.

Robbie Russo, Red Wings:

Robbie Russo, originally a New York Islanders draft pick, has spent the majority of his time in the Red Wings organization with its AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids. He’s been productive there, scoring seven goals and 32 points last season on a team that won the Calder Cup. He did break into the Red Wings lineup last season, appearing in 19 games without registering a point. The Red Wings have a pair of RFAs — Russo and Athanasiou — to get signed, but they have salary cap issues. Specifically, they are about $3.02 million over the cap.

Damon Severson, Devils:

Playing in his third NHL season, 23-year-old defenseman Damon Severson reached career highs in games played (80), assists (28), and points (31), emerging as a key piece on their blue line. While the contract situation has dragged into September, NJ Advance Media’s Chris Ryan recently told fans that he doesn’t anticipate it will continue into camp.

“The Devils and Severson have plenty of options for a contract, and they simply haven’t come to an agreement at this point,” Ryan wrote. “Worst case, the Devils and Severson will sign a one-year deal and do this all again next offseason, when Severson would be arbitration eligible. But expect for this to be resolved before camp opens.”

Tyler Wotherspoon, Flames:

Tyler Wotherspoon has been with the Flames organization since the 2011 NHL Draft, but has yet to emerge as a full-time player on their roster. Since turning professional, he has split each of the last four seasons between the NHL club and its minor league affiliate. He is one of two remaining RFAs for the Flames, after the club inked Brett Kulak. Calgary is already set with its top-four defensemen, while Michael Stone should fit in as the No. 5 blue liner. Matt Bartkowski is also on the roster, while Kulak played 21 games for the Flames last season to Wotherspoon’s four. Right now, it would seem the highest priority for Calgary is to get Sam Bennett signed.

Nikita Zadorov, Avalanche:

A recent report from Adrian Dater of BSN Denver stated that Nikita Zadorov and the Avalanche are about $500,000 apart, with the 22-year-old defenseman seeking about $2.5 million annually. Earlier this summer, it was reported that Zadorov had a “mutual agreement” with a club in the KHL but was waiting to receive a better offer from Colorado, which has only three defensemen under contract for the upcoming season.

*All financial figures courtesy CapFriendly.

Wild salary cap outlook with Granlund, Niederreiter signed

Getty
7 Comments

The Minnesota Wild are a fascinating team to observe, especially after several players received a shot in the arm playing under Bruce Boudreau.

While the team still needs to settle matters with RFA Marcus Foligno, GM Chuck Fletcher navigated the choppy waters of a challenging off-season, dealing with the expansion draft and finding fair compromises with Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund.

Now that Fletcher avoided arbitration hearings with Niederreiter and Granlund, this seems like a good time to take a wider look at the Wild’s salary structure. In doing so, we’ll see quite the mix of good, bad, and uncertain.

Crossing their fingers

There’s no sense ignoring the twin elephants in the room: matching $7.54 million cap hits for Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, which don’t run out until after the 2023-24 season. As of this writing, Suter is 32 and Parise is 33.

The debates regarding Suter’s ultimate value seem like they’ve died down in recent years, likely because he doesn’t get the same Norris hype that he once did. Right now, it seems like he’s in a reasonable spot, especially since his workload is at least trending toward something more reasonable. He averaged 26:55 TOI in 2016-17 after receiving between 28:36 in 2015-16 to a ridiculous 29:25 in 2013-14. In the grand scheme of things, Suter is fine, though Boudreau would be wise to continue to spead the wealth to Minnesota’s other defensemen.

After many years of outstanding work, Parise now stands as arguably an even bigger concern than Suter.

This is a situation where one must consider value, as Parise is still a fine player; injuries are the main reason he didn’t fall in his typical 25-goal range.

Other signs inspire a bit more concern. His per-game point average was just .61 last season compared to his career average of .8. Parise also didn’t shoot as often (2.8 vs. 3.39 for his career) and has been less of a possesion driver in the past two seasons.

Maybe some of those 2016-17 struggles were injury-related, but it’s tougher to ignore such worries when Parise makes so much money, for so long.

Not every costly veteran sets off alarms, though.

Mikko Koivu enjoyed such a resurgence last season that he was a Selke finalist, but that $6.75M still feels less foreboding when you realize it expires after 2017-18. Maybe he’d take a discount to help his long-time team compete?

Strong deals

Chalk up Granlund at $5.75M and Niederreiter at $5.25M to good-to-great deals.

The Wild’s most promising contract likely goes to Devan Dubnyk, however. At $4.33M, Dubnyk’s delivered at-or-near-elite goaltending for Minnesota. At 31, there’s some reason to expect an eventual decline … but that’s some strong value on paper.

Naturally, goalies are an unpredictable lot, but Minnesota’s outlook has come a long way since the end of the Niklas Backstrom era.

Eric Staal‘s brilliant rebound season makes his $3.5M look like a steal, and at 32, there’s a solid chance that it will remain that way for the two years that cover his current deal.

Mysteries

There are some fascinating situations in Minny.

They saved money in sending Marco Scandella and Jason Pominville to Buffalo for Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno. Even so, Ennis has had serious injury issues, making his $4.6M look a bit risky. Then again, what if Boudreau once again revitalizes a flawed talent?

Matt Dumba and Jason Zucker both eyeball RFA statuses after this season, while Charlie Coyle seems like he could go either way on his $3.2M deal. It also remains to be seen if Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin can take that “next step.”

***

Not that long ago, the Wild seemed to be stuck in limbo.

To the credit of Fletcher, Boudreau, and some emerging talents, things look a lot more promising today. The Wild have about $4.8M in cap space according to Cap Friendly, and while Foligno is likely to eat up some of that, there’s at least breathing room there.

It’s not a perfect situation, yet the Wild stand as a reasonably viable contender … though they haven’t yet enjoyed the sort of deep playoff push you’d expect with all of that spending.

Boudreau hoping for bounce back season from Ennis

Getty
3 Comments

One of the Minnesota Wild’s big moves this offseason was to try and strengthen their forward depth by acquiring Marcus Foligno and Tyler Ennis from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for defenseman Marco Scandella and forward Jason Pominville.

Foligno has already set some pretty high expectations for himself by aiming for 20 goals this season.

Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau seems to have some pretty high expectatinos for Ennis, telling Chad Graff of the Pioneer Press this week that he thinks if Ennis can stay healthy he could see a resurgence in Minnesota similar to the one Eric Staal experienced this past season.

Via the Pioneer Press:

Tyler Ennis, I’ve seen and talked to and met. I don’t want to put pressure on him, but three years ago, he was a great player in this league. He’s missed 90 games in the last two years due to injury. If we can keep him healthy, I think he’s going to have a rebound year like Eric Staal had. I’m very excited about having him. In our top-9 forwards, I think we’re as strong as anybody in the league.

When the Wild signed Staal as a free agent a year ago he was coming off of his worst season as a pro and there was an expectation that he was washed up as an elite player. He rebounded in his first year with the Wild by scoring 28 goals and being one of their absolute best forwards.

Ennis, of course, was never the type of player that Staal was at his peak but he was still better than the player we saw in Buffalo the past two seasons. Injuries were obviously a major factor for Ennis (as Boudrea noted, he was limited to just 74 games the past years … total) but even when he was on the ice his production plummeted.

Having better luck when it comes to health will certainly help, but so to will playing on a better team. The Wild were one of the best teams in the league for the first three quarters of the 2016-17 season and have a pretty solid collection of forwards. He is going to have more talent around him and should at least be in a better position to succeed.

In short order, Botterill remodeled Buffalo’s blueline

3 Comments

One of the biggest challenges Jason Botterill faced upon becoming Sabres GM was fixing the club’s defense.

He’s been on the job for 50 days now. And he’s certainly faced that challenge head on.

Friday’s acquisition of Marco Scandella — along with former captain Jason Pominville, while sending Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno to Minnesota — was his biggest move to date. It gives Buffalo a bonafide top-four guy, one that can log 20 minutes per night and provide a level of cost certainty. Scandella’s smack in the middle of a five-year, $20 million deal with a $4M average annual cap hit, and is locked in through 2020.

But it wasn’t Botterill’s only move.

The first was acquiring KHLer Victor Antipin. The 24-year-old joined the Sabres after a six-year stint with Metallurg Magnitogorsk, who he helped capture two Gagarin Cup titles. Botterill was effusive in his praise of Antipin in announcing the signing.

“Victor is a well-rounded defenseman who has played in all situations at the pro level,” he said, per NHL.com. “His mobility and puck-moving skills make him a perfect match for what we’re hoping to build with our defense corps next season.”

Three weeks after the Antipin acquisition, Botterill was at it again. This time, getting Nathan Beaulieu from Montreal in exchange for a third-round pick.

It was a modest price to pay for a guy that, despite his inconsistencies, put up a career year with the Canadiens. The 24-year-old had 28 points in 74 games while averaging 19:29 TOI.

Botterill still has work to do on this front. Beaulieu is a restricted free agent and needs a new contract though, to hear him explain it, that shouldn’t be a difficult one to negotiate. He’s excited about the future in Buffalo, thanks in large part to another of Botterill’s key moves — the hire of Hall of Fame defenseman Phil Housley as head coach.

“I’ve got a huge opportunity to re-grow my game with a guy who played the game similarly to the way I would like to play it,” Beaulieu said shortly after getting traded.

The Housley hire will, quite obviously, have a major impact on Buffalo’s blueline. He was lauded for his work as an assistant coach in Nashville, where he oversaw a speedy, play-making group highlighted by P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Matthias Ekholm.

Housley won’t have the same level of talent in Buffalo, but he’ll have a better product than what Dan Byslma coached last year. Scandella, Antipin and Beaulieu have been added to a group that included Rasmus Ristolainen, Zach Bogosian, Josh Gorges and Jake McCabe. Prospect Brendan Guhle could also be in the mix, after he finished last year playing for AHL Rochester.

And hey, Botterill might not be done remodeling. Though it sounds like the Sabres are now out on UFA blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk, other options remain. Chris Lee, who was Antipin’s defense partner in the KHL, is still looking for a contract.

Whatever the case, one thing is certain. Buffalo needed to fix its defense, and Botterill wasted no time doing it.