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.

It’s Minnesota Wild Day at PHT

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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Minnesota Wild.

Ever since the Minnesota Wild locked up Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to matching 13-year, $98 million deals things have slowly improved only to see their fate end the same way in the playoffs.

Two seasons ago, they stole their way in as the seventh seed in the West and got the bum’s rush out in the first round in five games by the Chicago Blackhawks. Last season, things got a bit better as they vanquished the Colorado Avalanche in seven games in the first round to earn a rematch with the Blackhawks. Things improved slightly as they bowed out in six games.

It’s that steady improvement in the face of difficult situations that gives fans in Minnesota hope for even more improvement.

The Wild saw injuries befall just about everyone they put in goal. Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding started the year as the tandem and while Backstrom dealt with nagging injuries, Harding was brilliant. That stellar play was submarined by his struggles with his medication while playing with Multiple Sclerosis.

By the time the playoffs rolled around, it was Ilya Bryzgalov and Darcy Kuemper holding down the fort with Bryzgalov standing tall while helping beat the Avs. If you predicted that would happen before the season, let’s hope you’re sitting on the beach relaxing as a new millionaire.

If there’s truly a reason for Wild fans to be excited about the years to come, it’s thanks to the emergence of a few key young forwards. Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, and Nino Niederreiter all had solid regular season play followed by flashes of brilliance in the postseason. Adding them to the mix with Parise, Mikko Koivu, and Jason Pominville helps give the Wild a very gifted set of forwards.

Things weren’t so bad on the blue line either. Suter logged an incredible number of minutes and former Calder Trophy finalist Jonas Brodin had a solid season, although seemingly not as strong as his rookie campaign. Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella stepped up their play to help give their blue line a boost. They’ll need to be that much better next season as the Central Division and Western Conference figures to be brutally difficult once again.

Offseason recap

Minnesota’s summer was virtually too easy to predict. After lots of rumors and speculation, Thomas Vanek inked a three-year, $19.5 million deal to go back to his American home. After playing college hockey at the University of Minnesota and always having a home in the state, it seemed inevitable he’d go back as a free agent. Even after a less-than impressive turn in the playoffs with the Montreal Canadiens didn’t scare the Wild away and they may be able to get a steal of sorts because of it.

With Vanek in the fold, they parted ways with Dany Heatley whose contract expired. He and defenseman Clayton Stoner both landed in Anaheim while they brought back Justin Falk who had been with the New York Rangers.

They also added former Vancouver Canucks forward, and Golden Gophers standout, Jordan Schroeder. There’s never not a homecoming of some sorts in the State of Hockey, but it’s Vanek who comes away as the prize.

Welcome to the club: Benn, Rask earn first-team All-Star recognition

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The National Hockey League’s First All-Star Team includes a pair of first-timers – Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars and Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins.

Rask already took home hardware from the NHL Awards, as he was named the 2014 Vezina Trophy winner as the league’s top goaltender. The 24-year-old Benn finished 12th in Hart Trophy voting. But he enjoyed a breakout season with the Stars as their captain, with 34 goals and 79 points. Dallas also made it back into the playoffs for the first time since 2008, and Benn was also named to Canada’s gold-medal winning team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Blackhawks’ defenseman Duncan Keith, Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby and Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry were also named to the first All-Star team.

2013-2014 NHL Second All-Star Team
GP W L OT GAA SV% SO
G Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche 63 41 14 6 2.41 .927 2

GP Mins. G A Pts
D Shea Weber, Nashville Predators 79 26:54 23 33 56
D Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues 81 25:21 8 43 51
C Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks 77 21:17 31 56 87
RW Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals 78 20:32 51 28 79
LW Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks 82 19:51 41 38 79

2013-2014 NHL ALL-STAR TEAM VOTING RESULTS

GOALTENDER

Pts. (1st-2nd-3rd) Career All-Star Selections

1. TUUKKA RASK, BOS 506 (70-47-15) 1 First Team, 0 Second Team
2. Semyon Varlamov, COL 450 (60-44-18) 0 First Team, 1 Second Team
3. Ben Bishop, TB 154 (2-29-57)
4. Carey Price, MTL 89 (3-13-35)
5. Jonathan Quick, LA 24 (2-4-2)
6. Henrik Lundqvist, NYR 5 (0-0-5)
7. Sergei Bobrovsky, CBJ 3 (0-0-3)
8. Marc-Andre Fleury, PIT 2 (0-0-2)

DEFENSE

Pts. (1st-2nd-3rd) Career All-Star Selections

1. DUNCAN KEITH, CHI 587 (101-25-7) 2 First Team, 0 Second Team
2. ZDENO CHARA, BOS 442 (58-42-26) 3 First Team, 4 Second Team
3. Shea Weber, NSH 432 (51-50-27) 2 First Team, 1 Second Team
4. Alex Pietrangelo, STL 253 (16-45-38) 0 First Team, 2 Second Team
5. Ryan Suter, MIN 244 (22-36-26)
6. Drew Doughty, LA 207 (15-32-36)
7. Erik Karlsson, OTT 94 (4-12-38)
8. Ryan McDonagh, NYR 53 (1-9-21)
9. Victor Hedman, TB 35 (1-4-18)
10. Matt Niskanen, PIT 34 (1-6-11)
11. Mark Giordano, CGY 31 (2-3-12)
12. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, SJ 22 (1-5-2)
13. PK Subban, MTL 10 (1-0-5)
14. Niklas Kronwall, DET 10 (0-3-1)
15. Jay Bouwmeester, STL 4 (0-1-1)
16. Andrei Markov, MTL 3 (0-1-0)
17. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, PHX 3 (0-0-3)
18. Brent Seabrook, CHI 2 (0-0-2)

CENTER

Pts. (1st-2nd-3rd) Career All-Star Selections
1. SIDNEY CROSBY, PIT 677 (133-4-0) 3 First Team, 1 Second Team
2. Ryan Getzlaf, ANA 378 (3-117-12) 0 First Team, 1 Second Team
3. Claude Giroux, PHI 101 (1-8-72)
4. Patrice Bergeron, BOS 32 (0-5-17)
5. Tyler Seguin, DAL 22 (0-0-22)
6. Anze Kopitar, LA 10 (0-1-7)
7. Jonathan Toews, CHI 6 (0-1-3)
8. David Krejci, BOS 4 (0-1-1)
9. David Backes, STL 1 (0-0-1)
Jeff Skinner, CAR 1 (0-0-1)
Joe Thornton, SJ 1 (0-0-1)

LEFT WING

Pts. (1st-2nd-3rd) Career All-Star Selections
1. JAMIE BENN, DAL 446 (57-48-17) 1 First Team, 0 Second Team
2. Joe Pavelski, SJ 325 (49-23-11) 0 First Team, 1 Second Team
3. Patrick Sharp, CHI 259 (26-31-36)
4. Taylor Hall, EDM 73 (0-13-34)
5. Max Pacioretty, MTL 40 (2-7-9)
6. Alex Steen, STL 26 (2-3-7)
7. Patrick Marleau, SJ 22 (1-4-5)
8. Chris Kunitz, PIT 21 (0-5-6)
9. Gabriel Landeskog, COL 11 (0-2-5)
10. Thomas Vanek, MTL 3 (0-1-0)
11. Milan Lucic, BOS 2 (0-0-2)
Ryan O’Reilly, COL 2 (0-0-2)
Zach Parise, MIN 2 (0-0-2)
14. Patrick Kane, CHI 1 (0-0-1)

RIGHT WING

Pts. (1st-2nd-3rd) Career All-Star Selections

1. COREY PERRY, ANA 606 (109-18-7) 2 First Team, 0 Second Team
2. Alex Ovechkin, WSH 299 (23-47-43) 6 First Team, 3 Second Team
3. Phil Kessel, TOR 211 (5-44-54)
4. Patrick Kane, CHI 65 (0-16-17)
5. Jaromir Jagr, NJ 14 (0-3-5)
Martin St. Louis, NYR 14 (0-3-5)
7. Jarome Iginla, BOS 12 (0-4-0)
8. Jason Pominville, MIN 4 (0-1-1)
9. T.J. Oshie, STL 3 (0-1-0)
10. Blake Wheeler, WPG 2 (0-0-2)
11. David Backes, STL 1 (0-0-1)
Marian Hossa, CHI 1 (0-0-1)
Kyle Okposo, NYI 1 (0-0-1)

Welcome back: Benning inks multi-year deal as Vancouver GM

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Jim Benning is officially on his way back to Vancouver.

The former Canucks defenseman — who played with president of hockey ops Trevor Linden  — has agreed to become the 11th general manager in Vancouver franchise history, per TSN’s Darren Dreger.

Benning, 51, has spent the last seven seasons serving as Peter Chiarelli’s assistant in Boston and prior to that, worked as the director of amateur scouting in Buffalo (he also served one year in Anaheim’s scouting department). Benning was lauded for his success at the draft table with the Sabres, chiefly responsible for the club selecting the likes of  Ryan Miller, Jason Pominville, Derek Roy, Paul Gaustad, Daniel Paille and Dennis Wideman.

Per Dreger and Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy, Benning will be introduced as the new Canucks GM on Friday.

Inheriting the gig from outgoing GM Mike Gillis — who was dismissed six weeks ago — Benning will have plenty to do over the next short while. He needs to find a new head coach to replace John Tortorella and also begin working on a strategy for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, set for June 27 in Philadelphia, in which Vancouver holds the sixth overall selection.

Benning will also have three key RFA contracts to negotiate — Zack Kassian, Jordan Schroeder and Chris Tanev — and could be active in the trade market, with the likes of Ryan Kesler and Alex Edler rumored as potential targets.

Report: Canucks to name Benning GM this week

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Vancouver’s new general manager search will reportedly come to an end this week.

Boston assistant GM Jim Benning will be named as the Canucks’ new man in charge, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger. The news comes more than six weeks after the club dismissed Mike Gillis as GM and hired franchise legend Trevor Linden as president of hockey operations.

The Benning hire makes sense on a number of fronts. One, he and Linden spent five years playing together in Vancouver and the move would continue in the theme of bringing ex-Canucks into the managerial fold. Two, Benning has the scouting experience and acumen Linden is reportedly seeking in a new GM — prior to joining the Bruins, he had great success as the head of amateur scouting in Buffalo, selecting the likes of Ryan Miller, Jason Pominville, Derek Roy, Paul Gaustad, Daniel Paille and Dennis Wideman.

Per the Bruins website, Benning has assisted GM Peter Chiarelli in a number of areas since taking the post in 2007, advising on player evaluation, trades and free agent signings.

Assuming Benning is released in time for the draft, he’ll have plenty of work to do. Vancouver has almost all of its picks this year, including the sixth overall selection.