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Wild salary cap outlook with Granlund, Niederreiter signed

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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.”

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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.

Brian MacLellan wants you to know that the Caps are still ‘a good team’

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The Washington Capitals will look pretty different when training camp opens.

Alex Ovechkin, Niklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, Braden Holtby and Evgeny Kuznetsov will all be back, but players like Justin Williams, Marcus Johansson, Kevin Shattenkirk, Nate Schmidt and Karl Alzner are starting new journeys somewhere else.

Some have suggested that the big number of departures will bring the Caps down a notch or two when it comes to regular season dominance. GM Brian MacLellan simply doesn’t see that happening.

“People make it sound like we’re a lottery team,” said MacLellan, per the Washington Post. “I’m shocked by that. We’ve got good players. I want people to know: We’ve got a good team.”

The Caps will have to rely on young veterans and/or rookies to fill the void left by all of those departures. Andrei Burakovsky and Tom Wilson may have to play bigger roles, while rookies like defensemen Lucas Johansen  and Christian Djoos may crack the lineup sooner than expected.

As of right now, the Caps have five defensemen on one-way contracts (Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, Dmitry Orlov, John Carlson and Taylor Chorney), so there’s plenty of room for those youngsters to leave their mark on the team.

“It’s a good team, I think,” MacLellan said. “We have good goaltending. We have skilled players. We’re going to have to see how Djoos plays, how Johansen plays. We might take a little while to get up to speed in that area. I guess there’s a little uncertainty. But I feel good.”

 McLellan’s team might take a bit of a dip because the supporting cast took a hit this offseason, but expecting them to fall off the map because of it is a little premature.

Trade: Flames acquire Mike Smith from Coyotes, likely ending Fleury pursuit

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Update: The Calgary Flames and Arizona Coyotes confirmed the trade.

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Brad Treliving’s latest attempt to solve Calgary’s goalie situation might feature a familiar face.

Per Sportsnet, the Flames and Coyotes are working on a deal that would see netminder Mike Smith head to Calgary. If so, it’d be a reunion of sorts — Treliving was Don Maloney’s assistant GM in Arizona, most notably when Smith inked a six-year extension back in 2013.

It’s been confirmed by multiple outlets including TSN’s Bob McKenzie and the Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan.

The Flames’ side

Arizona retains 25 percent of Mike Smith’s salary, according to McKenzie. Smith enters 2017-18 as Calgary’s expected starter, and this likely takes the Flames out of the Marc-Andre Fleury bidding war.

Coyotes’ side

The Coyotes receive prospect Brandon Hickey, a conditional third-rounder and the rights to goalie Chad Johnson. McLellan has more:

More on Smith

Smith, 35, posted a .914 save percentage this season after facing the sixth highest amount of shots against (1,819) among all NHL goalies. And that came in just 55 games played, indicative of the young and rebuilding team Smith was playing behind.

The veteran netminder is entering the fifth year of the aforementioned six-year, $34 million contract that has an annual cap hit of $5.666 million. If the Coyotes indeed retain 25 percent of his cap hit, the Flames would be on the hook for approximately $4.25 million for the next two seasons.

Smith’s name surfaced in rumors earlier this month. Arizona GM John Chayka later responded to the trade speculation, per Arizona Sports. He spoke highly of Smith, but seemed open to the idea of a possible trade — provided the return is to his liking.

“If it’s being viewed as me making Mike available and starting a bidding war, that’s not the case,” said Chayka. “We’re taking calls on players every year. I don’t think anyone is untradeable but like we talked about last year with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, he’s up as high on that list as anyone.”

As mentioned above, Calgary has been looking for the right fit in net for quite some time. Since Treliving came on board in 2014, the club has used Jonas Hiller, Karri Ramo, Joni Ortio, Niklas Backstrom, Chad Johnson and Brian Elliott, all with limited success.

Johnson and Elliott are both currently unrestricted free agents.

If this deal goes through, Smith would be a “bridge” option to hold down the starting gig until one of Calgary’s good young goalie prospects — Jon Gillies, Mason McDonald or Tyler Parsons — is ready to compete at the NHL level.

Report: Flames to sign Czech League goalie Rittich

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Calgary has inked David Rittich, a 23-year-old goalie out of the Czech Extraliga, per various reports — including this one from hokej.cz.

Rittich spent last season with BK Mlada Boleslav, posting a .919 save percentage and 2.50 GAA in 48 games. He stands 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, but doesn’t have a huge resume, and has little to no experience representing the Czechs at any major international tournaments.

That said, the signing is still interesting.

For one, it continues in an offseason in which the Flames already snagged someone out of the Czech League — power forward Daniel Pribyl, who’s aiming to open the year on the club’s top line next to Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.

Secondly, Calgary’s lack of depth in net means any goalie signing is intriguing.

Jonas Hiller is gone, having signed in the Swiss League. So too is Niklas Backstrom, having signed in Finland. It’s unclear if Karri Ramo will be brought back after suffering a season-ending ACL tear in February.

Joni Ortio is still in the mix, but he’s the lone guy with NHL experience (and still needs a new contract for next season). Prospects Mason McDonald and Jon Gilles still need a fair bit of seasoning, and presumably won’t be rushed to Calgary — all of which could open up an opportunity for Rittich to see some minutes next year.

According to a Calgary Herald source, the organization is “high on Rittich’s skill set, and feels he has potential.”

Jonas Hiller signs three-year deal with EHC Biel of Swiss League

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Jonas Hiller‘s NHL days are over for the foreseeable future. The veteran netminder has signed a three-year deal to join EHC Biel of the Swiss League, the team announced.

The move to Europe doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Earlier this month, word got out that the Flames weren’t interested in bringing Hiller back next season.

The 34-year-old was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. After he posted a 9-11-1 record with a 3.51 goals-against-average and a .879 save percentage in 2015-16, his NHL options would likely have been limited at best.

He enjoyed way more success last season, when he had much better numbers and led the Flames to the postseason.

Hiller will join former NHLers Maxime Macenauer, David Moss and Robbie Earl with EHC Biel.

Biel was the worst team in the Swiss-A League this season, according to Hockey DB.

As for the Flames, they’ll have to make some changes in goal if they hope to make the postseason again. Calgary’s four “main” goalies are all free agents going into the off-season.

Niklas Backstrom, who they acquired from Minnesota at the trade deadline, is 38-years-old and likely has no future with the team. Karri Ramo suffered a torn ACL during the season, but he wasn’t overly impressive in 2015-16 either. Joni Ortio is the youngest of the bunch and he’s an RFA. There’s a good chance he’ll be the only one back next season.

There won’t be a ton of quality goalies available in free agency this summer, so the Flames may have to bring one in via trade. Veteran free agents like Cam Ward or James Reimer could make sense at the right price.