Wild-Blackhawks Battle Preview of Division’s Future?

In the wake of the Chicago Blackhawks eliminating the Minnesota Wild from the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, there has been a lot said about the future of the Wild. They’re young, fast and showed a great deal of depth in taking the Blackhawks to six games.

Looking deeper at their roster and projecting into the future, the Blackhawks may be as much of a cautionary tale for the Wild as a championship role model.

Charlie Coyle Duncan Keith

Remember the Blackhawks in 2008-09? Maybe you don’t (it’s ok, there are lots of post-2009 fans in Chicago). They were young, talented, fast, deep… everything the Hawks hadn’t been for a decade. And, after watching the playoffs from home for years, they finally broke through and ran all the way to the Western Conference Final against Detroit those 2009 playoffs.

Only 12 months later, the Hawks would win the Stanley Cup and begin an immediate fire sale the likes of which no champion had ever seen in the NHL. Half of the roster was gone as the front office had to choose between quality role players (Kris Versteeg, Dustin Byfuglien) and the core of the roster (Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp).

The Wild’s depth has been praised by many in Chicago, but there could be a few tough decisions coming for Minnesota’s front office.

Mikael Granlund had eight goals in 63 regular season games for the Wild this year, followed by four goals and three assists in 13 playoff games. He is 22 years old, and was selected ninth overall in the 2010 NHL Draft by the Wild. The cap hit on his current contract is only $900,000. Granlund will be a restricted free agent in 2015.

Charlie Coyle had 12 goals in 70 regular season games for the Wild this year, followed by three goals and four assists in 13 playoff games. He is 22 years old, and was acquired from San Jose (with Devin Setoguchi and a 2011 first round pick – Zack Phillips) in the trade that sent Brent Burns to the Sharks. The cap hit on his current contract is only $900,000. Coyle will be a restricted free agent in 2015.

Erik Haula had six goals in only 46 regular season games for the Wild this year, followed by four goals and three assists in 13 playoff games. He is 23 years old, and was selected in the seventh round of the 2009 NHL Draft by the Wild. The cap hit on his current contract is only $900,000. Haula will be a restricted free agent in 2015.

Marco Scandella had three goals in 76 regular season games for the Wild this year, followed by two goals and one assist in 13 playoff games. He is 24 years old, and was selected in the second round of the 2008 NHL Draft by the Wild. The cap hit on his current contract is only $1.025M. Scandella will be a restricted free agent in 2015.

Jonas Brodin had eight goals in 79 regular season games for the Wild this year, followed by two assists in 13 playoff games. He wil turn 21 in July, and was the tenth overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft by the Wild. The cap hit on his current contract is only $894,167. Brodin will be a restricted free agent in 2015.

Kyle Brodziak, who will turn 30 later this month, is an unrestricted free agent in 2015 as well.

Have you noticed a theme yet?

Five of the key pieces to the Wild’s potential have one season remaining on their current, inexpensive contracts. When those five contracts come up, the Wild will be looking ahead to a 2015-16 season that currently has seven players under contracts valued at just over $36M in cap space.

Unfortunately for the Wild, there are a few other players who aren’t included in those signed contracts that will need a new deal before this significant crop comes due.

Nino Niederreiter, who will turn 22 in September, is a restricted free agent this summer. As are forwards Justin Fontaine and Jason Zucker and goaltender Darcy Kuemper.

Ilya Bryzgalov is an unrestricted free agent this summer, as are Clayton Stoner, Matt Moulson, Dany Heatley, Mike Rupp and Cody McCormick. Given the other upcoming salary considerations, it’s hard to see many of these veterans returning to the Wild next season.

Next season’s salary cap has been rumored to be coming in anywhere between $68-72M, and the new television deal in Canada will add a significant amount of money to the pool in time for the 2015 free agent class; we don’t know how high the cap will go in 14 short months.

The Wild have done a nice job of drafting and trading for some good, young players who had an exciting two round playoff run this spring. But pay day is coming soon.

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15 Responses to Wild-Blackhawks Battle Preview of Division’s Future?

  1. Travis says:

    Nice post. Good breakdown. Thanks!

  2. hawkfacts says:

    Like the Blues, the Wild have established a good young core. But just like the Blues they don’t have that one player with the “it” factor. You could tell Toews and Kane were going to be superstars the day they stepped into the league. Hard to predict having even one of those on the Blues or Wild. (maybe Tarasenko and no – I don’t consider Parise or Suter in that discussion). Without those kind of difference making players, you cannot go all the way.

    Also, goalie uncertainty is likely to continue and hinder both teams. Until their GM’s (who are both pretty good) solve that issue, they are likely to be up and down

  3. Jax says:

    This is almost Twilight Zone similar to how the hawks ended up loosing such a high percentage of their roster after 20010. I am pretty ignorant on how the salary cap is determined each year, I thought that the cap was determined by the players/owners collective bargaining contract. It sounds like you are saying that cap is influenced by future revenue deals as well. All revenue or just t.v.? If you have a minute please give me the “Cliff Notes” version of how this determined and when the following season’s cap is made available to head honchos. Gotta make contracts an artform if you are not sure how much you can spend next year?

  4. Sr. Brad says:

    Great article Tab…the fortunate thing for the Wild is that all of these young, talented players are RESTRICTED FAs and as such the Wild have the best shot at resigning them, or loading up on more compensation. Plus Heatly and Bryz’s contracts will be coming off the books allowing Fletcher to pay for most of this.

    They are a great young team with a smart coach, but they don’t know how to win, yet. And let’s hope they never do… Tough, tough, division.

    BTW, Tab, were you surprised with the Canadiens defeating the Bruins in 7 IN Boston?

  5. morrison says:

    Jax- The salary cap is based on that, so we know about what it will be. The new tv contracts were what made it higher then it would have been. Its going to go up a lot this time (all teams will be able to use it). We already have good guys to sign higher contracts, some teams are still looking for good guys…

    Bowman knows what he is doing and his is good at it. Were going to be able to keep basically everybody. We might trade one, but with a couple retiring we wont have to unless we want. Its not anywhere near that yr in terms of new higher contracts for the younger guys. 2016 season will be the yr we will, but the cap is going up again (not as much as this time) and will cover some contract raises. We will also have moar of our prospects nhl-ready by then too (elc).

    The beauty is we do not have to rush anyone, so our farm remains stacked. Nordstrom is yet another good guy that can play these yr coming up until the others are ready. The calvary is coming.

  6. morrison says:

    Jax- I would ask E Raptor or Tab on the specifics, they usually know that stuff better then anyone…

    All teams can use 10% of current yr cap during summer, so teams can add 6.4m on top of the cap and adjust during the fa. Theres also going to be several decent guys available because of the teams remaining buyouts/trickle, so there will be some steals there to get. All teams have to use them.

  7. morrison says:

    Jax- Just realized you were talking about them, shit.

  8. Mike says:

    Morrison, I do not disagree. I think the Hawks have a decent core of NHL players in the system. The Hawks have many players to come out of the system and I think the system overall deserves a B-. That said, our system is missing some key ingredients, particularly if you buy the line that says the AHL’ sole purpose is for system/player development.

    Defense: It seems that Q’s defense philosophy does not extend down the system. Only 1 team gave up more goals than the Hogs. This lack of development has hurt guys like Morin and Pirri. How can the system rate the Dmen when your team gives up 3.5 goals per game.

    Offense: The Hogs scored some goals to be sure. But still ranked out of the top 10 in goals for and certainly not enough scoring to overcome the horrible defense.

    Winning: With the Hogs “embarrassment of riches” the team can not seem to make the playoffs. With all that talent the Hogs have not been in the playoffs for 4 or 5 years. The attitude and will to win in missing. What is worse is the fact that the Hogs lost a playoff spot in their last 10 games going 3-7 and giving up 39 goals in that span.

    Do I believe the Hogs can restock the Hawks, yes I do. However, I think something in Rockford has to change. I do not want players coming up that come from a situation where losing is OK. That will manifest itself in the long run.

    B&B, please recap the Hogs season for us.

  9. Sr. Brad says:

    Mike, don’t forget that the past 2 seasons the Hogs were set to make the playoffs until the Hawks gutted their best players down the final stretch drive. The Hawks run their farm system to develop players first and games 2nd. Also, don’t forget that goaltending has been an issue for the Hogs since Crawford left. LaBarbera came in and played very well for 2o games, and then dropped right off. But yes, the commitment to D in Rockford needs to get better…and that relates to the forwards as well (I am talking particularly to the Broadhursts right now)…

  10. Peter says:

    Tab, I’m a giant fan of these forward looking pieces. Thanks. The Wild will have some tough decisions. The cap going up will help them, although the best GM at the cap game is probably Bowman (e.g. His relatively short long term cap friendly deals 4 and 16 for Bickell, 4 for Hammer, etc…) he gives those players some security while saving some money for Toews and Kane which will be BIG.
    For me the Wild need to keep Scandella, Brodin, etc so Suter doesn’t break down…have to question a team who have two players with 13 year deals…I am impressed with Haula and Granlund. Their next deals will most likely compare to a Shaw or Kruger anyway (a little more manageable). I like Yeo, but the Wild probably will need a coaching change before elevating themselves too much further. His style is just so draining…

  11. Icehogst says:

    Right on the money, Mike. Icehogs have consistently underperformed and missed playoffs 4 years straight. Playoff intensity has been missed, an invaluable stepping stone to the NHL. Only Morin was brought up during their playoff push, when they tanked badly. D was terrible despite Clendening being a first team all star. PK was beyond abysmal.

    The depth thing doesn’t pan out. Otherwise, Icehogs would do better against their AHL counterparts. Since Shaw and Saad, only Ben Smith has made the grade, and he has taken forever to develop into more than a 4th line grinder. Something is wrong here. For the last few years, Hawk prospects have stalled.

  12. Tab Bamford says:

    First reminder: Ben Smith played in the NHL playoffs before Saad and Shaw were drafted…

    “Something is wrong here. For the last few years, Hawk prospects have stalled.”

    Second reminder: The Hawks still have 3 defensemen (2, 4, 7) and 5 forwards (19, 88, 10, 81, 29) who made their debut before the 2010 Cup win. This means the Hawks needed to replace 3 defensemen & 7 forwards…

    Drafted by the Hawks: Saad, Shaw, Smith, Kruger, Bollig have made their NHL debut since winning the Cup in 2010.
    The Hawks acquired college prospect Leddy during the 2009-10 season and he’s been in the lineup since.
    I haven’t included Nordstrom (drafted) or Morin (acquired by trade).

    So what’s wrong is… the Hawks have traded for/signed 2-3 forwards and 2-3 defensemen AND won a second Cup in the last four seasons?

    Clearly this system is broken…

  13. Mining Man says:

    Yes, post 2010 was painful for us and a painful unfortunate necessity. In hindsight Stan Bowman admitted that losing Byfuglien was a mistake. Wonder what then script looks like had we kept Dustin and shipped out a different player in his place. Its a fascinating scenario with many different outcomes. So on to Minnesota….the magic 5-7 have pretty low numbers during the regular season. The loss of veterans and a core of maybe hotshot youngsters could mean they go backward for a couple years. Edmonton is stacked with young talent and first round picks and going no where. Parise and Suter are permanent fixtures and will eat up a lot of cap space and the team built around these two. Will Harding be back…unknown, ….Kuemper will be in high demand and could be tough to match $ wise. Cannot see them being able to keep every restricted free agent with matching offers. Minnesota has a great future and will give us fits for years to come yet but I see them going backwards for next two. As for us, the Blackhawks, we are poised for the unbelievable and unheard of incredible feat of attaining a dynasty in the age of the cap. There will always be an up and coming challenger whispering in our ear that we are about to be dethroned. Colorado? Minny? Kings? Blackhawks win the Cup.

  14. Jax says:

    Thanks Morrison,I have not ever really understood the salary cap and still don’t Thank you for giving me 98% better ideas of what’s up.It is people like you that make this site worth the time to read and ask ? Their are some on this site that are too above helping someone like me about such basic ? about the salary cap, yet can spew days on something they even know less about. I appreciate somebody taking time out of their day to help the mentally challenged.

  15. Icehogst says:

    Didn’t say the system was broken. Stan Bowman’s astute drafting has kept young players playing Blackhawk hockey. Only Ben smith spent time developing in Rockford.
    Everyone else left Rockford after 1 year.

    What’s wrong is that players who need to develop in the AHL before being NHL ready are not playing in the playoffs. Period. That indicates something is wrong. Tab, do you think McNeil, TT, Ross, danault, Clendening, johns will just ripen and move up? When the AHL affiliates of other good NHL teams routinely kick the shit out of them?

    The fact is that the young Hawks in Rockford are not learning to win. They haven’t won a playoff game in 6 years. The players lack playoff intensity experience. And that will hurt our Hawks somewhere along the way.

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