Should we be more scared to trust Wild players in a contract year?

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We’ve all been there before. You get out of a toxic relationship, and you start the process. It takes some time, but eventually you move on. And then, as soon as you get to a healthy space, they have the audacity to show their face again.

They promise things will change and show minor glimpses of hope. They say they will stop making fun of your shitty beard that hides your 4 chins, and your clear framed glasses that are really just a desperate attempt to stay young and cool. (editor’s note: Marlow, you this is a little too specific, you good?)

The Minnesota Wild have a tendency to fall into a similar trap. Players perform at their peak in a contact year in order to get you to fall in love with them. You start to believe them, and you realize that the last few years of underperforming were just adjustments. Now they’ve made the adjustments, and the growth is here to stay. We have to pay them to keep them around, right? …right??? When it comes to the question of paying or dumping them, let’s just say I’ve been hurt before. I’m much more pessimistic.

Contract Year Curse?

The Minnesota Wild have a few players ready to cash in on a surprising 2021 season, but our tough salary cap situation has me worried. Eriksson Ek, Fiala, and of course Kaprizov all had great seasons and are in lieu for major paydays. Now, I want to make it very clear that I like these players. I am incredibly happy to have them, but I’ve been hurt before. We all have. Everyone is happy a player having a monster season right up until it comes time to write the new check. Just something to keep in mind. Here are some players in the Wild’s past who were beloved, but hurt us after getting paid.


jason zucker in his contract year

I feel the need to start this off by saying I absolutely love Jason Zucker. He is an unbelievable and charitable human being, but that’s where the Wild fans get burnt. We fall in love with production and the ability to connect with the community and we fall DEEP. Zucker was coming off of a great 17-18 season in which he put up 64 points in 82 games while only having a 2 million dollar cap hit. Seriously, it was an all-time contract year performance for Zucker. We found our future elite player right? As we all know, unfortunately not. After signing a contract that would provide a 5.5 million dollar cap hit, production declined in which he fell to just 42 points, and then 29 the following season before being shipped off to the Penguins.


thomas vanek right after his contract year

Now Vanek is a tough subject for a lot of Wild fans. He was a beloved Golden Gopher by many but was effected by what I call the “Buffalo Effect”. To summarize: elite level players get absolutely buried by rotting away in a dumpster palace called Buffalo, New York. Vanek was playing for the most boring team in New York (Islanders) in which he put up 44 points in 47 games at the end of the 2014 season. The Wild tossed a big 6.6 million AAV contract at him. He played pretty well putting up 5 points in 8 games before declining back to just 41 points in 77 games.

His lazy play and lack of defensive reliability is what got him shipped out. Blame has to fall on the Wild as we signed him as an older player and needed to eventually buy him out. Thankfully, Vanek still lives in the area and acted as a pseudo-billet dad for Marco Rossi so I guess the contract wasn’t all bad.


matt dumba in his contract year

I’m torn on how I feel about Dumba. I think we should sell him off because the value is there. Dumba is a #1 if not #2 defensemen with a lot of offensive upside. If he sticks around, I guess I’m okay with that as well. Dumba has a lot of upside. When Fletcher signed him to a 2 million dollar extension in hopes that he would ball out, ball out he did. In the contract year of that extension he showed elite offensive ability by putting up 50 points in 82 games. Naturally the Wild tossed him good money with a 5 year and 6 million cap hit extension and his production as well as the ability to stay healthy has drastically declined. He has yet to surpass 24 points in the following 3 seasons since signing the deal.

So who should get paid after their contract year performance?

Now going into this next season we have a lot of decisions to make as well as who to pay. Kaprizov is clearly the type of player we should toss the bag at. Even with an 8 year extension we won’t be handcuffed like we are with Parise. Guys like Fiala have shown a lot of promise, but are scary to throw a big ticket at as he appears to be pretty streaky when it comes to putting up points. Ek is someone I am comfortable tossing money at as he is a solid defensively sound center. I think the Wild need someone like Bonino to strengthen ourselves down the middle with a player like Rossi and Boldy coming up.

Aaaaand who can kick rocks?

The Wild had a lot of other players in a contract year, like Hunt, Cole, Bjugstad, and Johnasson. I would honestly just let those guys walk. We can easily replace them through free agency or prospects. Obviously lip lettuce connoisseur Calen Addison can slot in on the defensive side of things. Up front, I wouldn’t mind seeing us bring back an old flame like Granlund. He’s coming off of a really bad year, so we can buy low. You’re telling me you won’t want to get a great half wall power play guy for cheap?

Regardless of what we do, I’ll be like every other Wild fan. I’ll be excited when these players are sick, and call for their heads when they don’t produce. And if these takes age like milk, I’ll just claimed I was crippled off of Northland Vodka (no free ads) and I wasn’t thinking clearly.