Explaining how the Wild could use their cap space as a weapon

No, the Wild did not actually acquire star center Ryan O’Reilly in the middle of Friday’s game against the Dallas Stars.

Though the Wild could certainly use some help up the middle — imagine a top line of O’Reilly centering Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello — they simply served as a conduit to help facilitate a blockbuster trade between the St. Louis Blues and Toronto Maple Leafs.

It was a savvy move by general manager Bill Guerin and assistant general manager Chris O’Hearn that netted the Wild a fourth-round pick in the 2025 NHL draft.

All the Wild had to do was agreed to retain 25% of O’Reilly’s salary in the process. That’s something the Wild can afford to do because they have a lot of wiggle room ahead of the trade deadline on March 3.

As for this particular deal, the Wild technically traded prospect Josh Pillar to the Blues for O’Reilly, then immediately flipped the the former Stanley Cup champion to the Maple Leafs for a draft pick. There were a lot of other moving parts between the Blues and the Maple Leafs.

None of which concerned the Wild in the slightest.

The only thing the Wild cared about is what it cost them. The price ended up being $74,000 in cash, which is the prorated portion of the actual money still owed to O’Reilly, and $557,000 in retained salary, which is the prorated portion of the $1.875 million average annual value the Wild agreed to take on in the trade.

That’s a convoluted way of saying the Wild essentially used their cap space to buy a draft pick. They also simultaneously ensured that O’Reilly got traded to a team in the Eastern Conference rather than a team in the Western Conference. That could prove useful with the Wild fighting for their playoff lives on a nightly basis.

It will be interesting to see if the Wild deploy a similar strategy moving forward.

Remember, according to Cap Friendly, the Wild can still take on roughly $10 million at the trade deadline. They have been accruing cap space all season long with the thought that they might be a buyer at some point.

Instead, the Wild could effortlessly morph into a glorified banker over the next couple of weeks, using their cap space to help facilitate trades for other teams. Just like they did in the blockbuster trade between the Blues and Maple Leafs.

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