Wild GM Guerin talks trades, contracts and draft prep

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Sarah McLellan, Star Tribune
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SAN JOSE, CALIF. – Wild General Manager Bill Guerin expects trade talks to pick up around the NHL leading to the April 12 deadline, but it's possible that day passes without the Wild making any changes.

"I don't know how active we'll be," Guerin told the Star Tribune. "It really depends. I'm really happy with our team right now. I'm happy with the job our players have done, and obviously our coaches have done a great job. Chemistry-wise, I think our team's good. Unless something really makes us better, I don't really feel the need to disrupt this group."

After a three-day layoff, the Wild resumed play Monday at San Jose in third place in the West Division.

Not only does the team have some cushion over the clubs chasing it, but the Wild is also close enough to the top spot to contend for the division title. The first four seeds will advance to the playoffs.

"If something will make us better, then we'll do it," Guerin continued. "But I do see the chemistry that our team has, and that's very important. To mix that up could be dangerous, but we'll see. We'll have to take a look."

What could limit the Wild's flexibility is the team's cap space.

The Wild is close to the $81.5 million ceiling, with less than $1 million in wiggle room, according to capfriendly.com. So someone would have to leave for someone else to arrive.

"A lot of teams are in that situation," Guerin said. "So it's money in, money out. That's not always the easiest thing to find a trade partner."

With the salary cap remaining flat until NHL revenue exceeded $3.3 billion in the aftermath of being shut down by the coronavirus pandemic, Guerin is also being mindful to not hamstring the team for the future.

Among the players up for a new contract after this season are rookie Kirill Kaprizov, Kevin Fiala, Joel Eriksson Ek and Ryan Hartman. Recently, Guerin met with Kaprizov's agent Paul Theofanous, who was in the Twin Cities to visit Kaprizov, but the two were just checking in with each other and Guerin said, "There's nothing concrete."

Money mattersThe Wild has approximately $23 million in cap space for 2021-22, according to capfriendly.com.

"We're always trying to plan, but it's tough because everybody kind of affects everybody," Guerin said. "What's this guy going to be able to get? What's this guy going to get? Can we afford this guy? We like all these guys. We like all our players, and it's just a matter of being able to fit everybody."

Fiala, Eriksson Ek and Hartman are restricted free agents, while Kaprizov has a special distinction since he doesn't meet free-agency requirements. He can only negotiate and sign with the Wild and isn't eligible for an offer sheet from another team.

Marcus Johansson, Nick Bonino, Nick Bjugstad, Ian Cole and Brad Hunt are among the team's pending unrestricted free agents.

"We like all these guys," Guerin said. "This team has done a lot of really good things this year, and I think we've gotten contributions from everybody — guys that been here for a long time and guys that are new here this year. So we like everybody. It's just a matter of being able to fit people."

Draft prepThe 2021 draft is likely to proceed as planned July 23 and 24 even though some leagues have started later than usual or not at all, affecting teams' ability to scout prospects.

"Video is definitely not the way to go, but it's a tool and [the scouts have] incorporated a lot of it," Guerin said. "I'm 100 percent confident we'll be ready."

Ahead of the entry draft will be the Seattle expansion draft, set for July 21, another event that's on Guerin's mind.

"We have ideas, but things could change very quickly," he said. "Do we think about it? Yes, we do. There's no way to have a clear-cut plan already. It's just impossible."

Injury updateMarcus Foligno (lower-body injury) and Zach Parise (COVID list) aren't on the Wild's road trip.

Foligno has been out since taking a shot off the lower right leg on March 12.

"He's progressing," Guerin said.

As for first round draft pick Marco Rossi, who was dealing with complications from COVID-19, Guerin said the prospect is doing fine and remains at home in Austria.