Wild practice patience early in free agency: ‘A lot of mistakes are made on this day’

Jean Pieri/Pioneer Press/TNS
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With so many big contracts being handed out on Day 1 of NHL free agency, Wild general manager Bill Guerin didn’t feel the need to rush into anything. He made some phone calls on Wednesday, gauging the interest of certain players, and ultimately decided to let the market calm down a bit.

Why?

“A lot of mistakes are made on this day,” Guerin said. “I just don’t want to make a mistake. I think stepping back and being patient is better than just signing somebody to say that I did something. I don’t need to do that.”

Nor can he afford to do that. Though the Wild managed to free up some money this week by trading veteran goaltender Cam Talbot, the decision to buy out Zach Parise and Ryan Suter last offseason continues to make life difficult cap-wise.

Let’s just say it’s hard to do make a significant move in free agency with $12.7 million in dead cap on the books for the 2022-23 season, followed by $14.7 million in dead cap on the books for the 2023-24 season and 2024-25 season.

That doesn’t mean Guerin is going to sit on his hands. He has $4.3 million in cap space to work with and still plans to sign another player to compete for a spot in the lineup next season. Maybe sooner rather than later.

“It’s not that nothing is working today,” he said. “We could’ve made things work. We just think maybe we’ll get a better fit for us down the road.”

Some big moves went down in the opening minutes of free agency, like Claude Giroux signing with Ottawa (3-year, $19.5 million), Jack Campbell signing with Edmonton (5-year, $25 million) and Andrew Copp signing with Detroit (5-year, $28.125 million).

That was reason enough for the Wild to practice patience.

“It’s always amazing to see the amount of money that guys get,” Guerin said. “You don’t necessarily pay because a player is at a certain level. You pay to get him because there’s so much competition.”

Some potential targets still available as of Wednesday afternoon included Dylan Strome, who had 22 goals and 26 assists with Chicago last season, and Evan Rodrigues, who recorded 19 goals and 24 assists with Pittsburgh last season.

“We’ll see how the market unfolds in the next couple of days,” Guerin said. “I feel like we’re in a really good position.”

BRIEFLY

The Wild did make some smaller moves Wednesday, signing four players — forwards Brandon Baddock, Steven Fogarty and Nic Petan, and defenseman Andrej Sustr — to varying two-way contracts. Those players likely will spend most of next season with the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League.

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