When the Wild bought out the remaining four years on the contracts of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise this week, it freed up approximately $10 million in cap space for the upcoming season.
As irony would have it, Jack Eichel — the 24-year-old former No. 2 overall draft pick who wants a trade out of Buffalo — carries a $10 million cap hit next season. What's more is that Darren Dreger, during TSN's "Insider Trading" this week, said the Wild are expected to make a trade offer to the Sabres for Eichel.
“The Minnesota Wild would love to add a top line center,” Dreger said. “Now, they’ve been linked with interest to Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres. I believe that the Wild are going to make an offer, a trade offer, on Jack Eichel, but they’re also not going to blow their cap space and they’re not going to overpay with trade assets. So, it’s going to be interesting to see what Guerin does at center ice moving forward.”
The Athletic's Michael Russo pointed out in May that taking on Eichel's $10 million annual average salary would require general manager Bill Guerin to trade "lucrative salaries in other moves or get Buffalo to acquire some of Minnesota's big-money players in a blockbuster package."
The Wild created that space, at least immediately, by parting ways with Parise and Suter. But balancing the cap in years beyond the 2021-22 season will be trickier because the Wild will face dead caps hits, ranging from $3.3 million to $7.3 million, in 2022-23 and through 2026-27.
Eichel has five years and $50 million remaining on his contract, but considering he has a full no-move clause in his deal beginning July 2022, the pressure is on Buffalo to move him sooner than later so Eichel doesn't control his own market.
The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun wrote in May: "I think the Wild make a ton of sense and they have the pieces to do it." The Wild have two first-round picks in the 2021 NHL Draft – their own and Pittsburgh's from the Jason Zucker trade – in addition to center prospects Marco Rossi (2020 first-round pick) and Marat Khusnutdinov (2020 second-round pick).
Former Wild winger Mark Parrish, on NHL Network, said Eichel makes sense for Minnesota, as he could center the top line and create potentially the league's next "big combo" with 2020-21 rookie of the year Kirill Kaprizov.
The NHL Draft is only eight days away, so if there was ever a time for the rumor mill to heat up, this is likely it.