With the NHL free agency about to begin, the Minnesota Wild find themselves with just under $18.5 million in cap space, which ranks 14th among the 31 teams. Of course, part of that cap space will likely be used to sign their own players, such as restricted free agents Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter and the newly acquired Marcus Foligno. Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher indicated the day before free agency that the team likely won't be "major players" in the bidding war for the NHL's top available players. With all that in mind, FOX Sports North looks at some players who Minnesota might target.
One last ride with his hometown team, a chance to three-peat with the Pittsburgh Penguins or a quiet life at his home in Moorhead? Cullen will turn 41 next season but has been remarkably consistent throughout his 19-year NHL career. He chipped in for 31 points in 72 games last season with Pittsburgh, scoring 13 goals and winning his third Stanley Cup. Cullen spent three seasons with the Wild from 2010-13, and would almost certainly carry a $1 million cap hit to match the deal he signed with the Penguins a year ago. Cullen brings depth scoring and plenty of experience, although you have to wonder how much another veteran voice matters to a team that already features guys like Eric Staal, Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
Kunitz's production took a huge hit last year after moving off Sidney Crosby's wing (the two spent less than a quarter of the season together at 5-on-5), but with four Cups to his name and a consistent track record he could be another inexpensive option for the Wild's bottom six. Moving Kunitz out of Pittsburgh after nearly a decade is a risky proposition (He'll be 38 in September) but at the right price he could be good for 15-20 goals next season. Kunitz carried a $3.25 million cap hit and a no-movement clause last season, terms he's not likely to get again.
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A capable role player for much of his career, Hendricks made just 42 appearances for the Edmonton Oilers last season, contributing seven points. He's far from the flashiest option on the market, but the Wild have holes to fill on the fourth line, and could do worse than the Blaine native. He's unlikely to demand a huge salary.
Upshall signed a four-year contract worth $3.5 million annually after potting 22 goals during the 2010-11 season, before inking a pair of sub-$1 million deals with the St. Louis Blues. He played 73 games for the Blues last season, contributing 10 goals and eight assists, solid numbers for a fourth-liner with a small cap hit. A 33 years old, Upshall should have a bit of tread left on his tires as a grinder.
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Boyle’s 6-foot-6 frame and effectiveness on the penalty kill are likely to make him a hot commodity in free agency this summer. Boyle was an effective center last season, winning 52.2 percent of his draws, numbers that translate well to a bottom-six role and some PK time. With Toronto, Boyle made $2 million against the cap last season, and at 32 isn’t likely to command much of a raise.
Who better to solve the Wild's playoff scoring woes than Mr. Game 7 himself? Williams has built a career -- and two major paydays -- on his ability to find the back of the net at just the right time. He had 48 points (24 goals) last season for the Washington Capitals, and is sure to be a hot commodity on the free-agent market with so many teams on the cusp of (or believe themselves to be on the cusp of) a deep playoff run. It's hard to imagine that Williams will demand more than the $3.25 million AAV he commanded during a recent stint with the Capitals -- which should give the Wild a bit of wiggle room against the cap -- and there's always a chance that Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher could get him for less on a two-year deal. However, Williams will be 36 next October, so anything beyond a one-year deal carries some significant risks, and could clog up the pipeline with so many young players vying for ice time.