Can Minnesota Re-Sign Gaborik?
Now that the Minnesota Wild have made the moves they're going to make in free agency, and they've bought out the contract of forward Mark Parrish, there is only one thing left to do this off-season.
Sign Marian Gaborik to a contract extension.
It's probably the biggest move the Wild will make, because it makes it perfectly clear that he's the player the Wild are going to build a championship contender around.
Gaborik is coming off a 42-goal season. It would be very smart to sign him now and keep him from entering free agency (we all saw how well that worked with Brian Rolston).
But can the Wild make it happen?
This isn't going to be about cap room. The Wild are in good shape there. After the Parrish buyout, the website nhlscap.com says the Wild have over $4 million in cap space. Gaborik's cap number will be a shade over $6 million this season.
Working off that figure, it stands to reason that Gaborik will need an annual average in the neighborhood of $8 million to $9 million before he'll sign an extension. Assuming another $2 million jump in the salary cap next year, the Wild will be left with around $10 million in cap space for the 2009-2010 season if Gaborik's annual average jumps to $8.5 million. Again using nhlscap.com, the Wild appear to have eight players to deal with in free agency after the upcoming season, including goaltender Niklas Backstrom.
So while the Wild could afford to make the move, it appears it will cause a pretty tight cap for them next summer if they do extend Gaborik.
They can't let that stop them.
Now, does Gaborik want to re-sign? Indications have been that he'll listen if the Wild make an offer. However, his BFF, Pavol Demitra, took his act to Vancouver. The Wild didn't have much luck luring top free agents this summer, despite reported efforts to sign guys like Marian Hossa and Kristian Huselius. Instead, Minnesota settled for Andrew Brunette, Antti Miettinen, and Owen Nolan.
Will the failed efforts to bring in star players reflect badly on Gaborik as he contemplates the inevitable offer? No one knows.
I don't make much of the idea that Gaborik, always a great offensive player who has shown varying levels of interest when it comes to two-way hockey, will want to get away from Wild coach Jacques Lemaire.
While the system is sometimes restrictive, Gaborik has been given tons of freedom by Lemaire. He's also spent time as the team captain, as selected by Lemaire. A big part of the reason Gaborik got the "C" was his willingness to be a responsible player. He set a career high with a plus-17 last year, and he is now plus-29 over the last two seasons.
Even if you take into account Gaborik's somewhat unpredictable groin, you have to look at this as a move that must be made. General manager Doug Risebrough has made a habit of having to admit mistakes when it comes to player signings. Letting Gaborik test free agency next summer would be the worst of them all.