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Minnesota Wild mailbag: Fitting Vanek onto the roster

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I received a few questions about the Minnesota Wild through Twitter, Facebook and email. I will answer those questions in this article.

If you have a question about the Wild, submit it on Twitter to my handle (@JGuntherExaminr), on my public Facebook page or email it to me through the “submit a note” link in my profile by clicking on the Minnesota Wild Examiner link to the left.

How are the Wild going to make room for (Thomas) Vanek, getting rid of (Niklas) Backstrom?

What’s the scoop with Vanek?

The salary cap is not the issue. There is a lot of money coming off the books and the cap is likely to go up. Dany Heatley ($7.5 million), Matt Moulson ($3,133,333), Mike Rupp ($1.5 million), Cody McCormick ($1.2 million), Clayton Stoner ($1.05 million) and Ilya Bryzgalov ($2,266,234) are all free pending free agents with more than one million dollars in cap space. Moulson, McCormick and Bryzgalov all came at a pro-rated amount so not all of that money will be available this offseason, but is likely none of these return. Capgeek.com projects next season’s cap to go up to $71.1 million. The Wild - not including money spent on restricted free agents - would have just over $22.7 million to spend on free agents.

The reason the Wild would get rid of Backstrom would be to free a roster space to sign or acquire another goaltender.

Vanek will turn 31 years old during next season and he turned down a seven-year, $49 million contract from the New York Islanders during the season. With the emergence of the team’s young forwards during the postseason, the Wild should be reluctant to offer him anything close to that, especially the seven-year term.

The Wild are going to have to re-sign Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula, Nino Niederreiter and Jason Zucker either this summer or next summer. They all played this season on their entry level contracts - all under $1 million toward the cap.

The bottom line with the Vanek situation is that it will have to be on the Wild’s terms. Other teams could offer more years and dollars than the Wild need to.

What is going to happen with the goaltending situation?

The Wild have to figure that out. Backstrom likely will not be eligible to be bought out because he is injured, but his injury history is concerning. Josh Harding has one year remaining on his contract, but he has missed a lot of time over the last two seasons because of multiple sclerosis. Darcy Kuemper is a restricted free agent that will require a one-way contract with his qualifying offer.

There are so many things at play beyond hockey here. There is no easy answer at this point.

What is the biggest need for the Wild to fill this offseason? I have heard a few different opinions.

The No. 1 priority is getting Mike Yeo a new contract. Then they need to figure out the goaltending situation. Then add a big, nasty defenseman. Then get a scorer.

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