With a decreasing salary cap and a payroll that was already close to that cap, Chuck Fletcher finally did what we all knew was coming. He used one of the team's two compliance buyouts on defenseman Tom Gilbert.
The team will be on the hook to pay Gilbert $1 million in salary the next two seasons, but they no longer have his $4 million cap hit on the books for the 2013-14 season. Gilbert is coming off a dreadful season in which he notched 3 goals and 10 assists but was a -11 and was a huge defensive liability. His play was so bad this year he ended up being a healthy scratch a couple of times.
Gilbert picked the worst year to play horribly. He played himself right into a compliance buyout, and now is without a job. You would of liked to have given him a second chance, but the team simply had their hands tied with Dany Heatley still being on the roster.
The buyout of Gilbert now gives the Wild $6.45 million in cap space, with just a few holes on the roster to fill. The team still needs to re-sign RFA Jared Spurgeon (expect a 2-3 year deal worth about $2-2.25M for Spurgeon) and they now need to sign a defenseman to fill the void left by Gilbert (unless Wild fans want Nate Prosser to be the 6th defenseman).
In Russo's blog today, he mentioned that Chuck Fletcher believes there are bargains to be had from free agent defenseman (its been suggested that former Gopher Keith Ballard could be that bargain). Some could be prone to taking a deal that is below what they are worth due to the decreasing salary cap, and some could end up taking a two way deal just to keep their career going.
Should Fletcher end up signing a bargain defenseman just to be the 6th D-man and keep cap space, it could be likely that the combo of Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella will open the season as the second D pairing. The pair played admirably in the playoffs, and should get another chance to prove themselves next year.
Where Fletcher goes from here is a mystery. But by the end of Friday, we will probably know who Gilbert's replacement is.
Start placing your bets!
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