To our readers: Thank you for taking part in our Mailbag Monday this week. Star Tribune beat writers received many questions about the teams and leagues we cover, and each writer selected a couple of questions to answer.
Q: 24 team playoff proposal, you [thumbs up] or [thumbs down]? -- @adamsteinhouse
A 24-team format is reportedly what the NHL is focusing on as it continues to figure out a way to restart the season, and I can understand why. Since the season stopped with clubs having played an uneven amount of games, returning with an expanded field includes the bubble teams that had yet to lock down a playoff spot but were in legit contention. That seems like a judicious way to proceed rather than going straight to a traditional, 16-team playoff with the standings as is. But is 24 the magic number? That’s where this setup could get dicey. The likes of Chicago and Montreal could be in the mix in this format, but is that fair? The appeal makes sense: both are Original Six markets that could help the NHL drum up revenue lost by the stoppage. But both teams subtracted at the trade deadline, moves that suggested each was looking to the future instead of continuing to vie for the playoffs in the present. Is it right for these teams now to get a second wind? Even if they had a tougher route, it wouldn’t be unreasonable if the experience-laden Blackhawks got on a run or goalie Carey Price carried the Canadiens. Does that affect the integrity of the playoffs? These are the type of questions the NHL must address when deciding how to finish the season.
Q: Dubnyk number 2 and Stalock 1? -- @jtk1634
If the season resumes, this will be one of the more intriguing questions for the Wild. When play was halted on March 12, backup Alex Stalock had taken control of the crease and usual No.1 Devan Dubnyk was making spot starts. The Wild could easily go back to this tandem. Stalock had been rolling, going 9-3-1 in his previous 13 starts with a 2.22 goals-against average and .924 save percentage – a span in which he posted two shutouts. But there’s also the possibility the Wild reopens the competition, especially with a training camp scheduled to precede games. It might be tempting to pick up where the team left off if given the chance, particularly because the Wild was on the upswing, but getting time to reset could send the team back to the drawing board.
Q: Do you see Koivu and Parise returning next season? And if Parise is traded, does his entire salary come off the books or is there dead money on our cap like in the NFL? -- Dan Chang
It’s tough to predict captain Mikko Koivu’s future. He’s 37 and in the last season of his contract. What makes it difficult to anticipate what’s next for Koivu is the pause in the season; whether the NHL finishes 2019-20 could impact Koivu’s decision-making. Like everyone else, Koivu is waiting for a resolution to figure out his next move. As for Zach Parise, he has five more seasons on his contract after this one. His future with the Wild, however, came into question when the team explored moving him before the trade deadline. Although the winger remained with the Wild, the near-trade opened the door for the possibility Parise could get moved down the road. The Wild could circle back to see if a deal is still there but with so much uncertainty surrounding the completion of this season and what the offseason could look like, that may be tougher to do. Instead, perhaps the Wild shelves the talk until more normal circumstances take over. If a trade were ever to be consummated, the Wild could retain salary in a deal; teams can retain salary on three contracts each season. The team could also be hit with a cap recapture penalty if Parise ever retired before his 13-year, $98 million contract ended – even if had been traded to another organization. This would levy a cap hit against the Wild for each of the seasons Parise didn’t play, a rule added to the current collective bargaining agreement to ding teams who signed players to front-loaded contracts.
Q: When is @KaprizovKirill going to sign? -- @monson_nick
Prized prospect Kirill Kaprizov is eligible to sign with the Wild at any time. But with so much unclear about how this season will resolve and the effects on 2020-21, it’s not a surprise the Wild hasn’t announced a deal yet.