All That Has Transpired: Minnesota Wild

We’re going to take a look at each NHL team, breaking down every new addition and subtraction, as well as promising prospects.

Today, we take a look at the Minnesota Wild.

By: Andy Hughes (@PensNation_Andy)


Minnesota Wild

2013-14 Season: 43-27-12 – 98 points – (4th Central Division; 7th Western Conference)

Thomas Vanek has plenty to smile about after signing a three-year, $19.5 million with the Wild. Vanek played two seasons with the University of Minnesota (Jen Fuller/Getty Images)

Thomas Vanek has plenty to smile about after signing a three-year, $19.5 million with the Wild. Vanek played two seasons with the University of Minnesota from 2002-2004. (Jen Fuller/Getty Images)

Free Agents Signed:
LW Thomas Vanek (Montreal)
D Stu Bickel (New York Rangers)
D Justin Falk (New York Rangers)
C Jordan Schroeder (Vancouver)
RW Joel Rechlicz (Washington)
C Brett Sutter (Carolina)
C Michael Keranen (Europe)

Free Agents Lost:
LW Matt Moulson (Buffalo)
F Cody McCormick (Buffalo)
D Clayton Stoner (Anaheim)
LW Dany Heatley (Anaheim)
D Nate Prosser (St. Louis)
D Jon Landry (Washington)
D Steven Kampfer (New York Rangers)

Promising Prospects:
D Matt Dumba
D Christian Folin
D Gustav Olofsson
RW Brett Bulmer
C Tyler Graovac

Ever since the Minnesota Wild signed free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to 13-year deals in 2012, they have made the playoffs. Both players are very good and have made a huge difference for the franchise. The Wild have not been able to get past the Chicago Blackhawks the past two postseasons though. They lost to Chicago in the 2012 quarterfinals in 5 games and then were defeated in 6 games by the Blackhawks in last season’s semifinals. Is 2014-15 the year that the Wild get over that hump? It very well could be.

The team expected to lose young forward Matt Moulson via free agency as he returned to the Buffalo Sabres. Luckily for the Wild, they were able to snag Thomas Vanek by signing him to a three-year contract worth $19.5 million. The 30 year-old winger notched a total of 27 goals and 68 points with the Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders and Montreal Canadiens last season. It had been widely speculated before July 1st that Vanek would highly consider playing for his hometown team. He was a college hockey star at the University of Minnesota from 2002-2004 and now he is back ten years later. Vanek took less money to play for the Wild and it should be an interesting situation since Vanek will most likely play on the second line with Parise playing his position on the first line. Regardless of where he plays, I’m sure he will make a difference.

The Wild will be expecting a lot of young players to step up this season since Vanek was really the only significant addition to this year’s team. Guys like Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund and Nino Neiderreiter will all get chances to play top-six minutes with Minnesota. Since Granlund will most likely play with either Vanek or Parise, his numbers should jump this season. Minnesota also has veterans returning such as Matt Cooke, Jason Pominville and captain Mikko Koivu returning up front.

There’s no question that Ryan Suter is one of the best defensemen in the league, but how long can he keep that title given the amount of minutes he logs? Suter plays more than any defenseman in the league and you have to wonder if it will affect his performance at some point. This may be the season to at least attempt to decrease his minutes a bit. With some good young defensemen up with the big club now, Mike Yeo should be able to do that. Marco Scandella, Jonas Brodin and Jared Spurgeon showed some promise last season and should build on last year’s campaign this season. In addition, there is an ongoing big competition between youngsters Christian Folin and Matt Dumba for a spot on the blue line this year. Folin, a college star with U-Mass Lowell, signed with the Wild as a free agent while Dumba is the team’s top propsect. Regardless of who wins the battle, it looks like the Wild will be set on defense for years to come if these guys hit their stride.

The biggest question with the Wild is their goaltending. Who the heck is going to start for this team? Darcy Kuemper? Niklas Backstrom? Josh Harding? Ilya Bryzgalov? There are plenty of choices. Harding, who has been one of the NHL’s best stories the past couple years, broke his foot and is out indefinitely. Kuemper, who filled in when the Wild had injuries at the position, didn’t agree to a new contract until September 18th, which led the Wild to inviting Bryzgalov to camp. If I had to guess, I think Kuemper and Backstrom will start the season as the two main goaltenders with Bryzgalov as possible insurance. Minnesota will need great goaltending to compete in the tough Western Conference.

The Wild have plenty of young talent to go along with highly talented free agents they’ve signed in the past couple years so I definitely see them as a team that will make the playoffs. However, they will need to figure out the goaltending issue sooner rather than later. They’ll go as far as their goaltending takes them.

Projected Lineup:

Zach Parise – Mikko Koivu – Charlie Coyle
Thomas Vanek – Mikael Granlund – Jason Pominville
Matt Cooke – Erik Haula – Nino Neiderreiter
Jason Zucker – Kyle Brodziak – Justin Fontaine
Cody Almond – Stephane Veilleux

Ryan Suter – Jonas Brodin
Marco Scandella – Jared Spurgeon
Keith Ballard – Christian Folin
Justin Falk

Darcy Kuemper
Niklas Backstrom