The Minnesota Wild have been a team that has been stuck in limbo for their entire existence. The team has never been quite good enough to compete for the Stanley Cup but not quite bad enough to be rewarded with the coveted first overall pick. The team will have a good mix of former stars that will help mentor the younger players that are being added to the lineup. With a strong prospect pool and lots of veterans, the Wild will be competing for the Stanley cup soon enough.
Why the Wild missed the Playoffs
After being invited to the NHL’s return to play the Wild matched up with the Vancouver Canucks in the play-in round. Vancouver steamrolled over the Wild and won the series 3 games to one. After losing in the play-in series Minnesota has so many major questions to be answered. With important players having left the organization or probably going to leave the organization the Wild will have to find their replacements. The ninth overall pick will produce a very promising prospect to replace the players leaving.
The Wild have already started revamping their roster this offseason. New Gm Bill Guerin started off his tenure with a bang when he acquired two centers to help improve his roster. Last season the Wild had a lack of center depth and Guerin addressed this by trading for Marcus Johansson and Nick Bjugstad.
The former Buffalo Sabres was traded to the Wild during the offseason in exchange for Eric Staal. (Be sure to check out our sabres article) Johansson is 29 years and will provide the Wild with a solid second-line center. He produced 9 goals and 21 assists for 30 total points in 60 games. The crafty Swedish center has a different play style than Eric Staal. Staal is a shooter and scores lots of goals but Johansson’s first instinct is to pass the puck. Johansson will be dishing passes to his linemates, Kevin Fiala and Zach Parise.
Bill Guerin used to work for the Pittsburgh Penguins and he is trying to reacquire parts of his old roster. Bjugstad played parts of two seasons for the Penguins. Unfortunately, he was often hurt and became a liability for Pittsburgh. All Minnesota had to give up in this trade was a 7th round pick. Bjugstad was a solid player during his team with the Florida Panthers. With Florida, Bjugstad was able to score around 40-50 points a season. If Bjugstad can return to this form this trade will be an absolute win for the Wild.
Players not returning
The Wild have some players that have reached the end of their tenure with the team. The team has already announced that they are not going to be bringing back their captain of 13 years in Mikko Koivu. Minnesota has also been shopping stud defenseman and King Clancy winner, Matt Dumba. The new general manager is cleaning the house and trying to make the roster the way he wants it to be.
While is still a member of the Minnesota Wild, and recently even had Bill Guerin talk down trade rumours for Matt Dumba. His future on the Wild is unsure at best. With the recent extension to fellow defenseman Jonas Brodin, it has pushed the Wild into a corner when it comes to the Seattle expansion draft. They already have 3 defenders with No Movement Clauses, meaning that the only way for Dumba not to be exposed would be if the Wild chose to only protect 8 skaters in total.
An option that would leave players such as Jordan Greenway and Luke Kunin exposed. The way to avoid losing a major part of the current Minnesota Wild roster is by trading and none has more value than Matt Dumba. Combine that with the Wilds need for a top 6 center, and you have an ideal match.
It’s going to be strange not seeing Mikko Koivu as a member of the Minnesota Wilds lineup. Since his debut in 2005, he has been a leader on the team, and in only his 5th season in the NHL, he was deservingly so named the captain of the Wild. Extremely underrated and one of the best two-way forward in the game, his name is held in the highest regard by Wild fans. He is their captain, idol and the face of the Wild. He played more than 1000 games for the Wild over his career but sadly was never rewarded with a deep cup run.
Now that Koivu’s time wearing the number 9 for the Wild is done his number more than likely is going to be retired, and rightly so. His time with the Wild may be over but his time as an active player is not. This has already been confirmed and rumours are flying. Koivu has been linked to going back to Europe or trying to find a team for one last cup run. He is keeping his options open but it won’t be continued in Minnesota. His last game for the Wild was the loss against the Canucks in game 4. With no fans in the stands to send him off or give him a standing ovation. A very unfitting and unjust goodbye to the captain of the Minnesota Wild.
The most sudden and perplexing addition of players leaving is Devan Dubnyk. The big netminder was rumoured as a potential buy-out for the Wild, as it would give the Wild the option to play with a tandem of Alex Stalock and Kaapo Kähkönen. Kähkönen has done extremely well in the AHL and looks to be the frontrunner for the future starting job for the Minnesota Wild. However, Dubnyk has since been traded to the San Jose Sharks.
The trade is rumoured to contain a first going back to Minnesota for Devan Dubnyk and possibly Ryan Donato, but it’s at the time of writing still in the works. However, this clearly indicates that the Wild has a plan in net, where Dubnyk might not be a part of it. (Be sure to check out my sharks’ article to see what I think they should do this offseason)
The wild has to go for a center that can play on the top lines. Someone who can play between star wingers Kevin Fiala and Kirill Kaprizov. For that reason this is my option:
This match just makes sense. Granlund was a star in Minnesota before he was traded to Nashville at the deadline of the 2018-2019 season for Kevin Fiala. Unfortunately for Nashville, never quite reached the expectations that were set for him. With only 30 points in the recent season and a lacklustre playoff, him going into free agency with a far lower value than he had before the trade.
This could tempt the Wild to bring him back into the fold where he has had success in the past. Especially as a center for two young players like Kaprizov and Fiala, or even going back to what worked during his time in Minnesota when he was on the line with Zach Parise. Regardless this seems like a perfect match for Minnesota and Granlund who might also want to return to the Wild.
Thanks to fantastic drafting, Minnesota has drafted a few hidden gems over the last few years. With some elite prospects in their system watch out for these goes to make a significant impact on the roster very soon. Also, be sure to check out the NHL Draft on Tuesday, October 6th as the Wild look to draft another elite prospect with their 9th overall pick.
When you talk about the Wilds prospect pool, you more than likely end up talking about one player. Kirill Kaprizov, who has been lights out in the KHL, breaking records left and right, winning the championship for CSKA, Scoring the golden goal for Russia in the 2018 Olympics and being the KHL top scorer 2 seasons in a row. He has the potential to be an elite winger and goalscorer.
The kid is a star in the making and finally, after years of waiting, he has finally signed a contract with Minnesota. Despite the contract only being for a year before he will become an RFA it’s a relief for many wild fans to see him join the roster. Expect him to be playing top-line minutes with Kevin Fiala next season and becoming the spark on the offence the Wild has been seeking for nearly a decade.
Joining the Wild as a part of the Jason Zucker trade earlier in the year, Calen Addison instantly became the best defensive prospect for the Wild. With great offensive skill and vision for the game, he was a major part of the World Junior team that won the gold medals back in 2019 for Canada. He was a point per game player in the WHL and is looked at as the player to take over from Dumba as the quarterback defenceman for Minnesota.
In net Kaapo Kähkönen is the main prospect for the Wild. The 24-year-old Finnish netminder has made quite a name for himself in the AHL over the past few seasons, where he has impressed. He was even named the AHL goalie of the season in 2019-2020. With a .927 save percentage and a 2.07 GAA, it’s easy to see why Kähkönen is viewed highly in Minnesota and it could be likely that he goes on to become the future starter for Minnesota long term.
Roster Overview after hypothetical transactions
Kevin Fiala – Mikael Granlund – Kirill Kaprizov
Zach Parise – Joel Erikson Ek – Mats Zuccarello
Jordan Greenway – Marcus Johansson – Luke Kunin
Ryan Hartman – Nick Bjugstad – Marcus Foligno
Ryan Suter – Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin – Carson Soucy
Brad Hunt – Louis Belpedio
A potential return with their former star Mikael Granlund and some of the Wild’s top prospects drawing into the lineup, Minnesota will soon bounce back and be in contention for a playoff spot in the near future. As their potential superstars develop the Wild will transform into a scary team to face in the future.
Follow me on Twitter @Clancy871 for more content!
Big thanks to Frederik Frandsen for his help on this article. Go check him out.
Come join the discussion made by the fans at the Overtime Heroics forums! A place for all sports