Since the blow of being eliminated in game seven by the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round of the 2020-2021 NHL playoffs, the sight of the Minnesota Wild has turned towards a critical offseason. The reason the Minnesota Wilds offseason is so important is down to a few key things. The future of the team is the brightest it has ever been, with great prospects coming up within the next few years, however, the expansion draft and rumblings from different camps that need an extension have complicated matters, and Wild GM Bill Guerin must find a way to make the perfect moves if the potential of the lineup isn’t going to take a step back this offseason.
Kirill Kaprizov: Top Priority For The Wilds Offseason
The first and most apparent thing the Wild and Guerin have to do in the Wilds offseason will be to resign Calder Trophy winner and Russian superstar Kirill Kaprizov. Preferably to as long a contract as possible. However recently the talks surrounding the contract negation have been very negative and it seems like issues between the two camps have arrived. It seems the Wild are attempting to lock him down long-term, while the Kaprizov camp wants a shorter contract that could take him into his UFA years at 27 or 28 years of age.
What’s worse for Wild fans has been that the cold air between the two camps has led to speculations about a return to CSKA Moscow for the talented Russian. This would be a catastrophic blow for the Wild and it would be a major step back and Guerin can’t let that happen. He has to find a way to make Kaprizov stay in Minnesota and a way to do that can be achieved by improving the team in one key area: Getting a top center.
One of the reasons for the harder negotiations between the two camps seems to come from the lack of center depth in the current roster of the Minnesota Wild. For a majority, Kaprizov had to play with Victor Rask, who is very average in this league and should never be a top liner. Especially with Kaprizov on his wing.
While the Wild do have Marco Rossi in their prospect pool, it seems that Kaprizov wants a more proven center. Jack Eichel has been mentioned and could be exactly what Kaprizov would want to see that the Wild as a team that he can win the cup with. The cost for Eichel is steep and it’s been mentioned that the Sabers are asking for Rossi, one of Matthew Boldy or Kevin Fiala, Matt Dumba, and a first-round pick. At that price, Guerin might look elsewhere for the top-line center.
Another option for the Wild this offseason Sam Reinhart, who should be cheaper to get away from Buffalo. Just like Eichel he has also expressed some dissatisfaction about the situation in Buffalo and should be cheaper to acquire for the Wild. In free agency, the Wild could also try and bring in Paul Stastny as a good stopgap center for Kaprizov until Rossi is fully ready to be the full-time first-line center with Kaprizov.
The Expansion Draft Dilemma
While the Kaprizov negotiations are happening, another pressing issue comes up in mid-July for the Minnesota Wild. Namely the Seattle expansion draft where the Wild are facing a major dilemma. They have a bunch of options ahead of the draft and not main comes without a heavy loss. Earlier in the year, I went over the options the Wild has, which can be found here.
For the most part, the situation is the same and the Wild will probably lose one of Dumba, Cam Talbot, Carson Soucy, or Jordan Greenway. Especially Dumba, Talbot, or Greenway would be a major loss for the Wild since they have been a great part of the Wild’s success this season, and regardless of who is taken Guerin has the challenge to replace them.
In most cases, this could probably happen in free agency, where the Wild should be active regardless to replace a few holes in their lineup in terms of depth but also to find a replacement for the pick of Seattle on top of the center for Kaprizov.
Adding To The Bright Future In The Draft
Shortly after the expansion draft comes the next major test for the backroom staff and management of the Minnesota Wild. The Wild has two picks in the first round and should look to add to an already good prospect pool. While the draft is far from as strong on paper as prior years and the 2022 draft class, the Wild still has a chance to get some key pieces for the future.
Under the leadership of Judd Brackett, who has a great reputation in terms of his abilities in drafts, the optimism is high for the upcoming draft. With the 22nd and 26th pick they also have the option to either trade up or down the draft if they so please or if they don’t have a guy they want outright available. Once again look for the Wild to be making moves on draft day.
If they draft during the first round and aren’t trading their picks, a few possibilities for the Wild could be players like Isak Rosen and Brennan Othmann who would both be great additions to the prospect pool of the Minnesota Wild. Whatever the Wild end up doing the draft has to be another good one to ensure that the future continues to look bright for the Minnesota Wild. Especially if they manage to sign the pending RFAs like Fiala and Kaprizov.
A Solution For Zach Parise
The last major thing that is on the list of the Minnesota Wilds offseason, is to figure out how to manage Zach Parise. He has been out of the lineup multiple times this season as a healthy scratch and the relationship with Dean Evason seems to be turning sour. Something has to happen for both Parise and the Wild since none can accept another similar year.
The question is how the Wild should deal with it. Parise has stated that he is expecting to return to Minnesota for the training camp, but as stated before something needs to change. For Parise to stay he would need to get more game time and a spot higher in the lineup. Something it doesn’t seem like Evason is willing to give him if he doesn’t perform to his absolute best.
If that doesn’t happen a trade seems very likely. The question is how the Wild can trade him due to his contract. They would have to give up something to get away from it and it might be an option for the expansion draft if they can get Parise to waive his NMC. How Guerin plays this will be the biggest question mark in the Wilds offseason.
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