NHL.com provides in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of its 32 teams from August 8 through September 8. 8. Today the Minnesota Wild.
The Minnesota Wild are hoping for a deeper run in the Stanley Cup playoffs with the majority of their roster returning after a record-breaking season.
Minnesota (53-22-7) finished second in the Central Division behind the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche and set a team record with 113 points and 53 wins. Forward Kirill Kaprizov followed a rookie season in which he won the Calder Trophy by becoming the first player in Wild history to have 100+ points, finishing with 108 (47 goals, 61 assists) in 81 games.
But the Wild lost in six games to the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference first round and haven’t reached the second round of the playoffs since 2015.
“There was something special about this team,” general manager Bill Guerin said May 17. “And we’ve taken huge steps in the direction we want to go.
“I’ve been here for three seasons now. It’s the first season that management, coaches and players have been able to do things exactly the way we wanted. And we’ve taken such a big step in the right direction in my l spirit, that gives me great hope and great encouragement for what is to come.”
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Minnesota will have to replace the offensive production of Kevin Fiala, who had 85 points (33 goals, 52 assists) in 82 regular-season games last season, and was second on the team with 67 even-strength points. The forward was traded to the Los Angeles Kings on June 29 for the defenseman position. Brock Faber and choice n°19 (Liam Ohgren) in the 2022 NHL Draft.
“The kid had a great year,” Guerin said June 30 of Fiala. “We don’t have cap space (NHL salary). Honestly, to keep him, we’d have to trade three or two guys and wear down our squad more. Then the following year, we will need even more. just didn’t fit.
“We need younger guys. We need guys who don’t make millions and millions of dollars. We just have to do it that way. And I think for long-term success, we have to continue to add to our prospect pool.”
In addition to signing Ohgren to an entry-level three-year contract on July 16, Minnesota has set Marco Rossi as someone who can fill the attacking void left by Fiala. The No. 9 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft led American Hockey League Iowa in assists (35), tied for first in points (53) and finished fourth in goals (18) in 63 regular season games last season.
“I feel ready,” Rossi said on July 13. “Last season was really good for me. I was able to play a lot of minutes in Iowa. I played in all situations, and I played a lot, so I think that was for me the best thing to do to improve myself as a player. So, I feel ready now.”
The Wild are also hoping to get a full season from the goalie Marc-Andre Fleurywho was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks on March 21 and signed a two-year contract on July 7. Minnesota traded Cam Talbot five days later to the Ottawa Senators for Philippe Gustavssonwho will serve as a replacement for Fleury.
“Yeah, it’ll be nice to come over from camp and start with everyone,” Fleury said July 8. “The team hasn’t changed too much, so it will be good to get to know everyone instead of starting from scratch. I will already know the guys and it will be easier to start.”
Video: Mike Russo with the latest from the Minnesota Wild
Minnesota also re-signed Jacob Middletonwho was acquired from the San Jose Sharks on March 21 for the goalie Kaapo Kahkonen and a fifth-round pick in the 2022 draft. The 26-year-old defenseman is expected to play with the veteran Jared Spurgeon on the top pairing.
Dean Evason, entering his third full season as a coach, said winning faceoffs will be the focus during training camp. The Wild ranked 27th in game winning percentage last season (47.6%).
“We need to emphasize that from day one,” Evason said May 17. “Our face-off guys got better. We watched them. (Joel) Eriksson Ek has improved every year since he’s been here, but he needs to improve. We all need to get better in the face-off (circle), and it’s not just the [centers]. It’s everyone. We’ll do [it] more emphasis.”