Wild Face Big Time Questions Heading into Offseason

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The Minnesota Wild officially moved into offseason mode, after their season ended against Vancouver in the qualifying round of the NHL Playoffs. General Manager, Bill Guerin, has some big questions he will need to answer this offseason. So to get set up for an offseason full of speculation, Jake Jensen and Seth Toupal sat down to talk about the needs Guerin should be focusing on.


Seth: For me, the biggest difference between the Wild and the Canucks was the lack of a secondary dynamic scorer. Kevin Fiala performed well (outside the penalty box). But the Wild just didn’t have another player who could step up and help him out consistently. One night it was Luke Kunin, another night it was Eric Staal. But nobody did it consistently.

Vancouver got solid contributions from their top guys every night. And all of those top guys were expected to do big things coming into the series, which they certainly did. The Wild’s undisciplined play and lack of speed (more on that later) also hurt them throughout the series. They slowed things down in Game 1, to pick up their lone win. After that, they were left in the dust the rest of the way.

Jake: Echoing what Seth said, I truly believe the lack of a superstar forward (or two) really hurt the Wild in this series. Most notably, up the middle. Vancouver’s one-two punch of Elias Pettersson/Bo Horvat up the middle is significantly better than Eric Staal/Joel Eriksson Ek… (keyword: SIGNIFICANTLY).

Wanna know another reason? Quinn Hughes. This kid is fucking ridiculous. I have never seen anything like him, in my 15+ years of watching hockey. He is one of the best skaters I have ever seen on his edges and is an absolute quarterback on the back-end for the Canucks. It was only a matter of time before he took over the series, and took over the series he did.


Seth: When you look at other teams in the NHL, there is so much impact scoring on other teams. McDavid, MacKinnon, Draisaitl, and so many others. In Edmonton’s case they have 2 dynamic young players. For the Wild it’s Kevin Fiala and friends.

I know Kaprizov coming over will help substantially. But up until the last couple of years the Wild have drafted players that never seem to pan out. The Wild have tremendous depth defensively, but need some help on offense. Center seems to be the most likely position of need with Mikko Koivu’s status up in the air (more on that later). But how about we just focus on getting a player who can provide dynamic scoring and speed.


Jake: The most pressing need for the Wild is obvious, a franchise center. Ever since the team’s inception in 2000, they have been searching every corner of the world for one. Will that player be available at #9 for the Wild? Probably not. If they are lucky, one of Marco Rossi or Cole Perfetti falls to them. I just don’t see any scenario where either of them are available at that point of the draft.

That likely leaves the Wild with a choice between Anton Lundell, Connor Zary, or Dylan Holloway. That is, if they do indeed intend to choose a center. The most interesting thing for me is if Pittsburgh chooses to keep their pick this year or not. That would then give the Wild two picks in the first round at #9 and #15. That could significantly alter their draft strategy. Pittsburgh has until next Monday to make their decision. Top goalie prospect Yaroslav Askarov should be there at #9 as well.


Seth: It would be unfortunate but I do think Koivu calls it quits after this year. Could he get offers from other teams that are closer to the playoffs? Sure. But there is something appealing about playing for only one team and I think Koivu wants to get some overseas time in as well.

Jake: From the NHL? Yes. From hockey? No. My bet is that Koivu returns to his hometown of Turku, Finland, plays for TPS in the Liiga, brings them a championship, and rides off into the sunset. Turns out Minnesota was just a stopgap the whole time.


Seth: I think the biggest reason that the Wild WILL make some sort of trade is that Guerin has brought a fresh perspective to the organization. The Pittsburgh Penguins won Stanley Cups while he was with the team. He knows what it takes to win, and what kind of players it takes to be a great team. If there are players elsewhere that are available that could bring the Wild to that level, he’s going to go get them. He isn’t linked to anyone on this roster except Kirill Kaprizov, which massively opens the playbook.

Jake: He certainly will try to. Guerin has already been eyeing the trade market for a top-6 center for some time now. He knows it’s the biggest need of the team. He even said so during his end of the season press conference with media members. I think he should at least inquire on players like Jack Eichel, Dylan Larkin, Evgeni Malkin, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nico Hischier, Max Domi, Rickard Rakell, Tyler Johnson, Anthony Cirelli, and Nick Schmaltz. Guerin knows he needs an upgrade in net as well so they could potentially be in the market for a goalie too.


Seth: One thing Bill Guerin has been very vocal about so far is that he is eager to improve the roster. He went so far as to single out the goalie position specifically in his recent media session. Let’s face it: Devan Dubnyk isn’t what he used to be. And Alex Stalock has his moments but he is not a starter. Could Kaapo Kähkönen be the guy? It’s probably too early to tell in that regard. So if you aren’t set with Dubnyk or Stalock you have to get someone else. If I were to list the depth chart for next season it would be (outside player) and then Stalock.


Jake: If I’m Guerin, there is no way in hell I’m coming back with a tandem of Dubnyk/Stalock next season. Statistically, they were among the worst goalies in the NHL. I don’t think either goalie gives the Wild a legit shot at competing in the parity-filled NHL next season. The one intriguing option is just rolling with AHL Goalie of the Year, Kaapo Kähkönen, and making him the Wild’s full-time starter. Personally, I would like to see Kähkönen get another full-season in Iowa and continue to develop down there with a much better team.

So, to answer the question, I think the Wild should buyout Dubnyk, and acquire an NHL goalie via trade or free-agency. Then let Kähkönen marinate in the minors for another year. And then go with a tandem of the newly acquired goalie and Stalock backing up. As of now, there are some intriguing options via free agency. This includes the likes of Braden Holtby, Robin Lehner, Jakob Markström, Corey Crawford, Anton Khudobin, Thomas Greiss, and Cam Talbot should their teams choose not to extend them.

So there you have it. There is plenty to cover and discuss as the offseason unfolds. But also plenty of hockey to still watch. So stick with us and enjoy the playoffs!

Jake Jensen & Seth Toupal | Minnesota Sports Fan

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