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Assessing the Wild. Today and Tomorrow

Posted By Shane Hoopfer On May 4 2010 @ 1:05 pm In Minnesota Wild | 4 Comments

It was a tough year for the Minnesota Wild. The team had gone in with expectations of fighting for the playoffs, however the team only managed a 38-36-8 record which was good enough for 13th in the Western Conference 11 points from making the playoffs. But the team’s atrocious road play this year just killed them. (13-24-4 away from home ice)

It was a rough year for most of this team all around. Niklas Backstrom had an average year at best. A 2.72 GAA with a .903 SV% in 60 games is hardly anything to write home about. Josh Harding didn’t fare any better in the pipes with a 3.05 GAA and a .905 SV% Bottom line is neither goaltender was particularly strong all year and never let the Wild get on any real rolls this season.

The defense core also had a rough year, especially on the offensive side of things. Only Marek Zidlicky could break the 25 point barrier. He ended with 6 goals and 37 assists for 43 points. However with this nice offensive year came a dreadful -16 which was worst for the teams defensemen. It is also fair to say that this team missed having Brent Burns in the lineup for almost half the season. He put up 20 points in his 47 games played, however he was a -15 and had a tough time regaining his form after the injury. I suspect he will be far stronger next season. The rest of the back end was defensively adequate but no one truly stepped up.

As it is commonly known the Wild could never consistently generate offense. They had hoped that the combination of Marin Havlat, along with Mikko Koivu would generate a scary first line that teams would have to account for game in and game out. Mikko had another good season racking up 71 points in 80 games but Havlat just never got rolling. His 54 points in 73 games seem like decent numbers, however he is the teams highest paid forward at $5M per season and really needed to produce numbers worthy of the paycheck in order for the Wild to truly challenge for the post season. Brunette, Latendresse, and Miettenen all had good campaigns and fill out a top 6 fairly well, but top end scoring will need to be addressed.

While the previous season was not what the Wild management and fans had hoped for the future of this team could actually be looking bright. Minnesota has only $40M committed against the cap for the following season with 8 forwards, 5 defensemen and Backstrom in net signed.

When it comes to the RFA situation of the Wild. Only Latendresse is looking to make a large raise from his current salary of $800K. I would suspect that a deal gets done in that $2M range. Josh Harding is also a RFA but I don’t think he will be in line for much of a raise after a rough season. Sheppard, Earl, and Ebbett are the only other players on the big squad that are RFA’s and none should be looking at large raises.

As for the UFA situation for the Wild, they have 5 NHL calibur players that are eligible with Owen Nolan, Peter Sykora, Derek Boogaard, Shane Hnidy, and John Scott eligible to test the open market. I think Minnesota will do everything possible to keep Boogaard, and Hnidy in Minnesota.

As for what the Wild may do this off season when it comes to free agency, I suspect they could be active, and may have a few dollars to spend to get a top 6 forward and potentially a top 4 defenseman. Of course the rumors will grow that Saku Koivu could be going to the Wild to play a season with his brother before he retires, and I think it would be a good move for Minnesota as Saku would likely play for a very discounted price. And with that thought also comes the thought of maybe Saku would talk to his good buddy Teemu Selanne about joining him for one year in Minnesota.

If the Wild could pull that off with Saku and Teemu, and add a few players via free agency this team could quickly put themselves into playoff contention. They also have to address the concussion problems with Pierre-Marc Bouchard. If PM is ready to come back this fall it would be a huge boost for the Wild. If not then his salary is protected by the LITR. They could also desperately use a puck moving defenseman in the off season.

At the end of the day the Wild are going to need to be agressive and push their team salary close to the cap to be truly competitive next year. If they can do this and the goaltending can regain it’s form of two seasons ago the Minnesota Wild can go from bottom feeder to contender for the North West Division very quickly!

Have a good one!

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