What should be the Wild’s priorities this off-season?

Doug Pensinger

Happy Father’s Day! Today, we’ll be talking about the priorities the Wild should do during the off-season. We’ll start with goaltending, then the defense and the offense.

Let's start with goaltending where it's a tricky situation.


1. Goaltending

With Josh Harding, Darcy Kuemper and Johan Gustafsson, who should be coming to North America next season, being the three current Wild goaltenders if the season started next week, we can see there's a lack of experience. That's one of the reasons why Chuck Fletcher needs to re-sign Niklas Backstrom. But the real question is, how much pay cut is Backstrom ready to accept to stay here?

If we look at some stats, Backstrom's career highest games played is 71 in 2008-2009 while Harding's is 34 in 2011-2012. With Harding's unfortunate disease, it's unlikely that he can play more than 34 games per season now. Not to mention, we never know what could happen to his health throughout the upcoming seasons sadly.

Kuemper, on the other hand, is a question mark. After having a good season in Houston, he looked promising in his 6 games with the Wild this season but it didn't go this well in the playoffs. It's highly doubtful that he will play about 35-40 games in the NHL next season. It'd be a much better idea if he goes to Iowa to share the net with Gustafsson.

The Wild can always sign a goaltender via the free agency route but Backstrom seems to be the best goalie in the market this off-season.

Notable potential free agents in no particular order: Evgeni Nabokov, Ray Emery, Mike Smith, Jose Theodore and Dan Ellis.

2. Defense

The defense has been questionable in the past few years. With the additions of Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin this season, it stabilized a bit but still not good enough. Let's see this year's Wild's free agents listed by priority order.

Please note that we're going to focus on current Wild players, but if you want to talk about Steven Kampfer, Drew Bagnall, Kyle Medvec and Tyler Cuma, feel free to do so in the comment section.

Jared Spurgeon (RFA): The Wild absolutely have to qualify Spurgeon. He's right handed and he's a decent puck moving defenseman. The Wild need him going forward.

Marco Scandella (RFA): After having some ups and downs with the Aeros, Marco has looked good when he was recalled during the playoffs. He even recorded a goal and an assist. The Wild can't afford losing such a young player who still has potential.

Justin Falk (RFA): Falk could be the odd man out if Chuck Fletcher decides to sign a free agent defenseman. If he doesn't, Falk should be qualified. That'd be good for the depth.

Brett Clark (UFA): Really, what was the point of signing him? Clark has only played 8 games and he didn't look very good either.

Notable potential free agents in no particular order: Andrew Ference, Ron Hainsey, Rob Scuderi, Joe Corvo and Marek Zidlicky (nah just kidding).

3. Offense

It appears the Wild's first unofficial off-season move is to re-sign Stephane Veilleux to a 2-year contract which is a good news. He will likely spend more time with the youngsters in Iowa providing leadership and showing the right example.

It'll be intriguing to see how Fletcher will handle the Dany Heatley situation and that's if he's medically cleared. We should find out soon enough. Heatley had 11 goals and 10 assists in 36 games this season.

Let's take a look at the Wild's free agents. Please note that, like we did previously, we're going to focus on current Wild players. If you want to talk about Justin Fontaine, David McIntyre, Carson McMillan, Joel Broda and Jarod Palmer, feel free to do so in the comment section.

Matt Cullen (UFA) : The Wild should re-sign Cullen. They can't afford him at 3.5M per year, but maybe something can be worked at around 2.4-2.8M? If he doesn't re-sign, there will be a lack of depth at the center position. Let's not forget that he has been the best player statistically in the playoffs with 3 points in 5 games.

Cal Clutterbuck (RFA) : That's an interesting case. Clutterbuck could become a potential trade asset to move up in the draft. If he doesn't, Fletcher should qualify him. It's pretty much unlikey to let Cal walk for free.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard (UFA): Recently, Bouchard was on a RDS TV show. He said "with the way it's going on right now, I probably expect to go to a new direction and live a new adventure with another team". That should tell you a lot about his future.

Notable potential free agents in no particular order: Mike Ribeiro, Michael Ryder, Pascal Dupuis, Tyler Bozak and David Clarkson.

One thing for sure, it's going to be interesting to see what Chuck Fletcher will do. What would you do if you were the Wild GM going into the off-season?

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