Hello Wild fans. It's been 6 days since the Wild got eliminated against the defending Stanley Cup Champions the Chicago Blackhawks. Now we usually would be sad and upset since the Wild didn't go all the way this year; but, we're heading into the offseason with optimism as Wild fans have hope for a bright future. So heading into the offseason, there's some areas that Chuck Fletcher needs to address: goaltedning, adding an prominent forward to add more offensive depth, and add more defensive depth on the back end. So let's just say that Fletcher needs to entirely address all areas; however, he doesn't need to address these areas to a greater degree like last summer. There's just going to be some moderate changes.
Fletcher has been addressing the media that he's looking to add forward depth (a pure-goal scorer to be exact) to boost up the scoring since the Wild aren't structured as a goal-scoring team; but, we're not built to be a goal-scoring team yet since our team style isn't built like that. Now Fletcher's just looking for forward depth such as someone that we're familiar with, for instance, Thomas Vanek. Vanek has been on our radar about for about a year now. Last summer the Wild weren't able to pursue Thomas Vanek due to cap space. Now since it's a new year, there's plenty cap space for Fletcher to spend significant amount of money to grab depth. With Dany Heatley's contract finally coming off the books, the Wild will be able to replace Dany Heatley with Thomas Vanek or any other scoring forward. Fletcher is looking for players that can fit the goal scorer's role such as Thomas Vanek. There's also other players that Fletcher might would want to seize in Pual Stastny. The Wild have been lacking a pure goal scorer ever since the Marian Gaborik era had ended. Jason Pominville has been doing fine posting 60 points in his year-and-a-half season (30G 30A), however he has had a decent performance in the playoffs by posting 9 points in 13 playoff games, with a minus-3. Something that Wild fans weren't expecting. It could be easy to say that Fletcher can just forget about Vanek and let the players develop; but, getting Vanek could finally improve the scoring department., and his veteran presence can help out the emerging youngsters we have on the team. I would to suggest that maybe Fletcher can go after a forward that has great speed that can fit in our system if they're going to be skating with players such as Granlund and Parise. Vanek is a decent skater, but unlike Heatley he won't slow down the team as much. He'll produce more offense.
The defensive position is another concern for Fletcher. Do we really need another veteran D-man? The two front runner-ups for the defensive position that are UFA's: Matt Niskanen, and Dan Boyle. The San Jose Sharks have just reported a few days ago that Dan Boyle won't be back for the them next season. Matt Niskanen has been the most common player that has been discussed about to improve the Wild D-corp. Players that might be ready to step in the defensive position are signed college free agent Christian Folin, and Matt Dumba. Now Dumba might need a year in the AHL playing with the Iowa Wild. Dumba has had a great year playing with the Portland Winterhawks, but his defensive game still needs work. Dumba isn't ready to make a big jump. Christain Folin was signed in March to a entry-level contract. I don't know much about him yet but here's some of what analyst have said about the star defender: "Christian is a big, mobile defenseman who has a heavy shot and moves the puck well," said Wild assistant general manager Brent Flahr in a statement. "He plays a very mature game that we feel should allow him transition to the NHL very quickly. We’re very excited to have Christian join the Wild and further add to our group of emerging young players." So this is a player that has good instincts who is at his best in the defensive zone, but can quickly improve his offensive game. The Wild need to keep getting defensive players that have good mobility but that are offensive minded defensemen as well. The Wild need to have more players other than Suter, Spurgeon, and mostly Scandella running the offense. Matt Niskenen could add to the offensive depth that the Wild have been lacking. Niskanen adds skating, offensive ability including his good shot, and responsibility when the team needs him. If the Wild want to go deeper in the playoffs in the future, they need defensemen to help out the offense as well. The Blackhawks has players like Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrooke to help the Hawks offense. Then St.Louis Blues have players like Alex Pietrangelo, and Jay Bouwmeester to help them on the point as well. It wouldn't hut Fletcher to get a defenseman who can both block shots and clear the crease. Good thing that the Wild still have Clayton Stoner to do that from his good performance in the playoffs, and deserves a contract extension.
This area believed has to be the biggest area that Fletcher wants to address. The Wild have dressed 7 goalies: Darcy Kuemper, Ilya Bryzgalov, Josh Harding, Niklas Backstrom, John Curry, Johan Gustafsson, and Rob Laurie. The Wild have played 5. Now the question is, will Kuemper start the season opener in net or will be back in Iowa? My instincts tell me that he's back in Iowa until someone gets hurt. It's believed that Kuemper is ready to make the big jump; but is he ready? Fletcher has said that he would be riding with three goalies next season. The question is who exactly? Josh Harding has been dealing with his MS. He's been out of action since January. Now at this point no one is exactly sure where Harding is at this moment, but let's hope it's in the right direction. Niklas Backstrom has been injure prone this year. It looks like that the Wild will have to ride with Backstrom since there's no compliance buyout due to injury. Bryzgalov looks like that he won't return as he was just a rental goalie. Curry has a minimum of NHL experience. So he isn't the solution. It seems that the Wild need to ride with Backstrom, Kuemper, and a suggestive free agent. Ryan Miller, reported by the St.Louis Blues, addressed that he won't return next season. Jonas Hiller seems to be out of Anaheim as he may not be retuning there either. Then there's goalies available (UFA's) such as Martin Brodeur, Tim Thomas, Jaroslav Halak, and Thomas Greiss. Well the best option out of these goalies are Hiller or Miller.
It's going to be a long and busy summer for Fletcher. It's clear that the Wild need more finishers on this team to improve the scoring department as the Wild were 12th in the league in goals per game with 2.43 goals for. Players like Thomas Vanek could change that for the Wild as he plays top minutes. Speed also needs to be added as the Wild are emerging as a speedy team that showed up in the playoffs. If the Wild's offense is going to be effective, speed needs to be present. The Wild need to get more offensive-minded defensive players (both through free agency and in the draft) to improve scoring but can also shutdown the game when needed. There's no doubt that Kuemper will again be the Wild's backbone next season, but this time he'll have a veteran reliable backup that can play around to 30-35 games to relieve pressure from the young stud. So these are suggestive elements that Fetcher needs to address to improve this young Wild club and get prepared for another good playoff run.
Thanks for reading everyone :).