Good Afternoon Wilderness! Today, I am going to speak briefly about potential free agent targets for the Minnesota Wild. One area where they Wild could use some help is on the blue line.
In my humble opinion, the Minnesota Wild are a player or two away from having a really good d-corps. If the Wild could add a high-end free agent defenseman, and delete a defenseman (or two) they could shore up their d-corps substantially. While some might disagree with me, I think that the Wild are a bit thin on blue line, and their top-six defenders could use an upgrade.
Perusing my twitter feed, a fair number of Wild fans have suggested that the Wild forget about signing the former Golden Gopher Thomas Vanek, and attempt to sign UFA Matt Niskanen during the 2014 free agent signing period. I don't think it's bad idea at all. However, based on how the former Bulldog played this past season, he's not going to come cheap, either. In 81 games with the Pittsburg Penguins, Niskanen scored (10g-36a-46pts). He was also a plus/minus rating of plus-33.
Currently, the Wild have the following defensemen under contract: Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Keith Ballard, Christian Folin, Jonas Brodin Matt Dumba and Marco Scandella. Niskanen would fit nicely in that current group of d-man. It's also my opinion, that the Wild should part ways with unrestricted free agent defensemen Nate Prosser and Clayton Stoner. Neither player that I listed would be missed if they didn't come back next season.
During the 2014 NHL's free agent signing period, Niskanen should be a hot commodity, and should get a number of lucrative offers from other NHL clubs that are looking to shore up their d-corps. Offensive defensemen don't grow on trees. This could make Niskanen very expensive as well. According to Capgeek.com, Niskanen is the top free agent available for defensemen.
This is what Hooks Orpik of Pensburgh had to say about the Pen's soon to be free agent.
Among unrestricted free agents-to-be this year, Niskanen easily stands out as one of the finest defenseman, and certainly is the youngest by a mile. There are only two other legitimate top-4 puck moving defensemen on the open market- Montreal's Andrei Markov and San Jose's Dan Boyle- and they are 35 and soon-to-be 38, respectively. We didn't include Kimmo Timonen (39 years old), because he's publicly said that he will either retire or re-sign only with Philly, meaning he's not really a "free" agent.
Chad Graff of the Pioneer Press also suggested that the Wild take a run at Niskanen as well.
The blue line was one of the Wild's strengths this season. Defenseman Mathew Dumba, the Wild’s 2012 first-round draft pick, will be eligible to play in the American Hockey League next season and could be Defenseman Mathew Dumba, the Wild's 2012 first-round draft pick, will be eligible to play in the American Hockey League next season and could be called up. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt) Next season, it could be even better with highly regarded college free agent Christian Folin under contract and 2012 first-round draft pick Mathew Dumba finally eligible to play in the American Hockey League. But both of those players are under two-way contracts, and Fletcher could opt to add size and grit to the defense with a proven defenseman like Pittsburgh's Matt Niskanen.
Obviously, the Wild have some decisions to make in the off-season. This is just one idea.