For Wild fans, this past offseason is like a whole new world compared to the fireworks we saw on July 4th, 2012. Since the signings of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, there hasn't been much to get excited for in the offseason for Wild fans. In the summer of 2014 we were all aware for nearly a whole year Thomas Vanek would wind up in Iron Range Red. Right before training camp former Wild netminder Josh Harding would kick a brick wall and throw the Wild's goalie situation into complete disarray. In the summer of 2013, the Wild didn't even have a 1st round draft pick to get excited about. The greatest news that never was in that offseason was the buyout of Dany Heatley.
So here we are, on the cusp of the 2015-2016 NHL season, and a few pictures have come into focus, while others are still blurrier than footage of Sasquatch. Our goalie situation, while still a complete cluster because the Wild will be carrying 3 goalies on the NHL roster in Niklas Backstrom, Darcy Kuemper, and the man who saved last season, one Devan Dubnyk. Yet our center depth remains a huge question mark, our firepower on offense is still in the "prove it" stage, and with a PP that barely registered a pulse last season there are plenty of questions who's answers read like something out of a SNL Celebrity Jeopardy skit.
So what, if anything, did the Wild do this offseason? Well, for starters, and much to the excitement of a lot of Wild fans, they waived Matt Cooke in hopes another team would swoop up the super-star Tyson Barrie knee devastator. Nobody bit however, and now the Wild will pay the golden knee to not play hockey after buying him out. It was worth a try though, even if it was a fools hope that any GM in the NHL would want to claim the guy. Although he has yet to find a new home, there is hope for Cooke. With San Jose Sharks forward and fellow butthole Raffi Torres suspended for an incredible, if not long overdue 41-games this season, the Sharks could be in the market for a new goon to piss off 29 other teams this season. Good luck to you Cooke.
Of course the Wild were not without their small portion of drama this season as contract talks between the team and their new toy, Devan Dubnyk took place very publicly, and his future with the team seemed for a time to be slightly in doubt. Of course, cooler heads prevailed and the two sides were able to come to an amicable agreement that will keep El Duberino here for 6 years to the tune of 26 million dollars (AAV 4.33 million). This is certainly exciting news for the Wild as they have been looking for a bit of stability in between the pipes, and exciting for Dubnyk as he escaped the terrible city of Edmonton and the Oilers organization, endured some troubled times in a brief stint with the Nashville Predators, was traded to the Montreal Canadiens where he never saw a professional game, signed as a UFA with the Arizona Coyotes where the only place they see ice besides a hockey rink is in their cocktails. Ultimately he was brought out of goalie purgatory by the Wild when they acquired him from the 'yotes last January. Things are finally looking up for Dooby, lets just hope the Minnesota goalie curse of brick walls doesn't strike again.
If there was a theme to the Wild's offseason, it has to be the letter "P" and the number 2. The letter "P" of course stands for "players", and the number 2 of course represents 2-year contracts. 5 players this offseason were signed to 2-year deals or extensions. Most notable of these would be the signing of rookie defensemen and former Minnesota Golden Gopher Mike Reilly, who signed as an unrestricted free agent to a 2-year deal with the Wild this summer. Reilly was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2011, but after declining to sign with the Jackets he became a college free agent this summer. After weighing his options, and narrowing his decision down to the reported finalists of the Wild, Chicago Blackhawks, and the Pittsburgh Penguins, Mike decided to stay close to home despite the log jam the Wild are currently enjoying at the defensive position.
Forwards Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula both signed 2-year extensions this summer. For Granlund, we knew this was coming, it was just a matter of term and a price that both sides could agree on. The 2-year bridge deal will allow Granlund to grow as a player in hopes he can garner himself a lucrative deal as his next free agent window comes over the horizon. With a 6 million dollar price tag over 2 seasons, the Wild were able to save a few dollars now and re-evaluate the situation over the coming seasons. Erik Haula signed a 2-year, 2 million dollar contract and is a bit of a reclamation project this season after finding himself in the doghouse last season. This deal is great for the Wild. They have seen some bright spots in Haula's game and if he can shake off a down year he could potentially turn into one of the best bang-for-your-buck 4th liners in the NHL this season. Here's to you Haula, have a good one.
Of course it's not all sunshine and roses for your Wild's offseason work, unless you are from Elk River, Minnesota of course. Nate Prosser signed a 2-year extension this offseason as well, which is a stark difference for him after being cut from the St. Louis Blues prior to last season. After being cut by the Blues there was really only one landing spot for the defensemen, and thus he came home. So, 2 more years of #Prossered ... and there was much rejoicing. Prosser signed for just 1.25 million over the 2-years, so I suppose the price tag isn't terrible, and he's not always a terrible defensemen. He did have a decent showing late last season, and boy can he take a hit! The Wild also signed defensemen Christian Folin to a 2-year deal this summer. Folin saw action in 40-games last season and scored himself 2 goals along side 8 assists. Fortunately for his mental well-being, Folin's contract is slightly more lucrative over the 2-years than Prosser's, scoring himself 1.45 million over that span. Folin just bolsters some incredible depth the Wild have back on the blue line right now. Along with Prosser, Reilly, Gustav Olofsson and Dylan Labbe, there should be no shortage of defensive call-ups if the injury bug strikes, or heaven forbid, the mumps rear their ugly head once again.
The Wild also signed forward Ryan Carter to a breaking-from-the-norm 1-year, 2-way contract extension this offseason, ensuring that most of the band is coming back for another album in the 2015-2016 season. Honestly, Carter did not impress me much coming out of the gate last season. He opened up with sloppy play and signs of the gritty-ness #YeoKnowsBest loves to see. He sort of grew on me as the season progressed though. He showed he could play responsibly in the defensive zone and could create havoc on the forecheck. Carter's 2-way deal is worth 750K at the NHL level, and should he get sent down and clear waivers (he won't clear waivers) he would make 350K playing for the Iowa Wild. Carter brings flexibility on the 4th line, being able to play on the wing or at center. He'll likely see most of his time on the wing, and be a nice secondary option in the faceoff dot should Haula get tossed. Last season he scored 3 goals with 10 assists in 53 games for the Wild.
Of course, what season in review would be complete if we did not discuss the NHL entry draft. The Wild selected 7 players at this years draft, including Lakeville North stand-out Jack Sadek (D, 7th Rd), along with Gustav Bouramman (D, 7th Rd), Nick Boka (D, 6th Rd), Kirill Kaprizov (LW, 5th Rd), Ales Stezka (G, 4th Rd), Jordan Greenway (LW, 2nd Rd), and the jewel of the crown, the center from Farjestads BK Karlstad in Sweden, Joel Eriksson-Ek. Eriksson-Ek was the consensus pick around these parts for the Wild, as he is the most "Wild" of any of the first-round hopefuls in this years draft. Erikkson-Ek did break from the 2-year deal norm this summer as well, signing a 3-year deal with the Wild. He does however have 2 years left on his deal with Farjestads and will play at least this next season there before considering beginning his entry level deal with the Wild.
Last but not least for your Minnesota Wild this offseason, it was announced that the Wild will finally host an outdoor game this season. Of course, it isn't what we all hoped for, in that it is not the Winter Classic, but rather part of the NHL's stadium series. This of course means we are giving Battle of California at least another season of antagonizing Minnesotan's in at least some capacity, not that they really need a reason to.
Well, that's pretty much it sports fans. Yes, I realize there is another rather large looming story that broke surrounding the coaching staff this summer, but in the interest of not kicking a guy while he's down I'm not going to bring it up. In the world of Minnesota Wild offseasons, this one certainly doesn't take the cake as the best offseason ever, and likely doesn't even crack the radar for a top-5 offseason in franchise history, especially given all the moves we saw around the division and the league, but this is what we have to hang our hats on. The regular season kicks off this Thursday folks, it's time to put a dull summer in the rearviewmirror and look forward to 82 games and hopefully a lengthy playoff run! Just to be a major buzz kill though, we are now, officially, 636 regular season periods, 51 regular season OT periods, 84 playoff periods and 7 playoff OT periods, for a total of 778 periods closer to the next NHL lockout.