The Minnesota Wild, along with the rest of the National Hockey League, don’t even have a start date to the 2020-21 season set in stone yet, but one thing is for sure - the “Lizard King” will not be part of opening night. The Athletic’s Michael Russo tweeted today that Wild winger Mats Zuccarello underwent surgery on his right arm a few weeks ago to alleviate a torn ligament suffered sometime last season.
Season hasn't started, and the #mnwild already have a significant loss.— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) December 4, 2020
Right wing Mats Zuccarello won't be ready for the start of the season and may be out a good bit longer after having right arm surgery a few weeks ago. He has flown to MN from Norway to see Wild docs
Russo added in a subsequent post that the arm is the same that Zuccarello broke in his debut game with the Dallas Stars two years ago, though the injury may or may not be related. In any case, should the NHL begin their season on Jan. 15 (as reported today that they are looking to do), Zuccarello will likely miss the beginning of the 2020-21 season, as depending on the nature of the injury, recovery from arm surgery can run anywhere from six-plus weeks to three-to-four months.
With Zuccarello off the ice, the Wild will likely fill the open spot in the top-six, at least temporarily, with offseason trade acquisition Nick Bjugstad. Other options for injury call-ups could also include Gerry Mayhew, who has shined for the past three seasons in Iowa and saw action in 13 games during the 2019-20 season, or perhaps they could bring up a center like Nico Sturm - who had two assists in 6 GP last year - and move one of the current centers on the roster (like Joel Eriksson Ek or Marcus Johansson) over to wing. Zucc’s injury could also open the door for Marco Rossi, the Wild’s 2020 first-round selection who has been vocal about believing he can make Minnesota’s day-one roster out of training camp.
Should the Wild opt to go the free agent route to fill Zuccarello’s spot, a pair of former Wild wingers in Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula are still available, and could easily be one-year plug-and-play type players should their Iowa options not pan out in training camp.
With so much unknown about the NHL’s plans for starting the season, Zuccarello might even luck out and not miss too much time should the league push back their opening puck drop to February or later. But until then, the team and its fans will have to hope that Zuccarello’s surgery is succesful, and that the Lizard can heal up and get back to the ice as soon as safely possible.
Update: Story updated to reflect that the surgery had already occured prior to the report