NHL.com is examining where each team stands in preparation for the 2021-22 regular season, which starts Oct. 12. Today, five questions facing the Minnesota Wild:
1. Will Kirill Kaprizov sign a contract before the season?
The forward won the Calder Trophy voted as NHL rookie of the year after leading first-year players in goals (27), points (51), power-play goals (eight) and shots on goal (157) in 55 games last season. He led the Wild in goals, points, points per game (0.93) and overtime goals (two), and scored three game-winning goals to help them finish third in the eight-team Honda West Division (35-16-5) and reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Though general manager Bill Guerin said there had been talks with Kaprizov, who is a restricted free agent, he is unsigned with the start of training camp two weeks away.
Minnesota was 30-3-2 when Kaprizov scored at least one point and 5-12-3 when he didn’t.
2. How will they respond without Zach Parise and Ryan Suter?
Parise, a forward, and Suter, a defenseman, each had the final four seasons of his 13-year contract bought out July 13 after playing the past nine seasons with the Wild. They were two of Minnesota’s longest-tenured players.
Parise, an unrestricted free agent, scored 400 points (199 goals, 201 assists) in 558 regular-season games with the Wild and is third in goals and points, seventh in games, and eighth in assists in Minnesota history. Suter, who signed a four-year contract with the Dallas Stars on July 28, scored 369 points (55 goals, 314 assists) in 656 regular-season games with the Wild and is their leader among defensemen in points, assists, power-play points (138), rating (plus-62), shots on goal (1,225) and ice time (17,731:09).
Four players on the roster have played at least five seasons for the Wild (forward Joel Eriksson Ek and defensemen Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba and Jared Spurgeon), so some of the younger players could be asked to step up into leadership roles.
3. Will Kaapo Kahkonen push Cam Talbot for playing time?
Kahkonen was 16-8-0 with a 2.88 goals-against average, a .902 save percentage and two shutouts in 24 games (23 starts) last season, but the 25-year-old rookie goalie allowed two goals or fewer once in his final eight starts (4-4-0) and had a 4.51 GAA and an .858 save percentage.
Over that same stretch, Talbot was 13-3-4 with a 2.61 GAA, a .915 save percentage and one shutout in 20 games, and he started all seven playoff games for Minnesota, which lost to the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round. Talbot had a 2.45 GAA, a .923 save percentage and two shutouts in the postseason.
Talbot is 34 years old and hasn’t played more than 35 games in a season since 2017-18, when he started 67 games for the Edmonton Oilers. With the NHL schedule returning to 82 games after the past two seasons were shortened because of the coronavirus pandemic, Kahkonen could be counted on to lessen the veteran’s workload.
4. Will any forward prospects make the team out of camp?
The Wild didn’t address their need for forwards in the offseason after losing three regulars (Parise, Marcus Johansson, Nick Bonino).
Marco Rossi, the No. 9 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, was expected to compete for a roster spot last season, but the 19-year-old forward played one game for Zurich SC of the National League, the top professional league in Switzerland, before missing the rest of the season because of complications from COVID-19.
Matt Boldy, the No. 12 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, scored 31 points (11 goals, 20 assists) in his sophomore season at Boston College before signing an entry-level contract with the Wild on March 30. The 20-year-old scored 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) in 14 games for Iowa of the American Hockey League.
5. Will the power play improve?
Minnesota tied for 23rd in the NHL on the power play last season (17.6 percent) but ranked third from March 22 to the end of the season (29.6 percent) after they were last from the start of the season to March 21 (8.5 percent).
Kevin Fiala (14 points) and Kaprizov (13 points) were the only Minnesota players to score at least five goals (Kaprizov, eight; Fiala, six) and nine points with the man-advantage.
With three of their top eight power-play scorers gone from last season (Suter, Johansson, Bonino), it’s unclear who will replace them. Spurgeon (nine power-play points) or defenseman Alex Goligoski, who signed a one-year contract July 28, likely will get a chance on the top unit. Goligoski has scored 32.9 percent of his NHL points (141 of 429) on the power play.