After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is examining where each team stands in preparation for the 2020-21 regular season, which is targeted to start Jan. 1. Today, the Minnesota Wild:
The Minnesota Wild entered the offseason looking to shake up their roster after failing to win a Stanley Cup Playoff series for the fifth straight season.
When the dust settled, the Wild had parted ways with three prominent players, including captain Mikko Koivu, who, after being informed he would not be re-signed following 15 seasons in Minnesota, signed a one-year contact with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Oct. 10.
Also departing were center Eric Staal, who was traded to the Buffalo Sabres for forward Marcus Johansson on Sept. 16, and goalie Devan Dubnyk, who was traded to the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 5.
“We need to find a different pathway to success, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Wild general manager Bill Guerin said. “We’re trying to build a better team, and sometimes you have to take some drastic measures.”
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One of those measures was to upgrade their goaltending after Dubnyk, Alex Stalock and Kaapo Kahkonen combined for a 2.97 goals-against average and .903 save percentage last season. In the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, which Minnesota lost in four games to the Vancouver Canucks, Stalock had a 3.03 GAA and .897 save percentage.
Four days after trading Dubnyk to the Sharks, the Wild signed goalie Cam Talbot to a three-year contract.
Other newcomers include center Nick Bonino, who was acquired in a trade from the Nashville Predators for forward Luke Kunin on Oct. 7, and forward Nick Bjugstad, who was acquired in a trade from the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sept. 11.
“We checked a lot of boxes,” Guerin said. “I like the way we stand right now.”
Here is what the Wild look like today:
Cam Talbot, G: The 33-year-old was 12-10-1 with a 2.63 GAA, a .919 save percentage and two shutouts in 26 games (22 starts) for the Calgary Flames last season. In 10 postseason games, Talbot was 5-4 with a 2.42 GAA, a .924 save percentage and two shutouts. … Kirill Kaprizov, F: Selected by Minnesota in the fifth round (No. 135) of the 2015 NHL Draft, the 23-year-old will finally arrive in the NHL after signing a two-year, entry-level contract July 13. Kaprizov led the Kontinental Hockey League in goals each of the past two seasons, including scoring 33 in 57 games for CSKA Moscow in 2019-20. … Marcus Johansson, F: The 30-year-old scored 30 points (nine goals, 21 assists) in 60 games for Buffalo last season. … Nick Bonino, F: A two-time Stanley Cup champion with Pittsburgh (2016, 2017), the 32-year-old scored 35 points (18 goals, 17 assists) in 67 games for Nashville last season. … Nick Bjugstad, F: Injuries limited the 28-year-old to two points (one goal, one assist) in 13 games for Pittsburgh last season. Bjugstad said following the trade that he was “definitely feeling 100 percent.”
Mikko Koivu, F: Scored 21 points (four goals, 17 assists) in 55 games last season, his fewest since he scored 21 in 64 games as a rookie in 2005-06. … Eric Staal, F: Was third on the Wild with 47 points (19 goals, 28 assists) in 66 games last season. … Devan Dubnyk, G: After starting at least 60 games each of the previous four seasons for the Wild, Dubnyk was 12-15-2 with a 3.35 GAA, an .890 save percentage and one shutout in 30 games (28 starts) last season. … Ryan Donato, F: Scored 23 points (14 goals, nine assists) in 62 games last season before being traded to San Jose on Oct. 5 for a third-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. … Luke Kunin, F: Set NHL career highs in goals (15), assists (16) and points (31) in 63 games last season. … Alex Galchenyuk, F: Scored 24 points (eight goals, 16 assists) in 59 games for Minnesota and Pittsburgh last season. He remains an unrestricted free agent.
On the cusp
Marco Rossi, F: The 19-year-old center was the No. 9 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft and will get the chance to compete for a roster spot in training camp. He signed a three-year, entry-level contract Oct. 23. Last season, Rossi led the Ontario Hockey League in assists (81) and points (120) in 56 games for Ottawa. … Nico Sturm, F: The 25-year-old will also have a shot to make the roster after he had two assists in six games with Minnesota and scored 32 points (12 goals, 20 assists) in 55 games for Iowa of the American Hockey League last season. Sturm scored one goal in two games in the Qualifiers. … Kaapo Kahkonen, G: The 24-year-old could battle Stalock for playing time behind Talbot. Last season, Kahkonen was 3-1-1 with a 2.96 GAA and .913 save percentage in five games for Minnesota, and 25-6-3 with a 2.07 GAA, a .927 save percentage and seven shutouts in 34 games for Iowa.
What they still need
A first-line center. The Wild intend to try Johansson in that spot, and Rossi could be their top center of the future, but Guerin will continue searching for other options.
Forward Kevin Fiala was among the more intriguing fantasy waiver-wire pickups last season, scoring 26 points (14 goals, 12 assists) in his final 18 games (third in NHL over span behind New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad and Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl) skating mostly on the top line and first power-play unit. Fiala has a chance to build upon his success this season and could benefit Kaprizov, the skilled rookie wing. Even though Minnesota does not have a clear No. 1 center, Fiala and Kaprizov are worth prioritizing in the middle rounds of a standard 12-team draft. — Rob Reese
Kirill Kaprizov — Marcus Johansson — Kevin Fiala
Zach Parise — Joel Eriksson Ek — Mats Zuccarello
Jordan Greenway — Nick Bonino — Nick Bjugstad
Marcus Foligno — Victor Rask — Ryan Hartman
Ryan Suter — Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin — Matt Dumba
Carson Soucy — Brad Hunt