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OFF-SEASON PREVIEW: MINNESOTA WILD CONTINUE SEARCH FOR SOMETHING BESIDES MEDIOCRITY

After being eliminated from the 2020 Qualifying round, the Minnesota Wild continue to find themselves right in the middle of the pack. The team hasn’t won a playoff series since 2015, when they defeated the St. Louis Blues in the first round. To make matters worse, the team lost out on the top pick in the upcoming draft, as the New York Rangers were the winners of the prized lottery pick.

Although, there is at least some hope for light at the end of the tunnel, as they will look to find some talent in the draft and free agency. The 9th overall pick in the draft belongs to them, but they will have to wait for the first round pick acquired from the Penguins in the Jason Zucker trade until 2021. Along with the first round pick, the highly skilled prospect, Kirill Kaprizov, signed his entry-level contract in July. The leading goal scorer from the KHL is expected to slot into Minnesota’s top-9 forwards.



Another problem that needs to be fixed is to find a true number one center. A possible solution could be found in free agency through Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Nugent-Hopkins scored 22 goals and dished out 39 assists in 65 games, making him nearly a point per game player, something the team desperately needs. The Wild have been linked to the 27-year-old in the past, but they could never get a deal done to bring him in. If they can't find a center in free agency, trading a defenseman (Jonas Brodin, Matthew Dumba, or Jared Spurgeon) combined with some prospects and picks could be on the table.

Along with the search for more starpower and a number one center, the Wild find themselves stuck in a bit of a predicament between the pipes. The goaltending tandem of Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock has almost 100 percent met its endpoint. Dubnyk is 34 years old, and his stats continued to decline this season, as he posted a harsh 3.35 GAA and .890 SV%. Stalock posted much better numbers this season than Dubnyk with a 2.67 GAA and .910 SV%, but he is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, with little upside in bringing back. Kaapo Kahkonen is knocking on the door to make his case to start, as he was the top goaltender in the AHL this year, so maybe he is the star goalie Minnesota has been looking for. There are some intriguing names on the free agent market if Guerin wants to go that route. Robin Lehner, Braden Holtby, and Jacob Markstrom are unrestricted free agents that could be looked at if the Wild get rid of one or both of Stalock and Dubnyk.

Bill Guerin, Minnesota’s GM, will have his work cut out for him this offseason, as he too is frustrated with the team’s recent history. “We are a good team, but there definitely has to be changes,” Guerin stated in a recent interview. For the Wild, hopefully the change starts now.

BRENNEN BEAUDIN
AUGUST 13, 2020  (10H22)
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