With the NHL season now just a couple of weeks away, we continue our look at what each team has done this summer and what to watch for in the year to come. Today, we focus on the Minnesota Wild.
Last Season: 49-25-8 record (106 points), second in Central Division (lost in the first round to the St. Louis Blues)
Remaining Cap Space: $-734K per CapFriendly
Key Additions: F Matt Cullen (free agency, Pittsburgh), F Tyler Ennis (trade with Buffalo), F Marcus Foligno (trade with Buffalo), D Kyle Quincey (free agency, Columbus), F Daniel Winnik (PTO, Washington)
Key Departures: D Christian Folin (free agency, Los Angeles), F Tyler Graovac (trade with Washington), F Martin Hanzal (free agency, Dallas), F Erik Haula (expansion, Vegas), G Darcy Kuemper (free agency, Los Angeles), F Jason Pominville (trade with Buffalo), D Nate Prosser (free agency, St. Louis), D Marco Scandella (trade with Buffalo), F Jordan Schroeder (trade with Blue Jackets), F Alex Tuch (trade with Vegas), F Ryan White (PTO, Vancouver)
[Related: Wild Depth Chart From Roster Resource]
Player To Watch: D Mat Dumba – The former first-round pick has gone under the radar for the most part but has seen his production and ice time increase each season. There’s a good chance that trend will continue for 2017-18 and the timing will be notable if it does.
Dumba is heading into a contract year and sits as one of two prominent restricted free agents next summer (the other being winger Jason Zucker). He will be coming off of his bridge contract, one that carries a cap hit of $2.55MM. There’s a good case to be made that he could wind up doubling that contract, particularly since he has arbitration eligibility.
The Wild already have three big-ticket contracts on the books defensively with Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, and Jonas Brodin and they are all signed through 2019-20 at the very least. They also have more than $63MM in contracts committed for next season and inking Dumba to a long-term pact will get rid of a big chunk of what they have left to work with.
That’s what makes Dumba worth watching this season as he may wind up forcing Minnesota’s hand two different ways – by playing well enough to earn a big ticket contract while making them move someone out to free up the money to get the deal done while leaving enough on the table for Zucker and the rest of the roster.
Key Storyline: It’s not very often that a backup goalie could be a key factor but this is a rare occasion where that very well may be the case. Devan Dubnyk has been one of the better starters in the league in recent seasons but he has also worn down due to overuse down the stretch. One of their objectives was to find someone who they would be comfortable with starting a bit more frequently to keep Dubnyk rested which is something that is quickly becoming the trend throughout the league.
Alex Stalock is slated to serve as the number two netminder this season. While he has been in that role in the past, he has spent the bulk of the last two seasons at the minor league level. He was given an early extension primarily so that he could be left unprotected in expansion but it’s fair to wonder if he’ll be able to provide them with the 20-25 starts they’ll be looking for. If he struggles early on, it will be worth watching to see if they bring in someone else quickly although their cap situation will most likely limit their options.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.