In a loaded article for The Athletic today, Michael Russo addresses the Minnesota Wild’s plans for the off-season with new GM Paul Fenton through his first draft and ready for free agency. While Russo speculates that the Wild could look more toward the trade market than the UFA market this summer, he does name a few player who he feels the team has interest in and are likely to be good fits. Among those named are top-six scorers – and two of the biggest names on the market – James Neal and David Perron of the Vegas Golden Knights, as well as two-way contributors Michael Grabner and Jay Beagle. Russo also adds that the team is likely to take a look at upgrading the backup goalie position. Perhaps the deepest free agent position group this summer is at #2 netminder, where some of the league’s best backups from last season, several veteran former starters, and a few young keepers in need of a change compose a large group of possibilities. The Wild used Alex Stalock as their primary backup in 2017-18 and he performed well enough, but the veteran still has a year left on a two-way contract and the team could easily stash him in the AHL if they can woo a superior option to Minnesota.
- While the following information could frighten fans of the Wild, particularly given the team’s interest in exploring the trade market, don’t be too alarmed. Russo reports that Fenton has requested updated No-Trade lists from starting goaltender Devan Dubnyk, top-pair defenseman Jared Spurgeon, and top scorer Eric Staal. However, Russo believes that this is just a formality that the new GM wanted to get out of the way. With Minnesota expected to be a playoff team again next season, it is very unlikely that any of these three star players are likely to be traded any time soon.
- Russo believes that fan-favorite local product Kyle Rau is unlikely to test the free agent market is instead close on a two-year extension with the Wild. There has been no official word on the contract, but Russo believes it is a done deal. A former “Mr. Hockey”-winning Minnesota high school phenom and a star at the University of Minnesota, Rau signed as a free agent with the Wild last summer after two years with the Florida Panthers. Although he only played in three games with Minnesota this season, he was an offensive force with AHL Iowa, posting 50 points in 69 games. The 25-year-old forward would likely draw some interest on the open market, but seems more inclined to re-sign and fight for a roster spot with the Wild
- Over at Rau’s alma mater, the University of Minnesota, the Gophers hope that they have two more future stars on the way. John and Luke Mittelstadt, the younger brothers of former Gopher and top Buffalo Sabres’ forward prospect Casey Mittelstadt, have announced their commitments to the university. John, 16, is a forward who produced well in his first season at Eden Prairie High School and Luke, 15, is a defenseman who will be a freshman at Eden Prairie in the fall. Like brother Casey, the Mittelstadt’s are undersized and not elite athletes, but make up for it with tremendous skill and hockey sense. They will arrive at Minnesota in 2020 and 2021, respectively, and will join the likes of Blake McLaughlin, Bryce Brodzinski and others on a top program that has been gaining some major commitments over the past few months.