With a new general manager in house and the fact that the Minnesota Wild can’t seem to take a step forward despite reaching the playoffs six straight seasons, many people expected Paul Fenton to do something significant this offseason when he took over.
Instead it’s been a quiet offseason so far for the Wild as they have locked up some of their own players including Jason Zucker (five years, $27.5MM) and Mathew Dumba (five years, $30MM), but the team looks almost exactly the same from last season. The team did add some veteran depth when they signed Eric Fehr, Greg Pateryn, Matt Hendricks, J.T. Brown, Matt Bartkowski and Andrew Hammond. But they are only there to help the team’s bottom lines as well as add some physicality. The core of the team remains in tact. However, that’s not from a lack of trying, according to The Athletic’s Michael Russo (subscription required). In a mailbag column, the scribe writes that he’s talked to many contacts around the league who have told him that Fenton has been working the phones this summer, trying to make a deal, but has had little luck as teams often attempt to low-ball new GMs in hopes of catching a steal when the new GM is desperate to make a deal.
While owner Craig Leopold said he wanted to tweak the lineup after losing in the first-round this year, many felt that he wanted to alter the team’s core of Charlie Coyle, Zucker and Nino Niederreiter. While Fenton has talked about those three, it is believed he’s talked about almost every player on the team, but hasn’t found a good enough deal yet to pull the trigger. Of course, Coyle and Niederreiter are coming off down seasons, which is not the best time to be shopping them. The 26-year-old Coyle has been with the team for six seasons, but after two straight seasons in which his stats increased significantly, Coyle struggled this year, posting 11 goals and 37 points in 66 games. A lot of that has to do with injuries as he broke his fibula early in the season and then had surgery on both of his wrists after the season, suggesting he was never fully healthy. Niederreiter also suffered a broken fibula as well as dealt with a high ankle sprain, which prompted his season to slip from 25 goals and 57 points to just 18 goals and 32 points in 63 games. Neither made for good trade bait. Zucker himself put up solid numbers last year with career highs in goals (33) and points (64), but he was a restricted free agent, which many teams shy away from.
Other players would have been even more difficult to move considering that Zach Parise is locked up at $7.54MM for the next seven years and has a no movement clause. Ryan Sutter is coming off a serious injury, while Mikko Koivu holds a no-trade clause after signing his two-year extension. Eric Staal, Devan Dubnyk and Jared Spurgeon all have modified no-trade clauses, but were not asked to submit their no-trade lists at the NHL Entry draft in June, suggesting the team had no interest in moving any of them.
With all those issues, it’s no wonder that Fenton and the Wild were unable to shake up the roster like many thought they would. The only positive scenario is that the team, which should be healthier this year, should return to the playoffs again and might be able to turn their fortunes around from then on. The team has a number of young players, who could have breakout seasons, including Joel Eriksson Ek, Jordan Greenway and Nick Seeler who could help take the team to the next level.