Perhaps a bit buried in Elliotte Friedman’s always phenomenal 30 Thoughts for Sportsnet, the Minnesota Wild may not yet be done performing “roster surgery” up front. They added Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno while subtracting Jason Pominville and Marco Scandella, but that may merely be the beginning of a season-long search for more dynamic and hard-nosed offensive players. Pominville himself is no slouch in terms of playmaking, so with his subtraction the team could still be on the hunt for something more.
Like a lot of other teams who were heavy competitors last season, the Wild have little cap space to play with. With RFAs Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter looking to consume much of that $15.79 MM the team currently has, they will likely end up with a $3 MM buffer, or slightly less to sign 4 roster players. It’s not a lot to add a huge name, but there are capable offensive players out there who could be acquired on the cheap. The organization prides itself on solid defensive play, but Thomas Vanek is a sure bet to pot quite a few goals. Jaromir Jagr is a still dynamic possession monster and could provide a boost if he were to take his seemingly inevitable paycut.
It looks probable that Minnesota will keep their options open on the trade market. If they didn’t like what July 1st offered, there are options available. Toronto’s James van Riemsdyk is supposedly available and could fit the mold of what the offense is trying to accomplish. Detroit’s Gustav Nyquist isn’t exactly a bruiser either but he would come cheap, or GM Chuck Fletcher could take a gamble on an older player in a struggles-for-struggles swap. There are plenty of teams that would be interested in Eric Staal, but it would be tough to fill that center hole internally. Their defense remains their greatest asset, and moving Jared Spurgeon is still a possibility, but do they trust Mike Reilly or Kyle Quincey to slot up if need be? The team could even opt to move Neiderreiter if another team is highly intrigued by his upside and they see a hockey deal.
Most likely, the Wild will resign themselves to simply adapting their offensive strategies after being absolutely shut down in the playoffs by St. Louis’ Jake Allen. 6 goals in 5 games while heavily out-shooting the opposition, cannot merely be blamed on poor luck and a hot goalie. The team will need its forwards to penetrate the tough areas of the ice more reliably and discourage perimeter play. Foligno is definitely a step in the right direction on that front, but look for Fletcher to add more grit and production up front, whether at the deadline or over the course of the year