Join TSN in a 30 teams in 30 days tour of the NHL in preparation for the upcoming season. Teams will be unveiled in reverse order of the pre-season TSN.ca Power Rankings and the Minnesota Wild are up next. Get the lowdown on their off-season along with the issues they face this season. Use the Your Call feature to give us your take on the Wild!
2009-10: 38-36-8 (13th in West, missed the playoffs)
General Manager: Chuck Fletcher (2nd Season)
Head Coach: Todd Richards (2nd Season)
What they did in the off-season:
The team's biggest acquisition of free agency was 33-year-old veteran centre Matt Cullen, who signed a three-year contract worth $10.5 million. The team gained even more experience along with grit by signing 37-year-old three-time Stanley Cup champion John Madden as another centre. The Wild also acquired former Calgary Flames forward Eric Nystrom, a former first-round pick. The Wild also drafted a player who is known as a 'young Saku Koivu', Mikael Granlund of Finland, to bolster the team's future. Minnesota also needed to replace some toughness, so they signed Brad Staubitz.
Derek Boogaard left the Wild to sign with the New York Rangers as an unrestricted free agent. While his offensive contributions won't be sadly missed, the 6-foot-8, 257-pounder gave the Wild serious muscle. Others who departed were forwards Owen Nolan and Andrew Ebbett and defenders John Scott and Jaime Sifers.
The franchise will also have its first permanent captain this season as Mikko Koivu takes the reigns after coming off consecutive 20-goal seasons.
Biggest issue facing the team:
The Wild have missed the playoffs three of the last five seasons. And they have dealt with some underachievement from a few of their key players, particularly last season. Martin Havlat, brought in to replace the scoring production of the departed Marian Gaborik, had a disappointing campaign on the scoreboard last year, tallying just 18 goals and 54 points. Niklas Backstrom wasn't as solid in net after signing the big contract that he earned by posting three consecutive seasons with an overall save percentage of .920 or better. Brent Burns also wasn't as effective as his usual self in 2009-10, missing about a quarter of the season with a concussion and playing with its lingering effects.
Player to watch:
Perhaps the biggest question mark for the Wild is whether or not Havlat will produce the kind of hockey warranted by a six-year, $30 million contract. He has scored upwards of 30 goals in a season before. If he can do it again, this squad's season outlook will look much more positive. That being said, Havlat has never the most durable player in the league. The Wild had to be happy that he suited up for 73 games last season, his second straight relatively injury free season. But if the Czech sniper spends time on injured reserve this season, the Wild do not have many other offensive options. Should he miss any extended period, the Wild will suffer offensively.
For additional analysis, be sure to read Scott Cullen's fantasy take.