Colorado Avalanche Analyzing Minnesota Wild’s Off-Season Moves

Mar 26, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Minnesota Wild left wing Zach Parise (11) celebrates his goal in the second period against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 26, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Minnesota Wild left wing Zach Parise (11) celebrates his goal in the second period against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

The Minnesota Wild made multiple moves during the off-season to prepare themselves for another year against the Colorado Avalanche and the tough Central Division.

Before I even begin, I would like to remind you that my wife bleeds Minnesota Wild so I may tread cautiously in my bashing of our rivals from the  North. I also own one or two Wild jerseys and have made appearances at the X, even if the Colorado Avalanche are not visiting… BUT let’s be honest, I am an Avs fan and I hope they crush the Wild this season.

And to show my loyalty to the Avs, I usually like to remind my wife that the only banners hanging from the rafters at the X are the other NHL team flags, ONE Division Championship banner, and a retired “1” jersey for Wild fans. I will probably be in the dog house for this but… WORTH IT!

New coach, new game plan?

In my opinion, the biggest move that the Minnesota Wild made this off-season was bringing in head coach Bruce Boudreau. Last season, Wild owner Craig Leipold reiterated multiples times that GM Chuck Fletcher’s job was safe and that he would reevaluate the team’s needs at the head coaching position. Fletcher named John Torchetti the interim replacement for Mike Yeo in February of last year, but Torchetti was relieved of his duties when the Wild was knocked out of the playoffs by the Dallas Stars in April.

Once the Wild was out of playoffs, Leipold immediately started his search for a new head coach. At first the prospects were not great when it came to proven coaches in the NHL. However, then the Anaheim Ducks fired Bruce Boudreau and Fletcher immediately made the call. On May 8th, the Wild hired Bruce Boudreau to a four year, around $12 million dollar deal.

As Avs’ fans remember all too well, Boudreau is an extremely aggressive coach and is very well versed in offensive game planning. This in itself is a new attitude for the Wild. The Wild have always been a very sound defensive team, which has been the main focus of all of their head coaches (Jacques Lemaire, Todd Richards, Mike Yeo and John Torchetti). Whether or not the Wild have the talent up front to fit Boudreau’s game plan is yet to be seen, but you can count on seeing a different Wild team come October.

A month later, the Wild hired Scott Stevens to assist Boudreau on the bench. Obviously, Stevens will be focusing on the d pairings so it will be interesting to see how that changes Ryan Suter’s minutes and role. One of the main critiques of the Wild the last few seasons is the amount of ice time for Suter. Look for Suter’s minutes to come down, in attempt to have him as fresh as possible come playoffs.

Buyout Window

Before free agency opened up, the Wild bought out Thomas Vanek. Vanek never really got his skates under him for the Wild so it was definitely not a surprise to see that the Wild bought him out. Every game that I went to last season at the X, Vanek was booed by Wild faithful for his lack of energy and hustle. Once in awhile, Vanek found himself on the weekly top ten list for goals but the Wild front office had had enough.

The Vanek buyout opened up $5 million dollars in savings against the salary cap for the Wild to either sign free agents or resign their two major restricted free agents, Jason Zucker and Matt Dumba. Matt Cooke’s contract is still on the books this year from when he was bought out as well.

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Free Agency

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The Wild were very active in free agency. On July 1st,  the Wild agreed to terms with C Eric Staal, LW Chris Stewart, G Alex Stalock, D Victor Bartley and F Pat Cannone.

The biggest acquisition for the Wild was obviously the signing of veteran Eric Staal to a three year, $10.5 million dollar contract. Not only did they sign a center who will be in the top twenty this year in face-off percentage, but also a great locker room presence who has won a Stanley Cup. Fans should not expect Staal to return to his 35 goals a season ways, but he will definitely be a top six forward come October.

The “Stewie Sprint” is back in Minnesota (after warm-ups during his first stint with Minnesota, Chris Stewart would sprint down the tunnel past teammates and press). In a move that hurt me as an Avs fan, the Wild re-signed Chris Stewart to a two year $2.3 million dollar deal. Chris Stewart is a very tough and gritty forward, who has a Cody McLeod like attitude to his game. I still have my Chris Stewart Avs jersey, so I will have to remember to not wear that to any games at the X this year!

Goaltender Alex Stalock was brought in on a one year, $650,000 deal on free agency day as well. The Wild are expecting to lose back up goalie Darcy Kuemper to a trade or expansion next year, so Stalock could be the next in line to back up Duuuuuuuuuuuubs (Devan Dubnyk).

Next: The Wild are our Rivals

Other moves

Outside of July 1st free agency and the head coaching carousal in the 612, the Wild made a few internal moves during the off-season. Recently the Wild resigned Matt Dumba to a two year bridge deal, worth just under $5 million. Personally, I am expecting to see Dumba traded this season for some talent up front but we will see.

The Wild also resigned Jordan Schroeder and Jason Zucker. I have to give GM Chuck Fletcher credit, even in the midst of head coach turnover and mid-season skids, he is sticking with his strategy and his young core.  According to General Fanager, the Fletcher and the Wild have 48 of their 50 man roster under contract and a projected cap space of $2,168,913. Not only did the Wild bring in some offensive talent this off-season, they were also able to sign all of their restricted free agents.

Next: The Wild are not our Rivals

Once again, the Wild will compete in the Central and battle the Avs and Jets when it comes to the second tier of teams behind Dallas, St. Louis and Chicago.