The Minnesota Wild have approximately $21 million in salary cap space this offseason. Some of that money will go to draft picks, and some will go towards contract extensions for current Wild. General manager Chuck Fletcher will waive the rest at the 2012 free agent group, which includes Minnesota native Zach Parise.
Minnesota also holds the seventh-overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, which begins June 22 in Pittsburgh. What will Fletcher do with this selection?
The Wild finished last in the league in goals per game (2.02) and shots per game (26.5). The power-play unit finished 27th in the league as well (15.2 percent success rate). Dany Heatley led the team in scoring with 53 points.
Poor offensive production like this suggests Minnesota needs some new scoring options.
What has Minnesota thought about doing recently to move towards its first playoff appearance since 2007-08? Let’s take a look.
Will Zach Parise wear a Wild sweater next season?
New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise headlines the 2012 free agent class. Parise scored 69 points in the 2011-12 regular season and advanced all the way to Game 6 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final before losing to the Los Angeles Kings.
Parise would certainly give the Wild another scoring threat along with Dany Heatley.
Minnesota wants Parise, who was born in Minneapolis, very badly. According to SI.com:
“According to NBC Sports, [former Wild GM Lou Nanne] told KFAN Sports Radio that Wild owner Craig Leipold is going to aggressively pursue Parise this off-season and if the Devils captain signs with another team, it will certainly be for less money than what the Wild offer him.”
The Wild cannot officially offer Parise a contract until the free agency period begins July 1, but Nanne has already said, “No one is going to outbid the Wild.”
Parise wants to stay with the Devils. Dave Caldwell of nytimes.com said why Parise prefers to stay:
“That the Devils improved radically this season and finally established some stability were sure to be considerations.”
Fresh off a Stanley Cup Final appearance, New Jersey will keep head coach Peter DeBoer and will hope to keep Parise and Martin Brodeur. Exits from the captain and the winningest goaltender in NHL history would hurt the Devils’ chances of winning the Eastern Conference again.
Minnesota, though, is doing anything possible to have Parise change his mind.
Jonas Brodin was Minnesota's first-round selection in 2011. Who will it be this year?
Minnesota currently has the seventh-overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Ben Goessling of twincities.com reports general manager Chuck Fletcher has considered moving up in the first round of the draft.
Though Minnesota will draft the best non-goaltender available, it should prioritize defense. According to Goessling:
“Many consider the Wild’s group of defensemen to be thinner than their crop of young forwards, and the strength of this year’s draft might be on defense…There were seven defensemen in the NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of the top 12 North American skaters, which could put the Wild in a good position.”
Fletcher has shown he is one of the best drafters in the NHL. According to Goessling:
“[The Wild have] stocked their system with enough talent that Hockey’s Future named them the No. 2 organization in the NHL this spring.”
Fletcher said this year’s draft will be very unpredictable. He might not know who to pick until the Wild are officially on the clock Friday. He also does not know when he will pick, as it could be before seventh overall.
“In an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday [April 11, 2012] at team, Leipold said he’s working on a contract extension for general manager Chuck Fletcher, who has one more year left on his original deal, which began when he was hired before the 2009-10 season.”
Some of Fletcher’s draft picks, particularly at the forward positions, could make the opening night roster in 2012-13. Minnesota might not need to wait longer to see its future stars competing at the NHL level.
If Minnesota gets another elite prospect or free agent this offseason, Fletcher will lead the charge. Leipold also hopes Fletcher will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
Will Guillaume Latendresse play for the Wild in 2012-13?
In 2009-10 Guillaume Latendresse scored 27 goals, splitting time between the Montreal Canadiens and the Minnesota Wild. Latendresse has only played 27 games over the past two seasons due to injury. He says he is now at 100 percent.
The Wild have not decided what to do with Latendresse, who has proved to be a solid power forward when healthy. According to usatoday.com:
“The Wild will likely do one of two things: Cut Latendresse loose, which would allow him to become an unrestricted free agent July 1, or sign him to a one-year contract with games-played and performance bonuses.”
Minnesota obviously has doubts about whether Latendresse can stay healthy in 2012-13. The 45th-overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft claims a new treatment method has him feeling better than ever, and, therefore, no one should worry about recurring concussions.
“The first time I went there, I saw a huge change. I felt a real click that I haven’t felt since five, six years ago. My energy level is higher. My body just feels 100 percent.”
Latendresse credits his health to Carrick and the GyroStim, the same machine Carrick used with Crosby.
What kinds of changes are coming to captain Mikko Koivu and the Minnesota Wild?
Minnesota’s lineup could look very different in 2012-13, especially at forward. Newly-turned professionals in the Wild system will challenge incumbents for roster spots. The team also hopes to acquire Zach Parise in free agency.
Only the Vancouver Canucks made the playoffs from the Northwest Division this season. Minnesota can take advantage of this weak intra-division competition with a successful offseason. The Wild have built up for this moment over the past few seasons. Can they capitalize?
Minnesota is committed to Parise and Fletcher, but will Parise commit to the Wild come July? Will the injury bug stay away? Who else might the Wild acquire this offseason?
Rumblings within the walls of the organization suggest big changes are happening. Can these changes put Minnesota back in the playoffs? Only time will tell.