Another disappointing season will soon draw to a close for the Minnesota Wild, and a frustrated fan base is looking forward to what should be a major summer shake up for the team. It was made painstakingly clear this season that the team lacks a game-changing, top-six forward who can find the back of the net. With prospects like Jason Zucker and Mikael Granlund at least a year or two away, General Manager Chuck Fletcher is forced to look outside of the organization for options.
While this summer’s unrestricted free agent class is shallow, the list of Restricted Free Agents is much more promising for teams willing to give up picks or dangle their own for a trade. Notables who most likely won’t be going anywhere fast are Toronto’s Tyler Bozak, Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos, The Coyote’s Kyle Turris, and Atlanta captain Andrew Ladd.
That being said, here are a couple of RFAs who just might be in play for the Wild.
2010-11 Salary - $3,125,000
Obviously the biggest target of the offseason for any team looking to add scoring to their lineup, Zach Parise, U.S. Olympic hero and four time 30-goal scorer, just may be staying in New Jersey for the long haul.
However, added pressure from the Ilya Kovalchuk signing and the Devils’ notorious cap problems have the potential of seeing Parise elsewhere this upcoming season. A Prior Lake native, Parise would also serve as a hometown face for the club for the casual fans. He would certainly come at a very steep price, and in the Wild’s case, the starting point for a package would surely be Brent Burns.
If the stars align and Burns enthusiast Jacques Lemaire coaches New Jersey next year, a deal could be viable.
2010-11 Salary - $2,200,000
Another Minnesotan and Gopher hockey alum, Blake Wheeler is also due for a qualifying offer at the end of the season. Struggling in Boston, he was traded to Atlanta at the deadline, where he has found a fitting role on a young upstart squad.
Prying him away from Atlanta may prove difficult, though a large crop of Thrasher RFAs may make him expendable. Most importantly, it’s doubtful that Wheeler could come in and become the top line sniper Minnesota needs; his role is a 2nd/3rd line power forward and depth scorer, something the Wild already has in good supply.
2010-11 Salary - $2,300,000/$1,850,000
While both Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky are integral cogs in New York, the Rangers are a team hurting on cap space and high on former Wild members. Marian Gaborik and Derek Boogaard share an agent with Brent Burns in Ron Salcer, not to mention are good friends.
A highly offensive defenseman is needed on the Rangers to supplement Marc Staal and if the price is right Minnesota could nab a young 20 goal scorer and leader with more potential to park along Mikko Koivu.
2010-11 Salary - $1,900,000
Drew Stafford has drawn the ire of many frustrated Buffalo fans over the past few seasons. With his production numbers decreasing every season until the 2010-2011 campaign, he’s been the topic of perennial trade deadline rumors.
Though he has shown promise this season with rejuvenated scoring, if the right deal came along, could he be had?
In a deal and sign situation, he would be due a raise, but still would be affordable. The potential problems include Buffalo hanging onto him, and what is perceived lethargy on a Minnesota team that values hard-work ethic over all.
2010-11 Salary - $1,800,000
After a summer of trade speculation, the Sharks signed young sniper Devin Setoguchi to a one year deal worth $1.8 million. While the speculation hinged on slipping production, the young winger stepped up this year to show why he was so coveted by other teams in the league.
Depending on the Shark’s playoff performance this year, he could be staying or going. If he goes, it will most likely be for defense, something the Sharks have yearly issues with and one of the few spots the Wild has plenty of depth.
2010-11 Salary - $900,000
RFA Niclas Bergfors has been an interesting case this season. Originally acquired by the Atlanta Thrashers in the Ilya Kovalchuk trade, Bergfors, though offensively talented, showed stunted point numbers and was sent to Florida at the deadline.
Whether or not he is in for Florida’s youth movement is uncertain. A low-risk, high-reward acquisition, Bergfors might be had for less than expected, the problem being he was offered to Minnesota more than once this past season, propositions GM Chuck Fletcher passed on.
At the end of another disappointing season for the Minnesota Wild, it is clearer than ever that the team is in desperate need of a game-changing scorer. Patient fans will insist that the Wild need to grow their own snipers and those who demand change will hope that GM Chuck Fletcher makes a splash. Something needs to change this summer and Minnesota fans know exactly what it is. Whether the team has the assets to trade or form an offer sheet is the real question.