Let us take a step back for a minute. Let’s not focus on the fact our star player is yet to be signed. Let’s look past the fact the team comes into the season with a dead cap space hit of 46.9 million in the next four seasons. We also now need to look past the fact we might have the worst Winter Classic jerseys to date. Yes, the Minnesota Wild are not off to what I would call a “hot start” this off-season however we do have a lot to look forward to this upcoming year. The team is poised to be a playoff team this upcoming season whether Kirill resigns or not. Now, don’t get me wrong, resigning a player of that caliber should absolutely still be the top priority for General Manager Bill Guerin, but in the meantime we can focus on some upcoming important dates as well as some upcoming position battles that we could see once camp starts.
The Minnesota Wild will kick off their training camp in a couple of weeks and there are still questions as far as who will be lined up with who. The only real sealed deal with this team is goaltender Cam Talbot will be your day one starter other than that, the door is open. To me the most glaring competition will be for the 2nd line center position. With Eriksson Ek taking the role of #1 center, that leaves a competing for the remaining faceoff men. Currently the Wild have Rask, Hartman, Gaudreau, and Bjugstad as other center options. The name that has been getting many looks this offseason is center iceman Marco Rossi. The 19 year old has a real chance of not only making the opening day roster but also forcing his way up the depth chart. Minnesota is looking at around 12.2 million in cap space remaining and Kaprizov still unsigned, I believe one of the names above will be the second line center as well as an important part of the second power play unit.
The Defensemen for the Minnesota Wild are a little more obvious as far as who is paired with who and who ends up on the roster come opening night. The biggest question will be, how is the team planning to replace Ryan Suter? The captain Jared Spurgeon will lead the charge in the first pairing, alongside him I could see the veteran Alex Goligoski who was signed to a one-year deal just this offseason. The 35 year old has 429 points in his career from the blue-line and has been part of the power play for every team he has played for including Pittsburgh, Dallas, and Arizona. The second pairing is where you could see some rotation from the team. Jonas Brodin is my guess who will lead the second pairing on the left hand side, alongside him I am expecting to see Matt Dumba on the right side. You may see Kulikov rotate through that second pairing as well. The third pairing may be the most interesting competition on the back end for the Wild. The team signed Jordie Benn, Jon Merrill, and Kulikov this offseason, which means one of them will not be playing on a nightly basis. Merrill is coming off a Stanley Cup Finals appearance with the Montreal Canadiens. Jordie Benn is coming over from Winnipeg, where he tallied just two points since joining the team. He was acquired from a trade between Vancouver and the Jets. One small advantage that Benn has in this battle is he can play both Left and Right side of the blue line. Dmitry Kulikov signed a one-year 2.25 million dollar contract this off-season with the Wild, however this may not guarantee him a solidified spot on this third pairing. In 48 games played last season Kulikov only tallied 4 points between stints with New Jersey and Edmonton. This is my prediction on how things will shake out.
1st pair – Jared Spurgeon & Alex Goligoski
2nd pair – James Brodin & Matt Dumba
3rd pair – Dmitry Kulikov & Jordie Benn
Odd man out – Jon Merrill
Upcoming camp will determine a lot with this team, signing Kirill is not the only thing on Bill Guerin’s plate this off-season. The team will look to continue averaging over three goals a game while continuing the team’s recent run as a playoff contender. The Wild have an uphill battle, as teams will go back to their original divisions this season, which means the Colorado Avalanche will be the obvious favorite in the Central Division. We will soon find out what roster the team thinks can not only compete in the division, but also dethrone Colorado’s recent run of dominance.Embed from Getty Images