The Minnesota Wild have had an interesting start to their off-season between buying out the contracts of both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, and having what some people call the highest ranked goaltender fall to them in the draft at #20 overall. The Minnesota Wild draft was very successful in my opinion; however, the question mark that looms over the organization is will Kirill Kaprizov resign with the team following his outstanding Calder season?
As far as moving in the correct direction with the team I think General Manager Bill Guerin has done everything he can to right the ship of the Wild. The organization was ousted by the Vegas Golden Knights in seven games this previous post-season. The team always finds a way to make it into the playoffs; however, the weakness of depth became obvious during the playoff series as the Wild scored only one goal or less in three of the games against Vegas. Addressing scoring depth and defense seemed to be one of the major concerns for the Wild this off-season.
Let us start with the Draft, as most teams decided to go with big defensemen or speedy forwards, the Wild received a gift in the first round of the 2021 draft. Goaltender Jesper Wallstedt fell to the Wild at pick #20 overall and GM Bill Guerin and his scouting team could not pass it up. With Goaltenders Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kahkonen already on the roster, the Wild will be able to take their time in the development with Wallstedt. The goaltender ended up being the second goalie off the board following only Sebastian Cossa, which was selected at #15 by the Detroit Red Wings. Jesper stands 6’3” and is around 212lbs and just came off a great year in the SHL with Lulea HF were he posted a 2.23 GAA and a .908 SV%, Not bad for being only 18 years of age. If I had to guess, you will not see him in a Wild jersey this year or even with Iowa for that matter. I can see Guerin keeping him over in the SHL so he can continue to grow and mature. Expect to see him make his North American Debut sometime during the 2022-23 season.
The Wild were lucky enough to actually have two first round picks this season and ended up grabbing Carson Lambos a defenseman at #26 overall. The 6’1” defender has been playing in the WHL for the Winnipeg Ice where he accumulated 32 points in 57 games played. As it was for most Canadian players, Lambos did travel overseas and joined the JYP U20 out of Finland. He played in 13 games for them and accumulated 11 points. You have to give credit to Carson or any Canadian hockey player that had to pick up and move during the pandemic to better their game and get the exposure these type of players deserve.
The last player that I wanted to point out is Jack Peart the Defenseman taken in the 2nd round #54 overall. That last name should ring some bells, as Jack won Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey. It appears he will be continuing his hockey career with St Cloud State next season. Peart just finished a great season for the Grand Rapids High School tallying 35 points in only 18 games. He also was able to play in 24 regular-season games with the Fargo Force of the USHL, were he gathered 15 points from his blue line position. Jack is a little undersized compared to some of the other Defenseman taken in this year’s draft and looks to make up for it by being an agile skater and having a good two-way game. He joins the likes of Casey Mittelstadt, Nick Bjugstad, Nick Leddy, and Ryan McDonagh as active players who have also won the award of Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey.
Other players taken in this year’s draft by Minnesota include
Caedan Bankier – C – 3rd Round – #86
Kyle Masters – D – 4th Round – #118
Josh Pillar – C – 4th Round – #127
Nate Benoit – D – 6th Round – #182
Free Agency is set to kickoff this Wednesday. The Minnesota Wild have extended qualifying offers to Kaprizov, Fiala, Shaw, Bitten and Duhaime. Obviously, the biggest name of this list is Kirill who has already turned down an 8-year contract offer from the Wild, Per Michael Russo of The Athletic.
From Kirill’s side of things I can understand not wanting to be locked into a long-term deal. It is only a matter of time before the salary cap goes up with the new television deal with ESPN as well as fans being back in the stadiums. Locking himself into an 8-year deal with a flat salary amount gives him very little negotiating power when the salary cap does rise. In my opinion, I think you will see him resign, however it will be for only a 3-4 year deal.
Even with this short of a contract, it is still a win for both sides. Minnesota is able to remain a contender for the time being, Kaprizov gets the deal he wants, and he is able to renegotiate in 4 years when the salary cap is higher. Only time will tell what the young Russian superstar chooses to do.