The Central Division doesn't get any easier with the Wild improving either, as this division will likely beat each other into a bloody pulp and it will be a war of attrition b the end of the year. This means that the question may be whether or not the Wild will have enough depth to last the 82 games. The Wild certainly have some quality front-end skill, but that will only get a team in this league so far.
For us poolies, I think the Wild have a good enough crew to pick from throughout the draft and we might see some really good bargains in the pick department. By my count, the Wild have a real opportunity to make some noise, as this team has done a great job of assembling a good mix of consistent scorers, timely scorers and occasional scorers.
Will it be their year? Well, I think with another move or two, they could definitely work their way into the conversation.
|Forwards||14/15 Proj||Cap Hit||Defense||14/15 Proj||Cap Hit||Goaltenders||14/15 Proj||Cap Hit|
|Zach Parise||70||7.538||Ryan Suter||55||7.538||Niklas Backstrom||65||3.417|
|Mikko Koivu||65||6.750||Jared Spurgeon||35||2.667||Josh Harding||10||1.900|
|Thomas Vanek||65||6.500||Jonas Brodin||25||0.894|
|Jason Pominville||60||5.600||Marco Scandella||20||1.025|
|Mikael Granlund||45||0.900||Keith Ballard||15||1.500|
|BUYOUTS & OTHER||0.700|
|Justin Fontaine||30||1.000||Matt Dumba||5||0.894|
|Jason Zucker||20||0.900||Jonathon Blum||5||0.675|
|Jordan Schroeder||15||0.600||Christian Folin||5||0.925|
First Round Picks
The full team approach, much like the Boston Bruins go about business, is slowly becoming more popular among teams. Sure, the Minnesota Wild have some top end talent, but the commitment to the team game has been their bread and butter over the last couple of seasons. Despite some very high profile and high cost signings, this team plays like one and it is difficult to play against. For us poolies, however, it doesn't allow for many players to lift themselves into the upper echelon of scoring, so this season, I wouldn't be looking to Minnesota for pool players in the 1st round.
Most Intriguing or Breakout Player
What happens in the net for the Minnesota Wild this season? That has to be the biggest question, which leads me to believe that Niklas Backstrom is the most intriguing player on the team, because he could have quite the upswing of points after an injury-plagued 2014. With so much doubt surrounding crease-mate, Josh Harding, Backstrom somewhat has to be the lead candidate for the number one job again for the Wild, given that he has had time to get over an injury that has a better potential for being fully healed. What kind of season will he have? That is up to him at the end of the day, but the Wild management team has done a good job giving him the tools to earn those wins.
Other Pool Worthy Forwards
The Wild are rocking some good top end depth in Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville, and these four could be spread through the first few rounds of the draft quite easily. These guys do have a fair bit of consistency and should be relatively safe picks. You may not be able to get these guys at bargain spots, but if you get them in the right spot, they shouldn't let you down. I am expecting some small improvements from Mikael Granlund and Charlie Coyle, making them into some quality depth players.
Other Pool Worthy Defense
The Wild will have one good defender for the blueline arms race in Ryan Suter, who should be one of the earlier taken defenders in the draft. Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin certainly have enough upside to be good options in the draft as well, a little bit further down, but they'll still be good. Beyond the top three, they do have some options that could work their way into worthiness, as Marco Scandella could be close and who ever fills the number six spot, he could have enough upside to jump into the top four as well.
Currently, I have the situation weighted heavily on Backstrom's side, but some reports of Harding's return to the crease have been very positive, which is great news, but being that we're betting people here, what Harding is dealing with his quite significant and no matter how valiant of an effort he puts forward, there is going to be a cloud hanging over, one that brings a sense of dread and doom. If there is a report that surfaces that Harding does have a better handle on his illness
Team To Pick From?
The open roster spots does lead me to believe that there is a chance that there could be some more depth that we could choose from at draft day. Once we get a better idea of what is going to happen with the lines and pairings, we could get a better indication of the chemistry that we might see on the ice. This does give a lot of potential to deeper picks, if we were to need them from this side.
Unsigned Players and Salary Cap
The Wild have a couple of key unsigned restricted free agents going into the 2015 season, as forward Nino Niederreiter and goaltender Darcy Kuemper are still on the shelf without deals and both played a pretty big part in the Wild's run in the playoffs last year. Niederreiter finally showed some regular flashes of his talents after his move to Minnesota and Kuemper provided more than enough support for his injured teammates in the crease last year. Both will likely be leaned upon in 2015, assuming they have new deals.
In terms of cap space, the Wild may have spent a ton on a few players, but they have managed to keep costs down otherwise. Still, with seven roster spots remaining to fill, they have $14.9 million in space, leaving more than $2 million per roster spot and I think it is safe to assume that they will fill some more of those spots with their own depth at reasonable rates. This could mean they'll have plenty of space to play with at the deadline.
Defenseman Keith Ballard had a tough 2014 season, due to injuries, and in June he underwent surgery to repair a sports hernia. Ballard was expected to be ready for the 2015 season, likely only needing a few weeks to recover.