The Minnesota Wild are headed into their first offseason since making the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in five years with one of the most expensive contract charts in the league. That said, there is the touchy business of choosing to sign or release free agents.
If you’ve been reading Gone Puck Wild the past few weeks, you likely read our series covering Minnesota’s UFAs. Now it’s time to take a look at the RFAs. This year, forwards Cody Almond, Joel Broda, Cal Clutterbuck, Justin Fontaine, Mikko Lehtonen, David McIntyre, Carson McMillan and Jarod Palmer, defensemen Tyler Cuma, Steven Kampfer, Bjorn Krupp, Kyle Medvec, Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon and goaltender Dennis Endras are all RFAs.
For the purposes of going more in-depth, this article has been split into a series that will cover the Forwards, Defensemen and Goaltenders in three different articles. So, without further ado:
Bjorn Krupp was signed as an undrafted free agent to a three-year entry level deal by Minnesota in 2009. Since then, he has shown no sign of being anything more than a decent depth call-up. Minnesota has plenty of those within the system, thus the transition to Germany’s DEL after three seasons of play in the OHL. In this writer’s personal opinion, his contract would be put to better use on someone else. Prediction: left unsigned.
Kyle Medvec is a hulking 6’5″ 190-pound defenseman drafted in the 4th round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He’s also a Minnesota native, and we know that makes up for any lapses in play, just ask Tom Gilbert! That was a terrible jab, I know, but the fact of the matter is that being a Minnesota native doesn’t mean you should automatically play for the Minnesota Wild…unless we’re talking Zach Parise and Matt Cullen. Those are no-brainers.
In all seriousness, Medvec is another great depth blue liner with great size and a good shot. While he’ll likely never make the Wild’s fulltime lineup, he’s a great defenseman to have in the system, whether it’s in Des Moines or Orlando. Prediction: signed.
Now we come to four young defensemen that have had or have the potential to make a significant impact with Minnesota–Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella, Steven Kampfer and Tyler Cuma. This is where things get very interesting for the Minnesota Wild.
Jared Spurgeon is the Wild’s undisputed No. 3 defenseman, it goes without saying that the team will re-sign him. At 5’9″ 185-pounds, Spurgeon is certainly among the smallest defensemen in the NHL, but he hasn’t let his size dictate the way he plays. Spurgeon, 23, is a very mobile two-way defender with good instincts and a surprisingly hard slap shot from the point.
Drafted in the 6th round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Islanders, Jared played five seasons with the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL and was signed out of prospect camp by the Wild after going unsigned by the Isles. In fact, before the signing of Ryan Suter and the emergence of Swedish Sensation Jonas Brodin, Spurgeon was arguably Minnesota’s No. 1 defenseman. In 70 games, he potted three goals and chipped in 20 assists for 23 points and a negative-4 rating while averaging 21:35 of ice-time per game in leading all of Minnesota’s defensive corps in the 2011-12 season. Not bad for a 22-year old kid, eh?
Quite simply, it’s not a matter of should Minnesota re-sign him; Minnesota must sign him. The problem is that he will no doubt want more than his EL cap hit of $526,666. However, if he truly wants to stay in Minnesota–and there’s no other team that will give him as much time as he has been receiving with the Wild–there’s no doubt in my mind that a reasonable deal will be reached. Prediction: Spurgeon isn’t going to be wearing any other sweater than Forest Green for a long time.
With Spurgeon locked up, Marco Scandella is the next decision. Unlike Spurgeon, Scandella brings a big frame to the table in addition to his play. At 6’3″ 210-pounds, Marco uses his size in frustrating fashion as he shuts down opposing skaters. He also wields a heavy point shot and has developed great chemistry with Spurgeon.
Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Marco has quickly elevated his game over that of 2008 1st rounder Tyler Cuma and played a key role in limiting 2007 1st overall pick Patrick Kane in Minnesota’s first round series against the Chicago Blackhawks last month. After playing just six regular season games this season, Scandella played all five playoff games for Minnesota, scoring a goal and an assist for two points and a negative-1 rating.
Minnesota has struggled finding a legitimate top-4 defenseman to pair with Spurgeon, Scandella may finally be the permanent solution. Prediction: signed.
Wild GM Chuck Fletcher may have fleeced the Bruins when he aquired youngster Steven Kampfer in the trade that saw rugged shot blocker Greg Zanon shipped off to Boston. At 5’11” 196-pounds, Kampfer is slightly undersized for a defenseman, but plays with a low center of gravity and is offensive-minded. He can unleash a surprisingly heavy slapper from the point and isn’t afraid to make or take an explosive hit.
Kampfer has the potential the be a legitimate top-4 NHL defender, I’m just not so sure that’s going to happen in a Wild sweater. He’ll certainly log a lot of minutes in Des Moines next season. Prediction: signed, but potential trade bait at some point.
Tyler Cuma–what can you say–the man is nearly as injury prone as Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Between a bad combination of injuries, bad luck and more talented prospects emerging with each new draft, Cuma has played just one game in the NHL. However, it wasn’t bad by any means as he played with the poise and confidence of a veteran while notching two penalty minutes and an even plus-minus rating in 11:09 of ice-time against the Blackhawks on April 5th, 2012. However, he’s certainly not the top defensive prospect he was drafted to be with Spurgeon, Scandella, Brodin and now Mathew Dumba ahead of him in the system.
Prediction: Cuma is given one last shot at proving he deserves to wear a Wild sweater. By the way, whatever you do, don’t look at the list of NHLers drafted after him in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. If you do, keep a box of tissues close at hand.
That wraps up the Wild’s RFA Defensemen. Be sure to check back as Gone Puck Wild breaks down the Goaltenders next.