Minnesota Wild: Do Porter, Carter, and Stoll Have a Future With the Wild?

Jan 2, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Minnesota Wild center Jarret Stoll (19) and center Ryan Carter (18) talk against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 2, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Minnesota Wild center Jarret Stoll (19) and center Ryan Carter (18) talk against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Minnesota Wild are laser focused this offseason in their pursuit to get forward help that will yield results on the scoresheet.  While doing that the Wild might be ignoring the fact that the fourth line needs an overhaul as the current players all need new contracts coming off of less than stellar years.

Much of the discussion during the offseason for the Minnesota Wild has revolved around how the team will plan on adding to the top nine forward group.  Little has been discussed about the Wild’s plan to fill out there fourth line.  Right now all three of the forwards who occupied the fourth line for most of the season are UFAs and the team will need to make some serious choices on who will go and who will stay.

For most of the 2015-16 season Jarret Stoll, Ryan Carter, and Chris Porter were the forward combination that played on the fourth line for the Wild.  Each player had what can only be called a tough season.  None of them were above 50% in Corsi or Fenwick possession stats, each one of them were a minus in plus/minus, and Carter was the high goal scorer among the group with seven goals.

Sure the you can argue that the roll of the fourth line is not necessarily to score, but rather to agitate and shutdown the top lines of the other team.  In the case of the Wild’s fourth line last season, they were unable to even do that.  Looking at the possession stats mixed with the plus/minus, you come to the blunt conclusion that they were not shutting anyone down and getting scored on more than half their shifts.

You could argue that their performance 5-on-5 is one thing, but that these three players have value on the penalty kill because of their skill set.  That was just not the case.  Stoll had 19 power play goals against, Carter had 16 power play goals against, and Porter had a better mark with 7 power play goals against.  Those numbers were a big reason the Wild found themselves 27th in the NHL penalty kill percentage.

So what should the Wild do about re-signing these players?  Are they still a viable part of the team going forward?  That really depends on where the Wild will be after they acquire help with the top nine forwards and if any of the young prospects in Iowa will be ready to step up.

The Wild should not really answer the question of retention on these three players until they have acquired the forward or forwards that will boost the scoring of the top three lines.  This is really for two reasons.

First, if you bring in anyone new to the top lines someone will get displaced and more than likely fall to the fourth line taking one to two spots from Stoll, Carter, or Porter.  Second, when new players are brought in they will change the face of the Wild’s salary cap numbers.  That will dictate how much the team can actually spend on the fourth line players, and ultimately will decide if retaining any of the current three fourth line forwards is financially viable.

As of today Stoll is 33, Carter is 32, and Porter is 32 and have seen declining performance in recent seasons.  The young talent of the Wild in Iowa is looking to get playing time in the NHL and might be a better performing cheaper option.  The name that comes to mind here is Tyler Graovac who is waiting to get back with the team after his opening day injury.  He offers a lower cost option that is ready to do great things in the NHL.

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Whatever the Wild decide to do with last years’ fourth liners, one thing is clear they can’t afford to have forwards who put up numbers like that any longer.  It’s hard to believe that all of them will be back again next year, but 1-2 of them could be offered a contract for next season soon.  Regardless it’s safe to say that at least one of them will not be back next season.  It’s a hard decision to make, but the fourth line needs to contribute, and as it was built last year it really did not.  Hence the need for the exit of some players, in favor of some new bodies who can perform.