If you told me on December 1st, 2018 that the Minnesota Wild (14-9-2 at the time) would finish dead last in the Central Division, I would have politely disagreed.
St. Louis was in the midst of one of their worst starts in franchise history, and Chicago’s terrorizing of Minnesota was now just a fading memory. that, and the angst of the executives of the Dallas Stars growing dissatisfaction with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn would become public by the end of the month. The Wild were 6-3 in Central Division Collections (Good for 3rd at the time), Matt Dumba was healthy, and Nino was still on the Wild. The Athletic’s Sean McIndoe listed the Wild as the Third Best Team in the NHL.
Things weren’t good. They were great.
We know the story from there. Dumba and Koivu get hurt, Paul Fenton moves fan favorites, and the Wild fall short of the postseason. While it is a shame the Wild don’t get to contend for Lord Stanley, they do get to reinforce their future with a 12th overall draft pick. Also, after signing RFAs, they will have about $12 million to make splashes in the Unrestricted Free Agent market. I’ve made it my cross to bear to analyze and assess the top 15 (plus noteworthy mentions) UFAs, according to my scoring matrix.
More from Gone Puck Wild
- Case Study: Assessing Marcus Foligno’s Defensive Game
- Gone Wild Mailbag: Dumba Trades, Center Options, and Goal Songs
- Minnesota Wild Trade Eric Staal to Buffalo Sabres for Marcus Johansson
- Have You Heard Of The Lindberg? Wild Goalie Prospect Shows Promise
- State of the Wild: Brodin Extension, Bjugstad Trade, and Soucy’s Situation
Before going into the scoring rubric, I must address a few liberties I took while compiling this list. First, I viewed the UFA signing period as a closed market. Teams won’t trade with one another, so Fenton won’t move anyone (such as Jason Zucker or Jared Spurgeon), but the UFAs still have autonomy on where they end up signing. Building off that, I removed certain positions from the list. I excluded defensemen from the process, as the Wild are not losing any of the top 6 defensemen that started the season (should be noted that Brad Hunt, Anthony Bitteto, and Nate Prosser are all UFAs, likely only one will be resigned).
Yes, it would be nice to sign Erik Karlsson. Is it likely, given the depth at the position? Not at all. The other position excluded was Goalies. Devan Dubnyk’s contract expires in 2020-2021, Stalock past that, and Kaapo Kahkonen and Mat Robson (Ski-U-Mah) are both RFAs after 2019-2020. A high-profile goalie is not a concern for the Wild right now.
I’ve centered the Rubric’s Criteria around the Wild’s main concern: Scoring. The Wild finished with 211 Goals For, putting them 33 goals below the League Average, and 27 out of 31 in the league, ahead of the Dallas Stars and Phoe-ahem-Arizona Coyotes (tied with 209 goals), Los Angeles Kings (199 goals), and the Anaheim Ducks (196 goals). I designed the rubric around rewarding UFAs that scored more goals, contributed assists, and are in a desirable age range. Other statistics, characteristics, and intangibles/author bias measured include games played last season, average time on ice, handedness, my perception of the likelihood they come to the Wild, and my personal opinion of the player.
I’ll be revealing the top 15 in groups of 3 over the next couple of days; for today, I am showcasing the Honorable and Dishonorable Mentions from the UFA pool and my scoring process.