Welcome to Part 1 of 5 of the top fifteen Unrestricted Free Agents available this offseason. If you don’t exactly know what this project is about, read the prelude for the explanation of the process and look at the noteworthy players who missed the cut here.
Throughout this process, clear distinctions of groups and classes of forwards became apparent. You had your stereotypical cold-blooded scorers, dazzling playmakers, or thunderous power forwards. Some of those same players are certified all-stars, distinguished captains, and/or prime-aged skaters looking to earn big unrestricted contracts.
With the roughly $12 Million the Minnesota Wild have to spend ($19 Million but RFAs must be resigned), they could realistically sign any of the UFAs available. What they need is a consistent, reliable, late 20’s-early 30’s scoring threat. The Wild have only had 5 skaters score 30 goals in a season: Eric Staal and Jason Zucker in 2017-2018, Zach Parise in 2014-2015, Jason Pominville 2013-2014, Brian Rolston in the three seasons from 2005-2008, and the prodigious one, Marian Gaborik from 2001-2003 and 2005-2008.
After Marian Gaborik left for bigger markets, the strategy of Wild GMs and Coaches was securing scoring potential throughout the lineup, sometimes passing on the “Game Breaker, Clutch-Time” forward that could score at any point when on the ice. Parise was brought in to be that player, but either the inability to stay healthy or the inability to build an effective scoring group around him has only generated one 30 goal season, whereas, in New Jersey, he had 5 in 7 seasons, including one 45 goal season which would be the franchise record in Minnesota.
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The solution for the Wild scoring woes will likely not be found in the first trio. These UFAs are all in their late 20s or 30, all played in at least 78 games last season, and all possess the ability to score, but only one of them has had a 30 goal season and he’s done it twice. This could be because of the overall performance of the teams they once were on and/or the previous roles and responsibilities they had on their squads. They aren’t the silver bullets the Wild desperately need, but they could add scoring potential similar to what Nino, Charlie, and Granny had. Is that the best thing for the Wild? Wellllllllll. We saw how it worked for 6 years. But who knows? If Paul Fenton could sign one or two of these early ranked players on good deals, I wouldn’t be against it.