Minnesota Wild: Pieces are in place as camp opens after eventful offseason

The Minnesota Wild wrapped up their inaugural Tom Kurvers Prospect Showcase, agreed to terms with Kirill Kaprizov all in the days before the team’s training camp opens.

It was a long offseason for the Minnesota Wild, one that was capped off with the eventual signing of Calder winner Kirill Kaprizov — just one day before camp started and two days before the Wild hit the ice.

The fact of the matter is Wild general manager Bill Guerin got it done.

Guerin and his staff seemed to check off all the boxes in terms of offseason needs. Maybe one that still glooms over the Wild is, who will become that No. 1 center?

Take a look at what happened this offseason for the Wild:

Tom Kurvers Prospect Showcase

After watching the Tom Kurvers Prospect Showcase I think I can speak for all in saying, stop getting excited for the future of this team. Instead get excited about the present. Marco Rossi and Matt Boldy put on a clinic for all fans to watch. Most importantly, the higher-ups.

With almost everybody from the hockey operations department watching the showcase, Boldy and Rossi did what they were supposed to do. Rossi recorded two goals and two assists in the two games, and Boldy two goals and one assist.

In the first game, Boldy set up Rossi for a beautiful goal. In the second, Rossi returned the favor and set up Boldy for a hard-fought finish.

The Wild have had numerous top prospects come to tournaments and prospect camps like Alex Tuch, Matt Dumba, Mikael Granlund, Joel Eriksson Ek, Tyler Cuma, James Sheppard, and Colton Gilles to name some.

Half  of the guys looked good and others not so much. But nobody dominated like Rossi and Boldy did.

Even Adam Beckman made a strong impact. The 20-year old prospect only recorded an assist during the two games against the Blackhawks, but definitely caught the eye of Guerin.

“I love his game” Guerin told the media following the wrap up of the prospect camp.

Beckman loves to shoot the puck, he recorded nine shots in the second game alone. Iowa Wild head coach Tim Army compares Beckman’s game to Colorado Avalanche forward Mikko Rantanen, with size, strength, and shot ability.

The 20-year old turned a lot of heads during the showcase and is someone to keep an eye on going forward.

The Trio Has Signed

Ever since the Wild were eliminated by the Vegas Golden Knights in seven games on May 28th, Guerin shifted his focus to re-signing the “so-called” trio.: center Joel Eriksson Ek and wingers Kevin Fiala and Kaprizov.  And all eventually were signed before the start of training camp.

Each signing presented itself differently though.

Signing the 2020 Calder Trophy winner was first priority for the Wild and rightfully so. Inking the 24-year old superstar was much harder than it seemed though. Taking roughly six months for Kaprizov to sign, both sides finally agreed on a deal.

As Michael Russo of the Athletic says it best, fans and the organization can breathe a whole lot easier now.

Fiala on the other hand presented a tricky challenge. Going into the offseason Fiala was likely thinking he would sign a long-term deal, based on the fact he has recorded 94 points in his last 114 games (two seasons) in a Wild sweater. It was the most out of any Wild player in that span.

The 25-year old winger yet again has to prove to management that he is an elite player that is worth giving a multi-year deal to. Look at it this way, the Wild are paying Fiala $5.1 million for next season, $150,000 less than Eriksson Ek.

Fiala is going to be real hungry during the 2021 season, where he will be looking to cash out big with a long-term deal.

Fiala is one of the best possession entry players in the league. Not only that, Fiala is even better at converting those possession entries into goals and scoring chances. Nonetheless, Fiala is in for a big 2021 season.

Eriksson Ek was a bit easier for Guerin to re-sign. A lot easier.

It only took the Wild three days to land the Sweedish center to an eight-year extension worth $42 Million ($5,250,000 AAV). 

Eriksson Ek is a big-time leader for the Wild, coming off an impressive 2020 season where he scored 19 goals, 3rd on the team in scoring. With his eight-year extension, Erikkson Ek is ready to show he can duplicate his previous season and provide the Wild with strong play from the middle, which the Wild desperately lack.

Roster Spots To Fill

With the buyouts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter; Nick Bonino, Marcus Johansson, Ian Cole, Brad Hunt, Luke Johnson, and Gerald Mayhew leaving for free agency along with Carson Soucy to the expansion draft. Bill Guerin has worked pretty hard at trying to fill the holes these players left.

There are still two significant roster spots that need to be filled on the Wild’s forward group, both of which could be top 6 roles. So who gets them?

Guerin addressed the media during the Kirill Kaprizov press conference, “we’ve made a lot of changes but I feel really good about it” Guerin said, “I think we are in a really good place right now, with a lot of new faces where players want to be here. I’m excited about this group.”

If former first-round picks Rossi and Boldy make the team out of camp, they will not be put on the bottom six. These are future Top 6 forward and will be played accordingly.

It will be interesting to see how Rossi and Boldy fair during training camp and preseason games against and with the “big guys”.  I wouldn’t count out Beckman either. Guerin loves the way Beckman plays and maybe he is the right fit to play on the second scoring line with Fiala.

Rossi, Boldy, Freddy Gaudreau, Beckman, Brandon Duhaime, and Victor Rask in my mind will all be battling for the two spots and opportunity to play with Fiala on the second line.

Final Thoughts

The 2021-2022 season is going to be quite a fun one for Wild fans and truly a big step in the right direction for this team going forward. The future is now Minnesota and we get to sit back and watch it all unfold in front of our eyes.

Buckle up Wild fans. This should be a good one.

All stats courtesy of evolving hockey and hockey reference.