Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Minnesota Wild and those players who are free agents…who to re-sign?

Hockey season’s over. The draft is around the corner (actually, the NHL Draft is this weekend). However, the free-agency period starts on July 1st and the Wild have some decisions to make on some of their players who are eligible for free agency.

As of today, the Wild have about $12 million in salary cap space for seven roster spots.

So, who should the Wild look at re-signing? Here is my top-three list of the players the Wild should re-sign:

#1. Devan Dubnyk

Devan Dubnyk has made it clear that he loves it here in Minnesota and he wants to remain with the Minnesota Wild. We all know about the miraculous run the Wild had after he was acquired back in January.

The reason why I am saying that Dubnyk should be re-signed is because of the goaltending mess before Dubnyk arrived with Backstrom and Kuemper. As of right now, I don’t see Backstrom playing again in a Wild sweater (he had elbow surgery in the off season and that affects the Wild’s ability to buy him out of the last year on his contract). Kuemper did have a good start to the 2014-15 season (opening the season with back-to-back shut outs against Colorado), but his inconsistency reared its ugly head and he failed big-time when he was given the chance to take over as the Wild’s top goaltender. In addition, there is speculation that Josh Harding is going to retire. (Harding did not play a single game in a Wild uniform this past season and it was the last year of his contract).

All I am going to say on the contract talks is that both sides are talking this week.

**Update** Dubnyk was awarded the 2014-15 Masterton Trophy at the NHL awards. He is the second Wild player in three years to be awarded the Masterton Trophy (named for the late Minnesota North Star Bill Masterton). Josh Harding was awarded it back in 2013.

#2. Chris Stewart

I know right off the bat here that this isn’t going to sit well with a lot of people, especially with Stewart being a “streaky” player and the questions about his effort and consistency.

The reason why I believe the Wild should make an attempt to re-sign him is that he brought a physical presence to the Wild that they haven’t had in a while. He is another free-agent who is hoping to return to the Wild next season.

Mike Yeo said this of Stewart during the play-offs, “He's a guy that has a physical edge. He's a big body. He's going to play the game hard.” The Wild haven’t had that in a while and it was great to see the Wild bring someone like him in, especially because he stands up for his teammates on the ice.

He was hampered by a separated shoulder during the series against Chicago, which he did try to play through before missing games 3 and 4.

However, Stewart could have potential suitors this free-agency period other than the Wild. So, the above mentioned cap space limitations for the Wild could come into play.

#3. Mikael Granlund

I know that Mikael Granlund is a restricted free agent and his name has been mentioned as a possible trade candidate. I think right now that the Wild will re-sign him, and depending how he does during the upcoming 2015-16 season, he could possibly end up being traded—which I know isn’t a popular decision.

From what has been reported, Granlund is only looking for a short-term deal and he will probably get it.

This is what was recently written about Granlund (and some of this is obvious to Wild fans):

 “On the other hand, he is small by NHL standards, doesn’t have elite speed, chooses to pass when he should shoot too often and has missed significant time with several different upper body injuries, most notably at least one concussion. In addition to failing to developing into a No. 1 center through three seasons, it sounds as though his camp will be seeking that kind of money. The Wild don’t have it and need him to prove capable of being a consistent and healthy top center before they can think about giving it to him.”

Granlund needs to prove that he can produce and he can stay healthy before any team will give him a long term deal.

Key NHL Dates (from NHL.com):

June 26-27 NHL Draft, BB&T Center, Sunrise, FL
July 1 Free agency begins at 12 PM ET
July 5 Deadline for player-elected arbitration notification at 5 PM ET
July 6 Deadline for club-elected arbitration notification at 5 PM ET

August 6 Deadline for arbitration decisions to be rendered 

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