We’re closing in on the end of July and the Minnesota Wild still have some moves to make. The Wild are without a veteran fourth-line center. They have some talented young players who are looking to crack the lineup, but veteran depth never hurts. Matt Cullen has been on the Wild’s radar for most of the summer. However, Cullen is still deciding on whether to return for another 82-game season or not. There are other and possibly better options out there for the Wild to consider.
As of right now, former Nashville Predator Mike Fisher is still without a job. He, like Cullen, is still deciding on his future with the NHL. Even if Fisher does decide to return, the Predators may not have space for him. With the Predators getting younger as a team, Fisher’s time in Nashville could be coming to an end. If this is the case, the Wild should consider signing Fisher.
What Fisher Brings
Fisher is a tremendous two-way center. He plays the game smartly and efficiently. He works well on both ends of the ice and he is an excellent penalty killer. Fisher has played 17 seasons in the NHL. During that time, he has had six 20-plus goal campaigns, scoring 276 goals and 585 points in 1,088 games played.
Fisher would bring more stability to the faceoff dot, where he has won over 50 percent of his draws throughout his career. That includes winning 52 percent or better in four straight seasons. The Wild have a roster full of players who have been to the postseason for the past five years, but more playoff experience couldn’t hurt. Fisher has his fair share of playoff experience. He has also been the captain of the Predators for the past several seasons. Fisher would be a very important voice in the Wild locker room as well as on the ice.
Looking at the Future
The Wild have several young centers coming down the pipe. Joel Eriksson Ek and Luke Kunin will both have an opportunity to make the team this year. Knowing how the Wild generally don’t like to rush their prospects, my guess is that Kunin will start the season in the AHL. That leaves Mikko Koivu, Eric Staal, Eriksson Ek, and newly acquired Tyler Ennis as your four centers.
If the Wild brought Fisher in, they could move Eriksson Ek to wing. This would give him time to adjust to the fast-paced game at the NHL level while not having to worry about the additional responsibilities that come along with playing the center position.
A big determining factor on whether or not the Wild were to add a guy like Fisher all depends on what happens with captain Mikko Koivu. He’s entering the final year of his contract. A deal that was paying Koivu an average of $6.75 million per year, his future is now becoming uncertain. Younger guys are coming of age and Koivu isn’t getting any younger. If the Wild were to bring in Fisher on a two or three-year deal, that would almost certainly spell the end for Koivu and his time with the Wild.
Having two centers over the age of 35 with young talent in the waiting wouldn’t make much sense for the Wild. My guess is that the Wild would want to bring Koivu back on a two-year deal after next season at a discounted price. If they end up going that route, a one-year deal would make the most sense to offer Fisher.