The 2018-19 season for the Minnesota Wild did not go as planned. For the first time in seven years the Wild found themselves on their couches watching the playoffs.
The train went off the rails when they lost defenseman Matt Dumba for the season with a ruptured pectoral muscle. The Wild had a record of 17-13-2 at the time of his injury.
Following his injury, they went 20-23-7 as general manager Paul Fenton tried to reshape the roster on the fly with trades of Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter. Those trades brought in Ryan Donato, Kevin Fiala and Victor Rask.
That roster makeover continued on the opening day of free agency when the Wild signed forwards Mats Zuccarello and Ryan Hartman.Both moves figure to give the Wild’s 27th-ranked scoring offense a shot in the arm.
The Rundown on Zuccarello
Zuccarello, the highest scoring Norweigian in NHL history, signed a five-year, $30-million deal to play for the Wild. He comes over from the Dallas Stars after being traded to them by the New York Rangers last season.
In 13 playoff games for the Stars this past season, the 5-foot-8 forward accounted for four goals and seven assists. One of those goals was a game-winner for the Stars in Game 1 of the opening round against the Nashville Predators.
For a team that lacks scoring punch and playmakers, Zuccarello will be a welcome sight on the ice. The Wild were shut out 11 times last season. Zuccarello and his playmaking ability will surely help remedy that. In nine seasons, he has 355 points.
One cause for concern with this contract is the length of it. A five-year deal for a player who will be 32 before camp opens can be viewed as risky. However, prior to last season, Zuccarello played in 77 or more games in the previous five seasons.
The Rundown on Hartman
Hartman, a right-shot forward, signed a two-year deal to bring his talents to the State of Hockey. The former first-round pick spent this past season with the Predators and Chicago Blackhawks. He finished the season with 12 goals and 14 assists.
The 24-year-old is described as a player who can get underneath the opponent’s skin. It was apparent watching the Wild a year ago that they need to play with more of an edge and Fenton is hoping that Hartman will bring much-needed toughness to this Wild team.
The roster reshaping likely isn’t done for Fenton and company this offseason. They may look to trade one of their many left-shot wingers. They will likely continue to engage in talks with Jared Spurgeon on a new deal, or they may even look to trade the defenseman if the right offer presents itself.
Wild owner Craig Leipold has said that the goal is to get back to the postseason in 2020. These two signings are steps in the right direction for a team with plenty of veteran experience on the roster. It’s a safe assumption that veterans like Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are itching to get back to postseason play. It’s also a safe bet that both veterans were smiling ear to ear when the news broke of these two moves.
The Wild made two other minor moves on the first day of free agency by signing a pair of players to two-way contracts. They signed forward Gabriel Dumont to a two-year contract. They also signed center Luke Johnson to a two-year contract.
Dumont recorded 43 points for the Tampa Bay Lightning’s AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. Johnson, meanwhile, recorded one assist for the Blackhawks this past season.