It’s been a busy offseason for the Wild and general manager Bill Guerin, who has reshaped the club’s roster ahead of the 2020-21 NHL season … whenever it eventually gets going.
Other than the actual date of said start, perhaps the biggest question left unanswered revolves around who will wear the ‘C’ on their left shoulder on Opening Night.
It’s a question that hasn’t even needed to be asked in more than a decade, not since Mikko Koivu Jersey was named the franchise’s first permanent captain in October of 2009.
But with Koivu gone, now a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets after signing a one-year deal with the Wild’s expansion cousins this offseason, Minnesota has a leadership void for the first time in 11 years.
Guerin said on Thursday that he doesn’t have a timetable in terms of when he wants to name a captain, but did reveal some of the things that he’ll consider before making such a declaration.
“I think it’s important that the captain is someone who everybody respects,” Guerin said. “Somebody that shows up every night, somebody that has the team’s best interest at heart and somebody you can count on. I think we’ve got some good options. We’ve got some good players and some good people here, and it’s an important role.”
And Guerin should know. He was a captain himself during his playing career, wearing the ‘C’ for the New York Islanders for two seasons near the end of his career. He also served as an alternate captain for the Edmonton Oilers, Boston Bruins and Dallas Stars previously.
“It was one of the biggest honors that’s been given to me,” Guerin said. “To say that I was a captain of a storied franchise like the Islanders, it’s a really neat thing and it’s a special group.”
Bill Guerin served as captain of the New York Islanders for two seasons.
Bill Guerin served as captain of the New York Islanders for two seasons. Getty
The discussions on who might be in the mix have begun, Guerin said, but not in depth yet. The Wild is expected to have a captain in place by the start of training camp, but with no start date yet to the season, there is also no start date for the beginning of camp.
Conversations about a captain are expected to heat up over the next couple of weeks.
The Wild has a plethora of options to potentially choose from as it looks for its second full-time captain.
Zach Parise Jersey and Ryan Suter Jersey have each worn the ‘A’ since signing with the club on July 4, 2012. Parise served as captain of the New Jersey Devils for one season in 2011-12, leading the Devils to the Stanley Cup Final. He also served as captain of the United States men’s hockey team at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Suter twice served as a captain for Team USA, once at the Under-18 World Championships and at the 2005 World Junior Championships. He was an alternate captain for the Nashville Predators in his final three seasons there before signing with Minnesota.
Other potential candidates include Jared Spurgeon Jersey, the most tenured member of the Wild with Koivu now gone. Spurgeon debuted with the club in 2010 and has played in 653 games with the club, third-most in team history. He will begin the first year of a seven-year, $53 million contract this upcoming season.
Marcus Foligno Jersey is another. He’ll begin his fourth season with the Wild and is widely popular with teammates and is respected as a heart-and-soul player on the ice. Leadership comes naturally to Foligno because it seemingly runs in his blood; his brother, Nick, has been Columbus’ captain for the past five seasons, while his father, Mike, spent three years as captain of the Buffalo Sabres from 1988-1991.
Mats Zuccarello Jersey wore an ‘A’ for a year and a half with the New York Rangers before being traded to Dallas in 2019. He signed with the Wild the following summer.
Players trickle back into town
In addition to the sizeable contingent of Minnesota-based players who have been in town for much of the offseason, a steady stream of others will continue to arrive over the next couple of weeks.
With TRIA Rink now open on a limited basis for players to skate, a handful of them are taking advantage. Among those skating at the team’s practice facility include Foligno, Spurgeon, Suter, Nick Bonino Jersey, Brad Hunt Jersey, Nick Bjugstad Jersey, Jordan Greenway Jersey, Victor Rask Jersey and Nico Sturm Jersey.
Rask and Sturm just recently arrived from Europe, as did Kirill Kaprizov Jersey, who got to the Twin Cities on Wednesday and will spend the next couple of days looking for a place to live and to get settled. He’ll need four consecutive negative tests for COVID-19 before he’s able to take part in skates at TRIA Rink as well.
No return date has been scheduled yet for fellow Europeans Jonas Brodin Jersey, Kevin Fiala Jersey and Marcus Johansson Jersey, or Canadian Cam Talbot Jersey, and Guerin is fine with that. His only rule has been that guys on their own are getting their work in daily, getting some ice time and that they arrive on time whenever camp and a season gets scheduled.
American-based players Matt Dumba Jersey (Arizona), Ryan Hartman Jersey (Illinois) and Greg Pateryn Jersey (California) will return to Minnesota and begin a seven-day quarantine once a start-date has been announced.
“There’s no mandatory date to be here by, and knowing the guys like I do now, I have complete faith in them that they’re going to show up in shape and ready to go,” Guerin said. “They did for the hockey in the summer and there’s no question that they’ll do it now.”