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With the 2021 NHL season fast approaching, it’s time to take a deep look at the newly aligned West division to see how the Colorado Avalanche are set to fare against their seven regular season opponents this year.

In my last piece, I looked at a somewhat competitive Los Angeles Kings roster that also has one of the best prospect pools in hockey, and will likely play in a lot of spoiler games this year.

Next up, the Minnesota Wild.

Colorado Avalanche v Minnesota Wild
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images
Minnesota Wild (35-27-7) 6th in Central
Team Stats (2019-2020)
GF: 220 (15th in NHL), GA: 220 (22nd in NHL), PP%: 21.3% (11th in NHL), PK%: 77.2% (25th in NHL)
Team Stats vs Avalanche (2019-2020)
2-2-0 (.500P%, 13 GF, 13 GA, 3.25 GF/G, 3.25 GA/G)
Players to Watch
Kevin Fiala Jersey – 64gp 23g 31a 54p
Stats vs West Division (2019-2020): 20gp 8g 10a 18p

Stats vs Avalanche (2019-2020): 4gp 1g 3a 4p

Ryan Suter Jersey – 69gp 8g 40a 48p
Stats vs West Division (2019-2020): 21gp 4g 10a 14p

Stats vs Avalanche (2019-2020): 4gp 2g 3a 5p

Jared Spurgeon Jersey – 62gp 12g 20a 32p
Stats vs West Division (2019-2020): 19gp 4g 6a 10p

Stats vs Avalanche (2019-2020): 4gp 1g 1a 2p

Of the teams that made a coaching change during the 2019-20 season, the Minnesota Wild are clearly one of the clubs that had something great going with the replacement. And prior to the season restart, the team removed the interim tag from Dean Evason’s job title.

The Wild ran into a razor-hot Vancouver Canucks club in the qualification round, so their bubble journey ended quickly. What will the 2020-21 season bring? Here’s everything you need to know prior to opening night:

Big question: Is this a playoff team?
The Wild were roped into the postseason through the 24-team tournament expansion last summer; otherwise, their .558 points percentage wasn’t enough to make the cut. But this Minnesota team, coached by last year’s interim boss Dean Evason, should be better than that edition. The Wild added offense to a group that has a rising star in Kevin Fiala; and, in Cam Talbot, have improved their goaltending in back of a defense whose analytics were some of the best in the league last season.

NHL Goalie Depth
Alex Stalock Jersey – 38gp, 20-11-4, 2.67gaa, .910sv%, 4so
Stats vs West Division (2019-2020): 9gp, 5-3-0, 2.54gaa, .916sv%, 1so

Stats vs Avalanche (2019-2020): 1gp, 1-0-0, 2.01gaa, .926sv%, 0so

Cam Talbot – 26gp, 12-10-1, 2.63gaa, .919sv%, 2so
Stats vs West Division (2019-2020): 10gp, 6-2-1, 2.47gaa, .921sv%, 1so

Stats vs Avalanche (2019-2020): DID NOT PLAY

Notable Offseason Acquisitions
Cam Talbot
Nick Bonino
Marcus Johansson
Oh… yes we Cam! ✍️

The #mnwild has signed goaltender Cam Talbot (@ctalbot33) to a three-year contract.

» https://t.co/kS3r0xjbFT pic.twitter.com/S6Gua2uYpK

— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) October 9, 2020
The Minnesota Wild will look to build off of a season that, had they been in any other division, would’ve likely been well into a playoff spot. After being eliminated by the Vancouver Canucks in the qualifying round, Wild GM Bill Guerin shocked the culture of the team by trading off some significant pieces in Eric Staal Jersey, Luke Kunin Jersey, and Devan Dubnyk Jersey.

While they retained some significant pieces in the offseason like Cam Talbot Jersey, Marcus Johansson Jersey, and Nick Bonino Jersey, what remains to be seen is whether or not the Minnesota Wild actually got better. For a team that has struggled to get over the hump of mediocrity that they’ve been stuck in for so long, the front office has always been hesitant to be active on the trading and free agency market.

With their great defensive core and the promising group of forwards in front of them, they will likely be in the playoff picture among the best teams in the division.

Prediction: 4th in Division, Make Playoffs

Colorado Avalanche v Minnesota Wild
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images
Colorado Avalanche – 42-20-8 (2019-20) 2nd in Central
Team Stats (2019-20)
GF: 237 (4th in NHL), GA: 191 (5th in NHL), PP%: 19.1% (19th in NHL) PK%: 81.4% (13th in NHL)
Team Stats vs Wild (2019-20)
2-2-0 (.500P%, 4 GF, 7 GA, 3.25 GF/G, 3.25 GA/G)
Players to Watch
Nathan MacKinnon – 69gp 35g 58a 93p
Stats vs West Division (2019-20): 20gp 8g 16a 24p

Stats vs Wild (2019-20): 4gp 2g 3a 5p

Mikko Rantanen – 42gp 19g 22a 41p
Stats vs West Division (2019-20): 11gp 4g 6a 10p

Stats vs Wild (2019-20): 3gp 1g 2a 3p

Cale Makar – 57gp 12g 38a 50p
Stats vs West Division (2019-20): 15gp 6g 8a 14p

Stats vs Wild (2019-20): 4gp 2g 3a 5p

NHL Goaltender Depth
Pavel Francouz – 34gp, 21-7-4, 2.21gaa, .923sv%, 1so
Stats vs West Division (2019-20): 12gp, 6-5-1, 2.58gaa, .907sv% 1so

Stats vs Wild (2019-20): 2gp, 1-1-0, 3.54gaa, .897sv%, 0so

Phillip Grubauer – 36gp 18-12-4 2.63gaa .916sv% 2so
Stats vs West Division (2019-20): 9gp 5-3-0 2.22gaa .916sv% 1so

Stats vs Wild (2019-20): 2gp, 1-1-0, 2.56gaa, .919sv%, 0so

With the season series being split 2-2 this past season, fans should mark all eight matchups that these teams have this season on their calendars. Despite the notable skill gap that Colorado has when looking at some of the other teams within the West Division, the hockey is going to be as competitive as ever, and rivalries will be brewing.

From a statistical standpoint, aside from the wins and losses column, the Wild have been one of the best matchups for the Avalanche when it comes to just how competitive the games have been. 3.25 in the goals for per-game as well as the goals against per-game in the season series this past year, and managed to somehow lose two games even with Mackinnon, Rantanen and Makar scoring at at least a point per-game against them.

Although Minnesota may not be the flashiest team in the league for a lot of fans, they have some deceptively skilled players who, if were playing in a larger market, could be stars in the NHL. This matchup will not disappoint.

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The Minnesota Wild were about to hit the ice for morning skate at Xcel Energy Center ahead of facing the Las Vegas Golden Knights, when the NHL put the season on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Four months later, the Wild were in the Edmonton bubble, and sent home after losing to the Vancouver Canucks in four games.

With the NHL’s announcement Sunday, we now know how the 2021 season is going to look, and it’s going to be a lot different. Welcome to playing sports in the middle of a pandemic.

“I think everybody can say that they’ve learned to be flexible and expect the unexpected. We’ll be ready to go and we know it’s a different world that we’re living in and working in right now, so we just have to be able to roll with the punches,” said Wild General Manager Bill Guerin, speaking with reporters Monday afternoon on Zoom.

Many Wild players are already skating on their own at TRIA Rink. The team will convene for training camp on Jan. 3, and it won’t last long. A 56-game regular season will start Jan. 13.

Wild fans will need to have extra coffee on hand this season, as plenty of late nights are ahead. The Wild have been moved to the West Division. Their regular opponents are Anaheim, Arizona, Colorado, Los Angeles, San Jose, St. Louis and Las Vegas, which they will all face eight times.

Plenty of late night starts on the road are ahead for the Wild. Guerin isn’t worried about it, and won’t let it be an excuse.

“It doesn’t concern me. We travel on great planes, we stay in great hotels, we eat properly. There will be plenty of time to acclimate to different time zones. If you’re in the West at all, your travel is tough.” Guerin said. “That’s just the way it is. I’m not worried about it at all.”

Guerin also isn’t concerned about the shortened season, which will feature back-to-backs and stretches where the Wild play three games in four nights. He cited winning the Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils in 1995, which was a 48-game regular season.

After the 56-game regular season concludes, the Stanley Cup Playoffs will feature a 16-team tournament, consisting of the top four teams in each division. All series will be best-of-seven, crowning a champion with the hopes of returning to a more normal schedule with the 2021-22 season.

The Wild went through a fair amount of turbulence last season. Guerin fired Bruce Boudreau, eventually naming Dean Evason the full-time head coach. There’s been roster turnover, and now a new goalie to start the season with Alex Stalock Jersey out injured and Devan Dubnyk Jersey leaving the team in the offseason.

There will be COVID-19 protocols in place to start the season, and games played in empty arenas. But the team’s goals and expectations aren’t changing.

“This is another season in the National Hockey League and we expect everybody with the Minnesota Wild to compete, and compete for a championship, bring their best every night,” Guerin said. “Expectations are the same, if anything, this is when we find out the type of guys that we really have. It’s going to be tough, but it also can be really rewarding.”

Other than injuries to Stalock and Mats Zuccarello Jersey, Guerin doesn’t expect any other absences before the season. He said Monday he’s not expecting any players to opt out of the season, after there were no opt-outs in the Edmonton bubble.

Ready or not, training camp starts in two weeks.

“I trust these guys that they’re all going to come in in great shape and ready to go. I think they’re all anxious to play,” Guerin said.

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As the offseason slowly, but surely, begins to reach its conclusion, it’s time to look towards the future. In doing so, the Minnesota Wild have to realize that they don’t have a ton of cap space to work within the near future.

Now it may look as though next year will be a year where the riches could be plentiful as far as free agency goes, with a projected $26.8 million in cap space. However, when looking deeper into the Wild’s financial situation, some issues quickly come up surrounding one word: extensions. There are multiple players essential to the team that will be needing new contracts, the biggest being Kevin Fiala Jersey.

But, besides Fiala, other players are ready to receive extensions who have been a part of the team in different capacities. From Joel Eriksson Ek Jersey, who has started to blossom as a great defensive center, to Brad Hunt Jersey, who became a reliable depth defenseman while Greg Pateryn Jersey was out with injury.

There also is the issue of the most hyped player of the 2020-21 season, Kirill Kaprizov Jersey, who has this year left on his entry-level contract because of the parameters of the deal he signed back in July. So the Wild may need to look to move a few contracts if they want to maneuver to get more room. In this article, we will look at a few of the contracts that the Wild should look to move to gain some cap space.

Kevin Fiala Minnesota Wild
Kevin Fiala, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)
In ranking these moves, they will be ranked based on specific criteria, mainly consisting of their contract, the return in a potential trade, their performance, and the depth at the position. There will also be three tiers that the moves will be graded in, Code Red, Code Yellow, and Code Green. The Code Red tier represents the contracts that the team needs to move as soon as possible.

Code Yellow represents the contracts that the team should be watching closely if they start to gain value. And lastly, Code Green represents the contracts that aren’t in much danger, or that the team could hold onto until the trade deadline to see what happens. So without further ado, let’s get started.

Code Red
Victor Rask Jersey
If there was any move that has made Wild fans cringe during Paul Fenton’s short time as the general manager, it was the trade that sent Nino Niederreiter Jersey to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Rask. In his time with the Wild, he has played in 66 total games and only has 16 points, split between seven goals and nine assists.

Needless to say, this is not the type of production that the team was hoping to get out of Rask. Meanwhile, Niederreiter has had limited success as well in Carolina having 59 points in 103 games played with the Hurricanes, with 25 goals and 34 assists. When looking at Rask’s contract, with his level of production, this contract easily falls into the Code Red category.

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Wild signed goalie Andrew Hammond to a one-year, two-way contract Wednesday, adding insurance at the position in light of a long-term injury for Alex Stalock Jersey.

The Wild announced Stalock, who took over as their primary goalie down the stretch last season, has an upper-body injury that will sideline him indefinitely. The Wild recently traded Devan Dubnyk Jersey to San Jose and signed Cam Talbot Jersey to compete with Stalock for time in the net. Kaapo Kahkonen Jersey is the other goalie on their roster.

Hammond’s deal will pay $700,000 in the NHL and $200,000 in the AHL. The 32-year-old has four shutouts, a 27-15-6 record and a 2.31 goals-against average in 56 career NHL games over parts of five seasons, primarily with Ottawa. His most recent appearance in the league was in the playoffs for Colorado in 2018.

Hammond spent the past two years in the AHL, with the Minnesota affiliate Iowa Wild and the Buffalo affiliate Rochester Americans. He was 16-12-3 with a 2.53 goals-against average last season.

Carolina Hurricanes Nino Niederreiter
Carolina Hurricanes, Nino Niederreiter (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
He still has two years left of the six-year deal he signed with the Hurricanes back in 2016, worth $4 million per season. But, with his lack of production in a Wild jersey, the value is the only thing that holds back a potential Rask trade.

It definitely would not be a very high value due to his lack of production and his lack of games, being a healthy scratch for many games. The depth at the center position though makes moving on from Rask an easy thing to do. Without him, promising young center Nico Sturm Jersey could easily make his way into the Wild lineup and take the center role perhaps on the fourth line.

Code Yellow
Matt Dumba
The argument could certainly be made that Dumba could be considered more of a Code Green player, but with the trade rumors still swirling around him, he seems like a perfect fit for the Code Yellow category. There have been rumors for a long time that he could be used in a potential trade for a number one center, so let’s take a look at what has led to him being categorized in Code Yellow. For the last two years, he was hampered by injuries playing in 101 games over the past two seasons.

But during the 2017-18 season, Dumba was one of the best offensive defensemen in the NHL, racking up 50 points, totaling 14 goals and 36 assists. He has quickly turned into one of the most important pieces of the Wild defensive core. In terms of points, he has easily one of the best values of the three players here. But the return is truly the biggest reason that he is in the Code Yellow tier.

Matt Dumba Minnesota Wild
Matt Dumba Jersey, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)
As many have noted about this year’s Wild team, the team has no true number one center. In a Dumba trade, the goal would be to gain one for the team. That would be a very solid return for a team that is desperate for a center to lead their two young stars. The only thing that may be a drawback is that it would be hard to replace a player like Dumba with the current defensive depth the team has. But with Dumba’s contract, he has three years left at $6 million, which would be great in terms of generating cap space.

Code Green
Marcus Foligno
Foligno is someone who when thinking about this was tricky. Seeing as he is a dark horse for becoming the next team captain, it is hard to see him being someone who could be on the move. But there are two big reasons why he is on this list; his contract and his recent performance. Even though he only played in only 59 games last season, he had 25 points which were a career-high. He has started to evolve his game into a points-scoring power forward, which is something that is hard to come by in today’s NHL. He would be a big asset for many teams around the league.

Nashville Predators’ P.K. Subban Minnesota Wild’s Marcus Foligno Jersey
Former Nashville Predator P.K. Subban controls the puck in front of Minnesota Wild’s Marcus Foligno (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)
The second reason for him being a contract they could look to move is the contract itself. Foligno is in the last year of his deal, making just a little under $3 million this season. While that may not seem very helpful in the future, making a deal for Foligno now could help to speed up extension talks with a little bit more flexibility from the team’s perspective. But the biggest reason for his Code Green status is that if he has another year like last season, he could have great value at the trade deadline.

Final Thoughts
There are certainly other contracts on the team that could be on this list, however, these are the three that could make the most sense for the team at its current state. The Wild have several contracts that they can move for the present, in order to lock up the future.

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