NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, the Minnesota Wild.
The Minnesota Wild have qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs each of the past five seasons but have failed to make it past the second round, something they hope to change this season.
Despite setting Wild records with 49 wins and 106 points last season, Minnesota was eliminated in the Western Conference First Round; it was the fifth time in eight postseason appearances the Wild failed to win a series. A host of players had NHL career-high point totals, but the sting of a five-game playoff loss to the St. Louis Blues resonated most and resulted in roster changes.
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Forward Erik Haula was lost in the NHL Expansion Draft to the Vegas Golden Knights, and forward prospect Alex Tuch was traded to Vegas for a conditional NHL Draft pick. The trade was assurance that the Golden Knights wouldn't select any of Minnesota's defensemen or veteran center Eric Staal, who was coming off his highest point total (65) in five seasons.
On June 30, the Wild made a trade with the Buffalo Sabres to acquire forwards Marcus Foligno and Tyler Ennis along with a third-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft for defenseman Marco Scandella, forward Jason Pominville and a 2018 fourth-round pick.
Foligno scored an NHL career-best 13 goals in his fourth full season with the Sabres and has 116 points (49 goals, 67 assists) in 347 NHL games.
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"It's a tough commodity to acquire that big, strong power forward," general manager Chuck Fletcher said of Foligno (6-foot-3, 228 pounds). "You look around the League, there's very few players that have that size and physical presence and can also contribute offensively. He's a player we think we need."
Ennis is a three-time 20-goal scorer who has dealt with injuries the past two seasons. He had 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in 51 games last season, when he was limited by a groin injury.
Center Martin Hanzal signed a three-year contract with the Dallas Stars as a free agent, but the Wild signed eight players to contracts. Most notable was defenseman Kyle Quincey (one year, $1.25 million). The 31-year-old is expected to provide stability after the loss of Scandella and defenseman Nate Prosser, who signed a two-year, two-way contract with the St. Louis Blues on Aug. 2.
Defenseman Ryan Murphy, 24, selected by the Carolina Hurricanes with the No. 12 pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, signed a one-year, two-way contract on July 1 after the final year of his contract was bought out by the Calgary Flames. Calgary acquired the right-hand shot in a trade from Carolina on June 29, and a change in scenery could prove to be what Murphy needs.
The Wild also agreed to terms with 40-year-old center Matt Cullen, a three-time Stanley Cup winner and a Minnesota native, on a one-year contract worth $1 million plus bonuses on Aug. 16.
Minnesota kept two key offensive players when it re-signed forward Nino Niederreiter to a five-year, $26.25 million contract on July 30, and center Mikael Granlund to a three-year, $17.25 million contract two days later. Each was a restricted free agent.
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"I think the biggest thing is, as a team, I really want us to make a deeper playoff run," Granlund said. "We need to make it to the playoffs first. But I think we have a really good group of guys and we can [do] some damage in the playoffs. My biggest goal is hopefully to make something special happen next year."
Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba look to be the top four defensemen. There could be an open competition at training camp for the two remaining spots, with Quincey, Murphy, Gustav Olofsson, Mike Reilly and Carson Soucy the candidates.
"I think it was a major letdown what happened in the playoffs," forward Zach Parise said. "I think everyone should be coming back excited to start the season and give ourselves another chance."
Coach Bruce Boudreau will have Bob Woods as an assistant this season. Woods, hired June 24, worked with Boudreau as an assistant with the Anaheim Ducks from 2012-14. Last season, he was an assistant with the Sabres, who had the top-ranked power play in the NHL (24.5 percent). Woods replaces Scott Stevens, who resigned May 30.