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31 in 31

Inside look at Minnesota Wild

Trades made last season, addition of Zuccarello should pay off under new GM Guerin

by Jessi Pierce / NHL.com Independent Correspondent

31 in 31: Minnesota Wild

31 in 31: Minnesota Wild 2019-20 season preview

NHL.com senior writer Dan Rosen and NHL Network's E.J. Hradek discuss the biggest questions facing the Minnesota Wild for the 2019-20 season

  • 06:49 •

NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospects and fantasy analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, the Minnesota Wild.

The Minnesota Wild are a team in transition this season. They are looking to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and will do it with a new general manager.

Bill Guerin was hired as GM on Aug. 21 to replace Paul Fenton, who was fired July 30, 14 months after he was hired. Guerin, 48, spent the past eight seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins, including the past five as assistant GM. He won the Stanley Cup twice as a member of the Penguins front office (2016, 2017) and once as a player (2009); he also won the Cup with the New Jersey Devils in 1995.

"The only teams that win are the teams that put the team first," Guerin told the Wild website. "We all have to put the team first. Anybody's individual agenda comes second. The team winning comes first and foremost and that's it. Everybody sacrifices their personal interest for the betterment of the team."

 

[Wild 31 IN 31: 3 Questions | Top prospects | Behind the Numbers | Fantasy breakdown]

 

The Wild, who missed the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons and have not made it past the second round since 2002-03, did make some moves before relieving Fenton of his duties. They signed forwards Mats Zuccarello and Ryan Hartman as unrestricted free agents on July 1 for an offense that ranked 27th in the NHL last season with 210 goals and scored one goal or none in 24 games.

"I think the lineup here is good. I like a lot of the pieces that we have," Guerin said. "I know what a special opportunity this is. I just want to come in here and get better. This team can definitely get better and if we do the right things at the right time, everything is here for us to win."

Zuccarello, who turns 32 on Sept. 1, has 355 points (114 goals, 241 assists) in 511 NHL games with the New York Rangers and Dallas Stars. Hartman, who turns 25 on Sept. 20, has 89 points (42 goals, 47 assists) in 245 NHL games with the Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators and Flyers.

Video: What to expect from the Wild in 2019-20

"We have plenty of guys that can shoot and plenty of guys that can score, but we've been missing that someone to make the play and that someone to set a guy up," Wild forward Zach Parise said. "I think Zuccarello should help us. He's a great playmaker, and I think that's an area we lack. He's a good passer and I think he'll help us create a lot of offense, because we definitely need the help."

The returns of center Mikko Koivu and defenseman Matt Dumba from injuries should help.

Dumba led NHL defenseman with 12 goals in 32 games before a pectoral tear on Dec. 15 causd him to miss the rest of the season. Koivu did not play after Feb. 5 because of a torn ACL and meniscus in his right knee.

"I know that every player that I've talked to can't wait to get started," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. "The ones that were unhealthy are now healthy."

Boudreau, entering his fifth season as Wild coach, is also counting on younger players including forwards Jordan Greenway, 22, Luke Kunin, 21, and Ryan Donato, 23, to step up this season.

"The growth of our young guys that played, Greenway, Kunin, Donato are not just fringe players this year," Boudreau said. "They're prime-time players. Their growth is going to be really good."

Video: Top 10 saves of 2018-19: Dubnyk

Donato was acquired in a trade with the Boston Bruins for forward Charlie Coyle on Feb. 20. It was one of three trades the Wild made before the NHL Trade Deadline: forward Kevin Fiala arrived from the Nashville Predators for forward Mikael Granlund on Feb. 25, and center Victor Rask came from the Carolina Hurricanes for forward Nino Niederreiter on Jan. 17.

Fiala had seven points (three goals, four assists) but was minus-12 in 19 games with the Wild. Rask had three points (two goals, one assist) in 23 games, and Donato had 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) in 22 games.

The Wild went 7-9-3 after the trade deadline and finished 37-36-9, seven points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card from the Western Conference. But Boudreau said he feels Minnesota will benefit more from those trades this season.

"When you make a lot of moves in the season, you never see those [added] players at their best," Boudreau said. "There's that transition period. We think these guys having a full camp with us, already knowing people coming in, is really going to help.

"I think the enthusiasm of the group overall of wanting to just do better. That's the first year they missed the playoffs. There's a lot of players in this organization that have never had that before, so you'll see the true character come out this season."

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