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31 in 31

Three questions facing Minnesota Wild

GM search, play of Staal, Zucker among areas of focus

by Jessi Pierce / NHL.com Independent Correspondent

NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three important questions facing the Minnesota Wild.

 

[WILD 31 IN 31: Season preview | Top prospects | Behind the Numbers | Fantasy breakdown]

 

1. Who will be their general manager?

Paul Fenton was fired July 30 and owner Craig Leipold has said there is no timetable to fill the position. Assistant GM Tom Kurvers is serving as the GM until a replacement is hired. 

Former Philadelphia Flyers general manager Ron Hextall, Pittsburgh Penguins assistant GM Bill Guerin, and New Jersey Devils assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald have interviewed for the position, according to reports. Carolina Hurricanes GM Don Waddell also interviewed, but he signed a three-year contract to stay with Carolina.   

Whoever gets the job will be working with a roster that is essentially set after the Wild signed forwards Mats Zuccarello and Ryan Hartman as free agents July 1.

Video: 31 in 31: Minnesota Wild 2019-20 season preview

 

2. Can Jason Zucker and Eric Staal bounce back?

The Wild will be looking to their forwards to boost an offense that was 27th in goals with 210 last season.

Zucker had 42 points (21 goals, 21 assists) in 81 games after setting NHL career highs in points (64), goals (33) and assists (31) in 2017-18. 

"I feel like I had an off year, but I still think I'm a 30-goal scorer," Zucker said. "I still feel like I've proven myself in this league. I don't feel like I have to prove that I can play." 

Staal scored 22 goals last season, 20 fewer than he scored in 2017-18. Even though it's hard to expect him to re-create his success of two seasons ago, Staal, who will turn 35 on Oct. 29, has proven he's capable of being a better point producer than he showed last season. 

"I think [Staal] can absolutely get back to, maybe not a 40-goal scorer because there's not many of those out there, but into the 30s. I don't think is unrealistic for him," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said.

 

3. Will Mikko Koivu and Matt Dumba return to form?

Koivu missed the final 34 games last season after having surgery to repair a torn ACL and meniscus in his right knee. The 36-year-old center was adamant at the end of the season that he was going to do his due diligence and not rush through the recovery, instead aiming to make sure he fully and properly heals. That might mean missing the start of training camp and potentially the start of the season. 

Dumba led NHL defensemen in goals (12) before he ruptured his right pectoralis muscle on Dec. 15, which required surgery. Dumba has skated and spent the offseason working hard to get back his full range of motion and should have no trouble returning from the injury in time for training camp in September.

Video: MTL@MIN: Dumba one-times PPG past Niemi in the 2nd

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