Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Minnesota Wild.
Last season was a great one as far as Wild fans should be concerned. The team returned to the playoffs after a four-year absence. Their offseason acquisitions (Zach Parise and Ryan Suter) had big seasons as Parise led the team in scoring and Suter was a Norris Trophy-caliber player.
As far as Wild management is concerned, last season was the first step towards eventually bringing a Stanley Cup to Minnesota. They’ve got a host of young players with sky-high potential and a taste for what the postseason is like. Can they make another step forward this season or was last year a fortunate turn of events because of a shortened schedule?
For a team that made the postseason, the Wild had a bit of an overhaul this summer. Out went Devin Setoguchi (traded to Winnipeg) and Cal Clutterbuck was sent to the Islanders for young hopeful Nino Niederreiter.
In free agency, forwards Matt Cullen (Nashville) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard (Islanders) headed elsewhere while Matt Cooke, Keith Ballard, and Jonathon Blum jumped on board. The Cooke signing created some anxiety with Wild fans and columnists as they parted ways with the popular Clutterbuck to bring a guy with a bad reputation on board.
Free agency isn’t where the sparks for this team will come from as they’ve got young guys like Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker, and rookie phenom Jonas Brodin to help carry them forward. At least, that’s what coach Mike Yeo hopes for.
Introducing: PHT’s ‘Team of the Day’ summer series
PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.
Gary Roberts was a fierce player in the NHL and now that he’s done on the ice, he’s even tougher off of it with his BioSteel fitness camp. That got underway in Ontario this week with 50-plus players there. Maybe this year there won’t be stories about Nazem Kadri being out of shape! (Toronto Star)
Erik Karlsson is back in Ottawa and feeling chatty. (Senators)
Give it up for the smaller countries making progress in getting better at hockey. (Flames)
Remember Alexei Morozov? Martin Brodeur sure should, but he’s talking about his time playing in the NHL and Ilya Kovalchuk, too. (The Score)
The Sharks’ slow-reveal of their new jerseys continues even though it’s not going to be anything drastic. (Sharks Instagram)
Kari Lehtonen talks about how he has to get new pants because of the Stars’ uniform overhaul. Goalies, I tell ya. (Dallas Morning News)
Finally, for you video game fans out there EA Sports released the demo for NHL 14 today. Who needs sunshine and summer fun when there’s games to be played? (EA Sports)
Vancouver is going to need David Booth to be a healthy contributor to the team this season. Unfortunately the part about getting healthy is proving to be difficult as he attempts to return from ankle surgery in March.
Jason Botchford of The Province reports Booth still isn’t cleared for activity and he’s also dealing with other nagging setbacks.
Continuing his recovery from March ankle surgery, Booth has had other issues, including a calf strain, as he tried to stay on track in a rehab program designed to have him healthy for September.
That could happen. But the Canucks remain unsure if Booth will be healthy when training camp begins in three weeks.
When the Canucks acquired Booth from the Florida Panthers two seasons ago, they hoped he’d slot in alongside Ryan Kesler and have instant American chemistry. Instead, the two have dealt with a myriad of ailments that derailed that plan.
As Botchford said, the team may have used a compliance buyout on Booth this summer if he were healthy. Now it’s up to Alex Burrows and youngster Nicklas Jensen to show they can carry the load while Booth gets it together.
We’re sure John Tortorella will enjoy the dearth of able wingers.
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist could become one of the hottest free agent targets next summer if the Rangers don’t sign him. Luckily for them, he’s not even thinking about that right now.
Larry Brooks of the New York Post spoke with former Vezina Trophy winner and finds out he’s happy where he is and is looking forward to a new season with a new coach.
“If we can find a solution, it’s no secret that this is where I want to be; I’m not thinking about free agency at all,” said Lundqvist “The way the organization has treated me, the way that our team has played over the last few years, the way I feel about New York City, this is definitely the place I want to be.
“But we do have a few things we have to talk about.”
That last quote certainly comes off a bit ominous and Lundqvist goes on to tell Brooks he’d like to have a new deal done before the start of the season but it’s not necessary.
That’s probably a relief for GM Glen Sather to hear as he still has to get a deal done with restricted free agent Derek Stepan and he hasn’t even started talks with any of his impending free agents.
There’s no doubt Lundqvist can command top dollar from anyone he wants, especially the Rangers. With the cap set to go up again next season, that will only serve to line his pockets a bit more and ensure he can be a Ranger for life or go to the highest bidder for a long time.
At 31-years-old, a max deal with the Rangers would take him to age 39. Works out perfectly, wouldn’t you say?
Related: Lundqvist can’t fathom leaving the Rangers
‘Shouldn’t be too difficult’ to sign Lundqvist, says Rangers assistant GM
One area the Colorado Avalanche aren’t particularly stressed out about is in goal. With Semyon Varlamov locked in as the No. 1 guy and Jean-Sebastien Giguere backing him up, they’re all set there.
The question is: What version of Varlamov is the real one? Fans in Colorado have seen two different performances from him during his two seasons in Denver.
Take a look at Varlamov’s numbers over the last three seasons (one with Washington) and you’ll be left wondering the same thing.
2010-11: 11-9-5 .924 SV% 2.23 GAA (Washington)
2011-12: 26-24-3 .913 SV% 2.59 GAA
2012-13: 11-21-3 .903 SV% 3.02 GAA
Neither season with the Avalanche is overly inspiring but the work he’d done in Washington was enough to inspire GM Greg Sherman to give up a first-round pick for him. His save percentage numbers in the ’11-’12 season don’t even crack the Top 20 in the league and he was outplayed by Giguere.
Last season was a disaster all around for the Avs and was highlighted by the terrible play of their defense. It’s difficult to be hard on Varlamov for that, but his meager numbers from the previous season took a further beating.
That’s cause for concern, but the Avs may have addressed that by hiring Patrick Roy as their new coach. You’d have to think if anyone can help a goalie figure out their game it’d be a Hall of Famer of Roy’s ilk. After all, Varlamov is still young at age 25 and headed into his sixth NHL season.
If Roy can help Varlamov out, the Avs won’t have to sweat out goaltending at all. If not, 21 year-olds Sami Aittokallio and Calvin Pickard will be waiting in the AHL for an opportunity. Colorado is hoping it doesn’t have to come to that.