With the season over and players beginning recovery from their ailments, (or in Charlie Coyle’s case, a pair of separated shoulders) the process of salary cap crunching has begun for the Minnesota Wild. Big things are expected from the Wild this offseason and it starts with negotiating new contracts for several players.
Nino Niederreiter (RFA)
El Nino’s production late in the season was key to the playoff success for the Minnesota Wild. He saw time in nearly all facets of the lineup playing on all four lines and seeing time on the second powerplay unit.
The 21-year-old power forward excelled in the playoffs. In addition to scoring the game 7 overtime goal that buried the Colorado Avalanche, Niederreiter was arguably the most consistent player for the Wild. He had 36 points in the regular season and should be able to build on that next season.
Justin Fontaine (RFA)
Another restricted free agent, Fontaine was a real surprise when he cracked opening game roster. The former Duluth Bulldog showed flashes of having scoring touch at times, potting 13 goals in 66 games.
One of the older RFA’s on the market, Fontaine, 26, could develop into a contributing third or fourth liner with more NHL experience.
Darcy Kuemper (RFA)
This is one where the Minnesota Wild has no choice. With only Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding under contract for next season, Kuemper may be the opening starter with both other goalies’ health in question.
Unless there is a free agent or a trade in the works that brings in a definitive starter, Darcy Kuemper will be back.
Jonathon Blum (RFA)
While Blum wasn’t a fixture in the defensive lineup all season, he did enough to warrant a new contract. He won’t cost much and he can fill in if there are injuries or another defenseman isn’t cutting it. Blum, 25, would likely get another 2-way contract, allowing the Wild to send him up and down between the NHL and AHL without having to put him on waivers.
Cody McCormick (UFA)
McCormick was thought to be a rental when he was acquired from the Buffalo Sabres in the Matt Moulson deal. He proved that to be false in his short tenure with the Minnesota Wild.
McCormick is an ideal fourth liner that gives everything night in and night out. He can be the enforcer the Wild needs in the lineup and drop the gloves if necessary. If both parties are willing to agree for about $1 million per year, this would be a great fit.
Clayton Stoner (UFA)
Stoner is the physical force on the blue line that every team needs. He had a significant impact in the playoffs, showing his nasty streak that rarely came out in the regular season. Besides being a reason for forwards to keep their head up in the neutral zone, Stoner figured out his game has to be simple. He will never rack up a ton of points, but he can serve a purpose as a physical stay-at-home defenseman.
Stay tuned in the next few days as I will release my list of Minnesota Wild players that should go for next season.
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