Despite vastly improving the offense with the signing of goal-scoring winger Thomas Vanek, the Minnesota Wild still have a number of needs that must be addressed prior to the season commencing in October. Free agency is roughly a week old and the majority of the top talent has already found homes for the upcoming season. This means that the Wild will most likely fill their needs via trade or with emerging talent from the Iowa Wild farm system.
A quick glance at the Minnesota Wild’s projected lineup for next season and you will immediately notice a glaring lack of toughness. The departure of Clayton Stoner to Anaheim and Cody McCormick returning to his pre-trade deadline home in Buffalo has left the roster without a big body to protect its veteran stars and talented youngsters. Against the heavy hitters in the division, this could create a huge problem if it’s not addressed.
Thus far, the Wild have made an attempt to fill the void with the likes of Joel Rechlicz and Stu Bickel. Both are notoriously physical players that can have an impact, but they are clearly one-dimensional.
Rechlicz is a known fighter who is tough as nails, but he has seen limited NHL games. Bickel has been unable to find a consistent place on a roster and that is unlikely to change with the Wild. Their services will come in handy on occasion, but neither will find a regular spot in the lineup like Stoner or McCormick did.
McCormick, as impactful as he was in certain facets of the game, is still replaceable on the fourth line via free agency or from within the current roster.
Kyle Brodziak could potentially drop down to play his role as a tenacious agitator. The only issue with this is that Brodziak saw his playing time drop off exponentially last season and drew the ire of the Minnesota Wild faithful. Some, including myself, were expecting him to be a compliance buyout as he commands nearly $3 million in salary cap space which could have been used in free agency. At this point, unless a trade is in the works, Brodziak will be at least on the roster on opening night.
Another name that has been thrown around lately is Steve Ott. The super pest center is an ideal fourth liner for any team and can play the defensive role that most teams look for out of their bottom three forwards. The only issue is that Ott made over $3 million last season with the Sabres and the St. Louis Blues. There is little chance he will make that much next season, regardless of where he lands. If he is willing to take a hefty pay cut, he could fit well on the Wild’s roster given what he can provide to the team with leadership and grit.