Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher’s to-do list this offseason:
1. Re-sign the stars
Priority No. 1 will be to re-sign Devan Dubnyk, a finalist for both the Vezina and Masterton trophies.
Those negotiations will start soon, and one would assume Fletcher will want to wrap up a contract as quickly as possible because until he knows how much Dubnyk will cost, he won’t know how much cap space he’ll have to proceed with this summer.
After being acquired Jan. 14, Dubnyk started 38 consecutive games. He gave up 68 goals in 39 starts, allowing two or fewer 29 times and recording five shutouts in his first 16 starts.
Since Jan. 15, no NHL goalie who played in more than 31 games topped Dubnyk’s 27 victories, 1.78 goals-against average or .936 save percentage. He went 15-2-1 on the road. In the second game of his last five back-to-back situations, Dubnyk gave up five goals to essentially steal five wins (Wild was outshot 183-111), a giant reason the Wild made the playoffs.
Dubnyk, 29, wasn’t as sharp in the playoffs, but he saved the Wild’s season, and with no clear-cut better options in free agency, the Wild wants him back. Also, he doesn’t want to leave what he calls a “special group” that is also structured defensively.
“He absolutely loves it there,” his father, Barry Dubnyk, said before the playoffs. “I think there was a quote he said [in the Star Tribune] that I read a while back that sums it up, ‘You can make a long list as to why I want to stay in Minnesota, and there’s not any why-nots.’ [His wife] Jen likes it there and the acceptance they’ve got from the fans and the team and the players, my take is between the two of them they’ve just got to get it done and get on with life.”
2. Trading block
Attempt to trade Niklas Backstrom while looking to retain part of next year’s $4 million salary and $3.417 million cap hit. If unable to trade him (it’s a long shot), the Wild’s expected to buy him out. It’ll be a sad conclusion to the career of the winningest goalie in Wild history, but the team needs the roster flexibility.
3. To sign or not to sign
Decide whether or not to re-sign unrestricted free agents Chris Stewart, Kyle Brodziak, Jordan Leopold, Nate Prosser, Sean Bergenheim and Ryan Carter. Keith Ballard and Josh Harding are expected to retire. The Wild may be interested in bringing back Brodziak on a short-term, reasonable contract. Leopold also played well, wouldn’t be expensive and was a good mentor to Matt Dumba. Stewart’s poor postseason may present a lasting impression with management.
4. Free agency
Address restricted free agents Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula and Christian Folin and look at the free-agent and trade markets. It’s likely Fletcher would look at trading for a young goal scorer. That would require assets. The Wild’s top minor league assets are Tyler Graovac, Gustav Olofsson and Kurtis Gabriel. The Wild’s top college assets are Alex Tuch, Adam Gilmour and Louie Belpedio. On the NHL roster, Fletcher may look at dangling Granlund, Haula and Jared Spurgeon. The Wild has to decide whether it believes it can win long-term with Granlund, who didn’t progress offensively this year and showed again that durability is an issue. Haula had a disappointing year, and the emergence of Dumba and Christian Folin could make Spurgeon expendable, especially since he’s a year from restricted free agency and could be due a lucrative contract. The Wild also needs to appraise veterans Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek and Matt Cooke; each had his least productive season.