To our readers: Thank you for taking part in our Mailbag Monday this week. Star Tribune beat writers received many questions about the teams and leagues we cover, and each writer selected a couple of questions to answer.
Q: What are the Wild’s biggest offseason needs? Seems like we still need goal scorers, which is a constant in Wild land. – Dan Chang
The Wild’s offseason priorities could evolve depending on how the season evolves, but figuring out its depth chart up the middle already looks like an area that will need to be addressed. Eric Staal is under contract for 2020-21; so are Joel Eriksson Ek and Victor Rask. But after that, the Wild has a few question marks. Captain Mikko Koivu’s contract is up after this season, and his future – like the current state of the NHL – is up in the air. Alex Galchenyuk looked like he could be a short-term solution for the Wild when he was acquired in the Jason Zucker trade with the Penguins in February, but perhaps he worked himself into a full-time role. Galchenyuk plays wing, but he also was lining up at center before play stopped. Overall, he had three goals and four assists in 14 games with the Wild. The 26-year-old is set to become an unrestricted free agent after this season. Rask also had a strong showing in his final game before the league stopped, scoring a goal in the 5-4 overtime win over Anaheim on March 8. But before that, he was a frequent healthy scratch. Clearly, the Wild has some decisions to make. And if its top-six incudes Kevin Fiala and Kirill Kaprizov, the push to find complementary centers could be pressing.
Q: Do you have a sense of which players have been keeping up a regular skating/workout routine in anticipation of the season possibly resuming? -- @DenverWildFan
All players were instructed to stay in shape after the NHL paused on March 12, but how they’ve worked out has varied. Winger Zach Parise ordered a bike. Defenseman Ryan Suter has a gym setup at his house and said he’s been doing pushups and squats. While he was still in Minnesota, Fiala was going on walks and sprinting. Now that he’s in Sweden, he’s able to skate since restrictions in that country are looser than in the United States. Fiala skates Monday through Friday, going through drills and scrimmaging with others. In an update released last week, the league said players may be able to return to NHL training facilities for small group activities in mid to late May.
Q: Any Iowa wild players projected to possibly make the @mnwild lineup this coming year? Gerry Mayhew, Sam Anas and Kaapo Kahkonen come to mind. -- @Reinarts5
Just how many roster spots may be up for grabs for 2020-21 might not be clear until the offseason, but turnover could be limited. Nine NHL forwards are currently under contract for next season; re-signing restricted free agents Luke Kunin and Jordan Greenway would bump that number to 11. On defense, everyone is signed beyond this season except Carson Soucy. Both goalies are also locked up. If all these players return, that could leave minimal wiggle room for the Wild. But roster outlooks can obviously change through trades and free agency. Even so, tracking the progress of prospects remains important. Kahkonen’s timeline might be the most intriguing because of how steady he looked this season during his NHL debut. In five starts, he went 3-1-1 with a 2.96 goals-against average and .913 save percentage. He became the seventh Wild goalie to win his first NHL game and went on to set a franchise record for most saves in a game by a rookie (44). Kahkonen is a restricted free agent after this season.