The Wild are going to be a very different team next season. With several key pending UFA’s along with the expansion draft, say goodbye to the 106 point team we all enjoyed this season.
Delving into the forwards this expansion draft, early estimates believe that Jason Zucker or Erik Haula will be the odd guys out in terms of the forward group. Eric Staal has proven to bounce back under the Wild’s system and will be protected. Charlie Coyle (received for Brent Burns, that one still stings) will also likely be protected. Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Pomminville have no movement clauses and I assume they will be upheld. I’ve heard rumors they may ask Pomminville to drop his no trade, but I don’t see it happening. That leaves Granlund, an obvious choice and potentially Niederrieter. Both are 24, skilled and bring a lot to the table.
On defense we have Dumba, Suter and Spurgeon likely candidates for protection. That leaves Marco Scandella or Jonas Brodin for the taking. I’d probably take a forward but both guys offer depth positions and are solid defensively. Neither would be a bad pick for the Golden Knights.
With backup Darcy Kuemper becoming a free agent come July 1st I have no idea where he’ll end up. It could be back in St. Paul, but it is just as likely he’ll be gone this summer. Martin Hanzal I expect will depart to pursue a contract elsewhere, likely with a fellow contender or perennial playoff team. He won’t be protected in the draft, and won’t likely be picked due to his UFA status this July. Unless Vegas has agreed in advance to sign him, expect him to be anywhere but Minnesota or Vegas.
As of now I would think Haula or Zucker will be candidates to head to Vegas this month. Both are younger guys with a lot of potential. Haula is also an RFA and Vegas will have the space to sign him to either a nice Bridge Contract or a long term deal. Whichever fits their ideal cap space.
My Pick – If unprotected, Zucker is my dude.