The Wild are at a crossroad. The changes made last off season resulted in the best regular season the team has had in their 17 year existence, but the quick exit from the playoffs at the hands of an "inferior" St Louis Blues team has left all of Minnesota wanting more. For the last couple of years, Chuck Fletcher's goal has been to increase the scoring of the team and last year he finally seems to have done it as the Wild finished 2nd in the league in scoring.
So what is the goal for 2017-2018? What SHOULD be the goal?
The Wild need players who play with size. Notice that I didn't say they need to get bigger bodies, they need players who Play. With. Size. Charlie Coyle is listed at 6'3" and 221 pounds but half the time he skates like he is 5'6" and completely disappears. Imagine if he would fly into corners like Ryan Getzlaf, throwing his body around and playing with a little snarl. The Wild have a lot of skilled players; what they don't have are any players who are feared.
So who should the Wild target?
James Neal is a guy who plays with a lot of snarl and could be had from Vegas. At 6'2" 221 lbs, Neal and Coyle are the same size but Neal plays with his size (albeit sometimes questionably within the rules, but he makes sure the opposing team takes notice when he is on the ice). Neal is a player that you love if he is on your team, but despise when your team plays against him. The knock against Neal is he only has one year left on his deal at $5M, what is he going to want for his next deal and can the Wild afford that?
Alex Galchenyuk is one the Wild were at least briefly rumored to be interested in. At 6'1" 210lbs Galchenyuk has the size, but I'm not sure he plays with it in the way that would benefit this team. Similar to Coyle, Galchenyuk has the potential to be a hard nosed power forward that can wreak havoc around the net, but will he get there? As an RFA, Galchenyuk will be looking for a raise from the $2.8M he averaged on the last contract; given the cost to acquire as well as the cost in cap space, he's one I would stay away from right now.
JVR could be had for the right price out of Toronto, and the right price appears to be a defenseman, which the Wild have to spare. At 6'3" 210lbs, JVR has a great nose for the net and is not afraid to go to the dirty areas. Again, the cost would be high as he only has one more year on his contract at a current cap hit of $4.25M and will undoubtedly be looking for more on the next one.
Going to the UFA market, Joe Thornton is a big boy who, even at 37, can still cause chaos. While he may have lost a step or two, Thornton has always been a setup man first and has shown he can still do that with 43 helpers last season. Thornton is also a center, which the Wild need after losing Haula to Vegas and shipping out Graovac to Washington. The question will be what kind of a contract will Thornton be seeking on his first time hitting the open market? My guess is he will have plenty of suitors, but most only willing to offer a 1 year deal due to the risk involved with signing players over 35. If the Wild were willing to offer a 2 year deal, perhaps Joe would be willing to accept a smaller AAV?
Perhaps more realistically, Matt Hendricks; At 6' 209lbs, Hendricks is the smallest guy on this list but he is a tough guy not afraid to mix it up and a pending UFA. He is not likely to add much offense, but also could likely to be had for a small contract and will add some grit to the 4th line. To add some sugar on top to the Wild faithful, Hendricks hails from Blaine, MN.
So there you have it Wild fans, a short list of potential targets this off season. Of course the best solution would be to get Coyle to use that size of his, but maybe what he needs is someone to set an example. What do you think should be Chucks's goal for the team this offseason and who would you like to see the Wild bring in?