The Stanley Cup champions have been crowned, meaning the offseason is now underway for NHL teams. FOX Sports North takes a look at six questions surrounding the Minnesota Wild.
Will Paul Fenton make a major trade in his first summer as a GM?
Fenton and Predators general manager David Poile were never afraid to make a big move in Nashville, and that mentality could carry over in his first season running the Wild. Forwards like Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle are coming off disappointing seasons, and could lead to valuable assets, or Fenton could sacrifice a top-four defender like Jonas Brodin to upgrade the offense. He has at least one more valuable asset on hand: Veteran forward Eric Staal. The 33-year-old's unexpected resurgence comes with a cap hit of just $3.5 million next season, making him a strong "sell high" candidate. Another 40-goal season could be in the cards for Staal, but considering the Wild's cap situation, moving on before his production falls off could be the smart play.
USA TODAY SportsBrace Hemmelgarn
… Or do some wheeling and dealing at the draft?
The Predators have been more than happy to deal picks for talent in recent years: they have just five this year and won't -- as of now -- make a selection until the third round. Fenton has a first, three thirds, a fifth, a sixth and a seventh to work with this year with the Wild, leaving plenty of room for some maneuvering.
Speaking of picks, who are the Wild taking?
Fenton's past isn't particularly instructive here, but his resume as a scout and scout-adjacent executive is encouraging. The Wild seem pretty set on the back end with Carson Soucy and Nick Seeler on the cusp of full-time NHL work and Louie Belpedio in the system, but their pipeline could use another scoring wing or playmaking center. Minnesota currently owns the 24th pick, and Fenton could take a flyer on a skilled forward like Akil Thomas or Dominik Bokk late in the first round.
How much will restricted free agent Jason Zucker get?
The Wild have a little more wiggle room this offseason with the salary cap expected to increase by around $5 million, giving Fenton some runway with which to negotiate a Zucker deal. The 26-year-old is set to command a significant raise after notching his first 30-goal season on a two-year, $4 million bridge deal. He's likely to get at least $5 million per year entering his age-27 season, numbers in line with what Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund got last season. Then again, the San Jose Sharks just signed up for seven years of Evander Kane at $7 million annually. Kane and Zucker both 26, and have one 30-goal season each. Hopefully that's not just the market now.
How about Matt Dumba?
Another young gun coming off a bridge deal, Dumba took a major step forward this season, posting 50 points -- 19th amongst NHL defensemen -- for the first time. The common refrain amongst Wild fans -- that he's irresponsible in his own zone -- doesn't hold up very well anymore. Dumba filled alongside Ryan Suter on the Wild's top defensive pairing when Jared Spurgeon went down, and ranked second on the team in defensive zone faceoffs, behind only Suter. He turns 24 this summer, and is likely looking at a contract in line with the deals Spurgeon and Brodin received: $4 million-$5 million per season.
USA TODAY SportsBrace Hemmelgarn
Will they make a move in free agency?
Owner Craig Leipold made clear at Fenton's introductory press conference that he believes the Wild are a piece or two away from a deep playoff run. Barring some major changes, Fenton won't have the money to go after the biggest prizes of this class -- center John Tavares and defenseman John Carlson -- but older top-six forwards like Tomas Plekanec or Paul Stastny could be affordable. The Wild could also take a flyer on some younger players. Bruins forward Austin Czarnik will supposedly be testing the market and would make for an intriguing add at just 25 years old. A part-time NHLer to this point, he's also unlikely to break the bank.