Newcomers could boost struggling Wild offense

The Minnesota Wild struggled in the offensive zone last season, finishing 27th in goals per game and missing the playoffs for the first time in six seasons.

Former general manager Paul Fenton didn’t last long after signing free-agent forwards Mats Zuccarello and Ryan Hartman over the summer, but the two newcomers should be able to help.

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Zuccarello, 32, has been producing since emerging as a full-time NHLer in 2013. He led the Rangers in points and assists from 2013-19, finishing with 318 points, 216 assists and 102 goals in 442 games over that span.

He spent time on a line with Zach Parise during the preseason, a pairing that could prove productive for the 35-year-old winger.

Parise looked a lot like his old self last season after appearing in just 42 games during the 2017-18 season. He finished with 28 goals and 61 points in 74 games last year, his first 60-point campaign since 2014-15.

A playmaker like Zuccarello should push a healthy Parise back into 30-goal territory.

Zuccarello’s offensive utility isn’t his only strength. He averaged nearly a blocked shot per game last season and finished at 2.74 per 60 minutes in 46 games with the Rangers. That would have been good for third amongst Wild forwards, behind only Eric Fehr (3.62) and Parise (3.08).

He missed more than a month last spring after the Rangers traded him to the Dallas Stars, but Zuccarello’s most-recent playoff run should have Wild fans intrigued.

He was a key piece for the Stars during their series win over the Nashville Predators and loss to the St. Louis Blues. Zuccarello posted 11 points in 13 games and was held off the scoresheet just three times.

Hartman provided a solid preview of what to expect from the 25-year-old forward in the Wild’s preseason opener. He scored on a breakaway against the Dallas Stars and made short work of Tye Felhaber during a fight in the second period.

And while Hartman has struggled to catch on with a team since the Chicago Blackhawks traded him to the Nashville Predators last year, he brings a little more scoring upside to the Wild’s bottom six.

Hartman, who also spent 19 games with the Philadelphia Flyers last season, scored a career-high 19 goals in 76 games during his first full season as a pro back in 2016-17.