ST. PAUL -- The workflow of the NHL offseason is pretty unique. Unlike most other professional sports leagues, in the NHL, almost everyone takes the final month and a half of the summer off before reconvening for training camp in the fall.
There’s rarely a drawn-out process when it comes to filling out the roster. Most of the time, teams sign free agents in the immediate hours after the market opens, then everyone goes their separate ways for the rest of the offseason.
Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin doesn’t have that luxury this year. There’s still much to do over the next month and a half.
“You always want to be done,” Guerin said last week, pausing for a couple of seconds, then taking a deep breath before delivering the punchline. “But done doesn’t make it right. That doesn’t mean we’re in the best spot. It means you can go to your beach house.”
While the Wild managed to fill some holes last week — they did sign veteran defenseman Alex Goligoski and center Frederick Gaudreau early in free agency, then filled out the rest of their blue line with the addition of depth players like Dmitry Kulikov and Jon Merrill — they missed out on a number of players.
“Listen, there are a lot of good players that went today,” Guerin said on July 28, when NHL free agency began. “We have to be conscious enough to have the right term and the right dollars. And for the right player. That’s not easy to do. But we can’t just try to make up for it with $500,000 here or by adding a year there to get a guy. We just have to move methodically.”
Considering that, here is what’s left on Guerin’s offseason checklist:
Sign Kirill Kaprizov
This was the No. 1 priority at the start of this offseason, and it will be the No. 1 priority until the flashy Russian forward signs a new contract to stay with the Wild. There’s reason for optimism as Guerin has continued to have conversations with Kaprizov’s agent Paul Theofanous over the past couple of weeks. It seems the biggest sticking point in negotiations is that the Wild want a long-term deal and Kaprizov wants a short-term deal. There also have been reports that Kaprizov could sign back on with the KHL in his native Russia, though that seems like nothing more than a leverage at this point. It seems like this will get done sooner or later, and once it does, Guerin will finally be able to take a deep breath.
Sign Kevin Fiala
Much like he does with Kaprizov’s agent, Guerin said he continues to have conversations with Fiala’s representation. Still, it seems rather significant that both sides haven’t found a way to come to an agreement yet. Remember, a couple of years ago Fiala waited until late in training camp to sign. That timeline could be in the works once again. In the end, though, the Wild are almost certainly going to find a way to sign Fiala. He has proven to be a dynamic goal scorer on a team that doesn’t have many of them. As Guerin has said often this offseason: “These things take time.”
Monitor trade market
If a trade for Buffalo Sabres star Jack Eichel was going to happen, it probably would have already. Still, the Wild have been right in the middle of the sweepstakes this offseason, and if the asking price comes down, Guerin might throw his hat in the ring. In addition to keeping tabs on Eichel, the Wild will continue to monitor the trade market as a whole. They still need to fill some holes up front, and that could be done through a trade if the right move presents itself.
Add depth up front
If the Wild don’t make a trade, they could dive back into the free-agent market to find some depth pieces up front. The original plan last week was to sign veteran winger Nick Foligno before he chose the Boston Bruins in free agency. There aren’t a ton of notable names left, but some available veterans include James Neal, Tomas Tatar, Tyler Bozak and Kyle Palmieri.