The Minnesota Wild are stuck between a rebuild and trying to be a playoff contender. How do the Nashville Predators match up?
The Minnesota Wild are coming off an 83-point season, which led them to missing the playoffs in one of the toughest divisions in hockey by seven points, and ended up coming last in the division. The Predators will square off with the Wild to open up the 2019-20 season on October 3rd in Nashville.
The Wild went through an interesting offseason which involved them firing Paul Fenton and some interesting free agent moves with some key losses, key additions, and their restricted free agents they signed. They’re not widely considered a top contender in the tough Central Division this season.
The Wild go into the 2019-2020 season not losing too many players to free agency, and the players they did lose were depth players used for injury or rotational purposes. Two of these loses are former Predators Anthony Bitetto and Pontus Aberg.
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The Wild also lost Eric Fehr and Nate Prosser, who both were depth options for them this past season as Prosser is one of the better seventh defensemen in the league. He plays top AHL minutes and a bottom pairing defenseman in the NHL.
The Wild signed Zuccarello on a big contract considering his age as he has always been a consistent point producer and will be interesting whether he can continue to produce as he gets older. His contract takes him till he is 36 years of age.
Minnesota also signed former Predator Ryan Hartman who played around one total year with the Predators before being traded to Philadephia for forward Wayne Simmonds. They also signed two depth forwards in Luke Johnson and Gabriel Dumont who will more than likely play in the AHL and be called up when needed.
Restricted Free Agents
The Wild had three RFA’s this offseason who were Ryan Donato, Joel Eriksson Ek, and former Predator Kevin Fiala. The Wild signed Donato and Eriksson Ek fairly early on into the re-sign phase and the free agency period and signed Donato to a two-year deal worth 1.9 million per year, while signing Eriksson Ek to a two-year worth nearly $1.5 million per year.
However, it took the Wild until early September to sign their biggest RFA in Fiala, who they acquired at the trade deadline this past year in exchange for Mikael Granlund in a trade with the Predators. When the Wild did eventually sign Fiala they signed him to a two year contract worth three million per year.
How the Predators Match Up
The Wild have definitely gotten worse since last year as they have gotten older and lost some key pieces that they traded at the deadline for young prospects. Therefore, I believe the Predators have a good chance to win the season series or even sweep the series this year, baring that the Predators have no major or even minor injuries this year like last year.
Most would agree that the Predators have the better of the top two line combinations, better goaltending and a better defensive core. Head-to-head, the Predators should handle this series pretty easily. That doesn’t always mean a win, but the Wild are a team we should be least worried about in a stacked Central Division.
10/3 at Nashville
10/24 at Nashville
3/3 at Minnesota
3/15 at Minnesota
4/4 at Nashville