The Minnesota Wild entered this offseason with the most positive momentum in some time. They won a playoff series - first time since 2003 - and could have gone to the Western Conference finals.
Their roster is loaded with young stars and yet there seemed to be something missing during the six-game second round loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. It was even prevalent in the seven-game first round win over the Colorado Avalanche. They needed more offense - finished tied for 24th in the league at 2.43 goals per game - and help on the power play - 16th in the league at 17.9 percent.
There was also the issue of needing a physical presence on the blue line, especially after Clayton Stoner signed with the Anaheim Ducks.
Here are the moves the team made adding players to the roster.
Sign Michael Keranen (June 5)
The Story: The Wild and Michael Keranen agreed to terms on a one-year, two-way contract. Keranen recorded 52 points in 52 games for Ilves Tampere of Finland’s Elite League. The 6-foot-1-inch, 176-pound Sweden native was named the winner of the Golden Helmet Award (voted by the players as the best player in the Finnish League), Lasse Oksanen Award as the best player in the regular season and to the 2013-14 All-Star Team.
The Reaction: Keranen is a dynamic offensive player. He participated in the Wild’s development camp in July and showed that a year in Iowa would be beneficial for him. He looked a little physically overmatched on the smaller ice sheet. This could be a similar situation to Mikael Granlund - a year of adjustment before breaking out in Year 2 or 3.
Sign Thomas Vanek (July 1)
The Story: The Wild and Thomas Vanek agreed to terms on a three-year contract worth $19.5 million. He reportedly turned down longer and more lucrative contracts from other teams to sign with the Wild.
The Reaction: The Wild win on this deal. Vanek is a proven goal scorer in his early 30’s. Vanek will carry a large cap hit ($6.5 million per season), but it is only for three seasons. It will not hamstring general manager Chuck Fletcher in the future.
Sign Brett Sutter (July 1)
The Story: The Wild and Brett Sutter agreed to terms on a two-year, two-way contract. The 27-year-old was captain of the Charlotte Checkers (AHL affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes) last season. He played 17 games for the Hurricanes and had two points (one goal and one assist).
The Reaction: Sutter will be a leader and two-way player for Iowa. Where exactly he fits onto the depth chart is a mystery at this point. If he gets called up to the Wild it will most likely be in the same capacity as Jake Dowell filled the last couple seasons - an emergency center that plays if injuries pop up or day-to-day injuries occur.
Sign Stu Bickel (July 1)
The Story: The Wild and Stu Bickel agreed to terms on a one-year, two-way contract. The 27-year-old Chanhassen, Minn. native and former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher played 24 games last season for the New York Rangers’ AHL affiliate, Hartford Wolf Pack. He played 67 games in the NHL for the Rangers over parts of the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons with nine assists and 157 penalty minutes.
The Reaction: Bickel can be a big, physical depth defenseman. If they cannot find an established physical defenseman through a trade or free agency, Bickel could fill a seventh defenseman role that plays in matchup-type games.
Sign Guillaume Gelinas (July 1)
The Story: The Wild and Guillaume Gelinas agreed to terms on a three-year entry-level contract. The 21-year-old undersized defenseman was awarded the Emile Bouchard Trophy as the best defenseman in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
The Reaction: Gelinas attended the Wild’s development camp and showed off his dynamic offensive skills. He has a tremendous wrist shot and can handle the puck well. He also displays a physical side, despite his smaller frame.
Sign Joel Rechlicz (July 2)
The Story: The Wild and Joel Rechlicz agreed to terms on a one-year, two-way contract. The 27-year-old Brookfield, Wisc. native played last season for the Washington Capitals AHL affiliate, Hershey Bears. He played 25 games and had one goal and one assist while recording 87 penalty minutes.
The Reaction: Rechlicz is the big enforcer the Wild lost when it did not re-sign Mike Rupp. The Wild do not have an enforcer on the roster and could call Rechlicz up if need be, but the the best case scenario is that he stays in Iowa all season.
Sign Cody Almond (July 9)
The Story: The Wild and Cody Almond agreed to terms on a one-year, $550,000 contract. The 24-year-old center was drafted by the Wild in the fifth round of the 2007 draft. He spent the last two seasons with Geneve Servette of Switzerland’s Elite League. He recorded 26 goals and 38 assists in 83 games in Switzerland.
The Reaction: It was surprising when Almond signed with Geneve Servette two years ago, but it may have been beneficial for his development. He has become a more complete player and could immediately contribute on the third or fourth lines. It is a low-risk signing, but what exactly the reward will be is still unknown.
Sign Jordan Schroeder (July 12)
The Story: The Wild and Jordan Schroeder agreed to terms on a two-year, two-way contract. The 23-year-old Lakeville, Minn. native and former Minnesota Golden Gopher played 25 games for the Vancouver Canucks last season. He recorded three goals and three assists while battling injuries. He became an unrestricted free agent when the Canucks did not offer him a qualifying contract.
The Reacton: Schroeder is a skilled offensive player, but hasn’t put it all together in the NHL. He will be a good depth center that should start this season in Iowa.