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May 16, 2017 | 10:02am ET
Cosmetic changes expected in Minnesota

BY NICK MAXSON | TheFourthPeriod.com

ST. PAUL, MN -- With the dust finally settled, the Minnesota Wild have gracefully, and silently, transitioned into the offseason with many questions left unanswered.

Most Wild players would rather be put into a coma, and woken up when September ends.

What started as the most successful regular-season in franchise history turned a glimmer of hope into a shining opportunity that the team failed to capitalize on. The dream that had been birthed with a second place finish in the Central Division had been wiped out with a first-round knockout at the hands of the St. Louis Blues and former Head Coach Mike Yeo.

Familiar faces on the ice had produced no better success in the postseason with a new coach, new system and different attitude. Shock and disbelief still linger around the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, but now it has come time to ponder if key pieces will still be in place.

With young players to sign and the expansion draft upcoming in June, changes to the roster are imminent and if the Wild wants better playoff results, look no further than the Washington Capitals.

After keeping their core intact for nearly a decade, a roster dismantling is about to commence in the nation's capital. That same talented group had plenty of chances and could not even venture past the second round.

With one of the most tricky and complex postseasons the team will endure the question remains: what should Minnesota do to end the early postseason exits?

ROSTER MOVES

The Wild's brass has without a doubt been watching the Nashville Predators and the Anaheim Ducks closely. They saw the Preds manhandle the Blackhawks and the Blues seemingly with ease.

The defensemen for both the Ducks and the Predators have been physical, quick on their feet, involved in the offensive cycle and moved pucks out of their own zone quickly and efficiently.

Back in St. Paul, what was thought to be a strength for the club for so long now has giant question marks written all over it.

Even with Hall-of-Famer Scott Stevens leading the defensive corps, there seemed to be a lack of skill on the Wild back-end, especially in the bottom three.

Marco Scandella was inconsistent all season and as good as he was in the playoffs he had trouble getting shots through, was often caught flat footed and was mainly part of the third pairing for a majority of the regular-season.

There is so much more untapped potential with Scandella offensively if the Wild want to release it. If he can get more shot attempts, spend some time on the number-one power play unit his value would significantly increase.

Rookie Joel Eriksson Ek will, without a doubt, make the roster full time next season, which puts the struggling Erik Haula into the spotlight. After a tremendous end to the regular-season in 2016, he failed to carry that momentum into the 2016-17 campaign and never quite found a home in Bruce Boudreau's system.

Matt Dumba may be the one player on the roster that has the most to worry. With yet another inconsistent season on the blue line and what seemed like little to no improvement Dumba is likely the most tradable asset on the club.

It is a difficult puzzle to solve with Dumba, who is still young and should have more room to grow, yet over the past couple of seasons he has been more of a liability than an asset.

His cannon of a shot should make him a powerplay specialist, but his bad decision making flat feet and not getting shots through saw him get taken off the power play entirely midway through the season.

It is possible a change of scenery may be what Dumba needs, but for as much upside as the club sees their patience level is running low and packaging him with another prospect for a top-four defenseman could be a deal the club is not willing to pass up on.

EXPANSION DILEMMA

The Vegas Golden Knights will see their inaugural season kick off this October, but before it can begin they will select one player from every club through the expansion draft.

Minnesota has a lot of attractive pieces, but two players stand out as high potential for getting chosen by the new club.

Jason Zucker had a monster year; it was his most complete and consistent season to date. He was much improved defensively and his plus-34 was tied for best in the National Hockey League. His speed made him a threat every shift he was on ice and with his attack the net mentality he drew penalties and forced defenses to scramble in front of their own net.

At a conservative $2 million cap hit for next season, Zucker's value for money is right for the taking. On the flip side, if Zucker has another big year how much money would he cost for the new expansion team that will have to manage their salary wisely in the first few seasons in the league.

Jonas Brodin is the most attractive piece on the Wild roster. At just 24 years old, he has shown the ability to play big minutes and play in every situation on the ice.

Brodin could easily be tapped as the Aaron Ekblad for the Vegas franchise because of his youth and calm demeanor with the puck. He rarely makes mistakes is always in good position with his body and stick but most importantly his quick feet and hockey sense are second to none.

If Brodin is chosen by Vegas, it would leave a giant hole in the Wild blueline. That hole will have to be filled either via free agency or trade as Minnesota would need a proven top four defenseman to replace him and not a young prospect to fill the void.

SMALL CHANGES, NOT BIG

One thing Minnesota cannot do is to pull the trigger for the sake of pulling the trigger. Their regular-season success has no accident and showed that the capability of this team is still there, but perhaps a veteran acquisition could help come playoff time.

The Wild's roster does need change, but if they make the right move one is all they would need.

There is no question that the playoff results weren’t there, but if you breakdown the numbers it is quite surprising that Minnesota did not win that series. What may have happened after that will forever be a mystery and the game of “what if’s” simply is a waste of time.

Minnesota will be a playoff team again next season and there is little doubt of that, what might need change is how they approach the final weeks.

Did they play Devan Dubnyk too much? I believe they did, home ice advantage is only an advantage if you win, not that you play the first two games of the series on home ice.

Dubnyk should have been rested more, but it was difficult with the lackluster play of backup goaltender Darcy Kuemper where all signs point to him being a free agent come July 1.

Should they have rested their player longer before the playoffs? Possibly, but in the end the Wild needed to elevate their game to another level in the playoffs and simply didn’t do so.

This team will be alright. It is in no way in jeopardy of taking a step back, but to take a step forward may mean taking one step to the side before marching ahead.

Nick Maxson is the Minnesota Correspondent for The Fourth Period. Follow him on Twitter.

 
 
 

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