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July 9, 2017 | 9:40am ET
Off-Season moves help Wild retool

BY NICK MAXSON | TheFourthPeriod.com

ST. PAUL, MN -- When playoff expectations are not met, change is often imminent. After Minnesota's first-round loss to the St. Louis Blues in April, General Manager Chuck Fletcher promised change, and publicly expressed his willingness to listen to any and all offers.

After losing forward Erik Haula and prospect Alex Tuch to the Vegas Golden Knights, Fletcher had been active in the trade circles, but nothing came together through the weekend of the entry draft.

Just before free agency kicked in on July 1, he struck a deal that sent veteran forward Jason Pominville and defenseman Marco Scandella to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for forwards Marcus Foligno and Tyler Ennis, plus a draft pick.

The move clears out necessary cap space for Fletcher to sign restricted free agents Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter, both of whom have been tendered qualifying offers, but either has yet to officially sign any contract.

Both forwards are expected to sign lucrative long term deals with the club, which was priority one for the team since seasons end.

More importantly the trade allows Minnesota to add more skill and speed to their top nine forwards with Ennis.

With their top six forwards including Mikko Koivu, Eric Staal, Charlie Coyle, Zach Parise, Granlund, Niederreiter and Jason Zucker, the Wild add speed and offense to the third line with the addition of Ennis.

With rookie center Joel Eriksson Ek expected to join the Wild full time this season, suddenly the Wild appears to have three formidable lines capable of contributing offensively, something that never transpired last campaign.

The offensive depth will be crucial, as other teams in the central division have injected more offense into their lineups. Couple that with a disappointing lack of scoring in their first round playoff loss Ennis allows Minnesota to attack with three lines, something the Nashville Predators found success with this past spring.

Add a quality physical presence with Foligno, something Minnesota was lacking last season and it appears the Wild have four quality lines. The fourth line will be critical against a heavy and skilled western conference and with Foligno he can be moved between lines and be very effective.

On the back end, it is certainly tough to lose Scandella, the versatile defenseman was excellent in the series against the Blues and was a reliable piece to the defensive core during his tenure with the Wild. His departure no question leaves a hole to be filled, and that spotlight certainly has shifted towards Matt Dumba.

It is believed Dumba will jump up and be paired with Jonas Brodin, who both will have a more fixated spot as the number three and four defensemen. For Dumba, whose name had been getting lots of attention from other GMs around the league as a possible trade acquisition, he will now have a more prominent role with the club.

As free agent defenseman Christian Folin departed for Los Angeles, the Wild brought in veteran defenseman Kyle Quincy via New Jersey and free agent Ryan Murphy seemingly to fill out the third pairing.

This season will be critical for Dumba, with one year of coaching from Scott Stevens he will now have to take direction from new coach Bob Woods who has worked with Boudreau in the past and there is hope with a more offensive style will allow him to contribute more offensively while staying responsible on the back end.

The Wild is certainly hoping for the young defenseman to break that glass ceiling, who many within the organization feel that he is not far from unlocking a rich talent pool that could make him a star.

Although the fan base has grown impatient with the young Canadian, the club feels strongly he will make significant strides this season, and it is imperative he does as he will look to take a bigger role with the team.

As the team stayed largely intact through this rollercoaster offseason, the expectations have remained high for this team who is built to win now.

Fletcher and the Wild will look to repeat their regular season success that saw them at the top of the Western Conference for much of last year and redeem themselves after an early exit this past April.

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

 
 
 

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