It’s already been discussed who the three breakout candidates could be for the Minnesota Wild this upcoming season, now it’s time to talk about who is on their last chance with the team if they can’t prove themselves worthy of a new contract.
Teams change every year and while it’s hard to watch players go, it’s a necessary evil. These players are fan favorites but they have to find a way to become irreplaceable or they will be gone. We’ll take a quick look at who these players are and why they find themselves on this list.
Zuccarello’s Time is Closing
Mats Zuccarello is a tricky case, he’s been critical in Kirill Kaprizov’s development on the top line and has become best friends with the Wild’s superstar, but the cruel reality is he’s aging. While he had a decent season in terms of points, he seemed off from the year prior. He and Kaprizov had some trouble making chemistry happen to the point they needed to be split up.
Zuccarello and Kaprizov have a bad habit of passing only to each other and no one else. Once the other team notices that they can predict the pass and pick it off. While he has his flaws, Zuccarello is still a great scorer and skater, but that can only last so long. As stated before his age is starting to become a factor, he’s going to be 36 by the time this coming season starts and 37 the year following, leaving the Wild with a choice to make.
This is Zuccarello’s last season under contract and while the Wild want to keep Kaprizov happy by keeping his linemate with him, they have to make sure he’s worth it. Obviously, he has been a great asset and has produced but the older a player gets the harder that is to do. They have to decide if he’s worth another contract or if they can move up one of their younger prospects to fit in with Kaprizov. This coming season will be a big factor in deciding Zuccarello’s future especially if he has a bad season.
If he has a rough season, chances are this will be his final season wearing a Wild jersey. While that may be hard for both players, the truth is Zuccarello won’t be able to play through the entirety of Kaprizov’s career and they’ll have to find someone else eventually. The sooner they can start that process before Zuccarello is done, the better. Hopefully this season they can try a few different things just to prepare themselves for the future and luckily if they do re-sign him, he should take a slight pay cut which will help their money situation as well.
Foligno Question Mark
Marcus Foligno is another interesting player as his contract is also up after this coming season and he also took a big hit in the points department in 2022-23. The thing about Foligno, who’s also known as “Moose”, is his size and skill in the physical category. He throws a lot of hits that can swing momentum in his team’s favor and the Wild aren’t a big team in terms of size. They have a handful of bigger players but the majority are on the smaller side.
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Apart from Foligno’s hits, the bonus side to his game is his scoring ability – but it’s inconsistent. The biggest problem with his game this past season was his penalties. He lost his composure many times and it cost his team, especially during the postseason. He has this upcoming season to make up for it, but if he can’t prove he’s learned his lesson, he may be looking for another job.
Foligno’s a big locker room presence that the Wild desperately need, especially after Dumba’s departure. That could play a part if the team decides to try and re-sign him, but he’ll really have to prove himself because the Wild will still need all the cap space they can get to keep other players as well.
Hartman Needs Stability
The final player on this list, Ryan Hartman had some composure issues during the season as well. Thankfully his didn’t spill over into the postseason but it was bad enough he got a benching. The message seemed to be received as Hartman straightened his game out with one slight issue at the end of the season that could’ve gone either way but was clean through the playoffs. Again, like his teammates, his stats took a hit this past season from the season prior and he struggled to score at times.
Another player with one year left on his deal, he’s in a prove it or lose it situation. The Wild may be more inclined to keep Hartman around due to the fact he’s the youngest on this list and also worked really well with Kaprizov and Zuccarello on the top line. They did struggle a bit and he was shifted around between the lines but did end up back on the top line before the season ended.
Hartman is a player with a gritty determination that has helped him score goals but also got himself in penalty trouble. He has to remember to keep himself in check and not put his team in a bad situation. If he can do that and again get back his scoring game, he’ll likely be on the Wild’s roster when the 2024-25 season rolls around.
Wild Have Options
The Wild will once again have limited cap space next offseason when they have to determine what to do with these players if they don’t do something during the season. They’ll have to make hard choices and obviously, some players won’t make the cut. It’ll be interesting to see who steps up and who ends up staying on the roster for the future.