It seems unlikely the NHL will cancel another season. However, in order to play a 48-game schedule, a deal probably has to be done within the next week or so.
If the NHL and NHLPA reach an agreement, the Minnesota Wild will be one of the top contenders to challenge for the Northwest Division title, Western Conference and Stanley Cup.
In order to do that, the Wild will have to answer three questions.
Question No. 1 – How well will the new additions fit into the team?
The Wild signed the two biggest names available in free agency in July. The Wild have had been one of the worst scoring offenses in the league. The addition of Brian Connelly, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter combined with first-year pro prospects Jonas Brodin, Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Johan Larsson, Zack Phillips and Jason Zucker figure to change the offensive ineptitude.
The Wild need them to acclimate themselves to the team’s system and to build chemistry with Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Matt Cullen, Dany Heatley, Tom Gilbert, Mikko Koivu, Jared Spurgeon and Devin Setoguchi very quickly.
Every one of the players could have skated together and a built a solid rapport for nearly six months now.
Question No. 2 – Which prospects will get NHL roster spots when the season starts?
The Wild have a few very good prospects that could be playing in the NHL. However, there are not very many spots available on the NHL roster when/if there is a hockey season.
The six rookies listed above plus Brett Bulmer, Tyler Cuma, Justin Fontaine, Chay Genoway, Steven Kampfer, Jarod Palmer, Nick Palmieri and Chad Rau will fighting for the few NHL roster spots available.
There are a lot of young players, but most figure to stay with the Houston Aeros until needed.
Question No. 3 – How will Josh Harding’s MS diagnosis affect the team?
The goaltender has had a penchant for making huge saves, but the oft-injured goaltender was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a few months ago.
The news was shocking and seemingly out-of-the-blue.
It will either be a distraction or an inspiration.
The Wild team is pretty close and Harding is a well-liked player. All signs point to this being a non-issue once the story makes its rounds again.