October 02, 2014

MINNESOTA WILD

LAST SEASON: 43-27-12, 98 points. Lost to Chicago 4-2 in Western Conference semifinals after beating Colorado 4-3 in first round.

COACH: Mike Yeo, fourth season, 104-82-26.

ADDED: LW Thomas Vanek, LW Brett Sutter, D Justin Falk, D Stu Bickel.

LOST: RW Dany Heatley, LW Matt Moulson, D Clayton Stoner, C Cody McCormick, LW Mike Rupp.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Vanek signed a three-year, $19.5 million contract with the Wild after spending his first nine NHL seasons in the Eastern Conference, primarily with Buffalo. Vanek will be counted on for a scoring boost for a team that tied for 24th in the NHL in goals per game, but with Zach Parise and former Sabres teammate Jason Pominville among the top six forwards the onus is not all on him.

OUTLOOK: After advancing past the first round for only the second time in franchise history with a dramatic upset of the Central Division champion Avalanche, the Wild are on track for more with the addition of Vanek and the development of young forwards Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Erik Haula and Nino Niederreiter. The goalie situation is the biggest concern, with Niklas Backstrom and Darcy Kuemper returning as the top two after an injury-laden season at the position that forced the Wild to give four different players 19 starts or more in the net.

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