The Paul Fenton experience didn't go so well for the Minnesota Wild, and he was fired after one season on the job. With a new general manager in Bill Guerin, but a roster that is largely unchanged, what will the results be this season? Here's everything you need to know about the Wild heading into the 2019-20 NHL season:
The big question: How much damage did Paul Fenton do?
OK, that sounds a little dire. But Fenton's 14-month tenure as GM was memorable -- for the wrong reasons. Between a trade that immediately didn't age well and trades that didn't happen (and immediately got leaked), the morale and talent level on the Wild aren't as great as they should be. Owner Craig Leipold recognized this and moved on from Fenton just one month after free agency, hiring Bill Guerin as a replacement. Guerin has an excellent reputation from his time as an assistant general manager in Pittsburgh, but nobody knows how he will do now that he's in charge. The bright side? He has a low bar to clear.
Offseason comings and goings, cap situation
Fenton's big free-agent move was signing former Rangers winger Mats Zuccarello to a five-year deal. Nobody is questioning the signing -- Zuccarello is a reliable depth scorer and will fit in well on the second line -- but the term and no-movement clause are questionable, considering Zuccarello is 32 and this is a team that needs to get younger. Ryan Hartman also signed, and will be used on the third or fourth line. Other than that, the Wild will look very similar, including several players who joined Minnesota late last season, such as Kevin Fiala and Ryan Donato. The Wild have nearly $5 million in projected cap space.
Kevin Fiala finally busts out. Fiala has all the tools to thrive in the NHL, but showed only flashes during his time with the Nashville Predators, and that's why he was traded last season. His stint with Wild hasn't been great so far (7 points in 19 games). Staring at a career crossroads, Fiala has to start strong to prove himself.
Breakout candidate: Ryan Donato
He might stay at center, he might try wing, we're not quite sure where he'll figure into the lineup just yet. But the 23-year-old forward -- acquired from the Bruins in the Charlie Coyle trade -- was a proven scorer at lower levels, and has the skill to do it in the NHL, too.
The defense. The Wild have a sound blue line, especially in the top four. They'll be especially glad to welcome back Matt Dumba; the 25-year-old was having a breakout season before undergoing surgery to repair a torn right pectoral muscle, which cost him the final four months of the season.
Goaltending. The defense might mask some of the issues, but the Wild have a weakness in goal. Devan Dubnyk seems to be declining, and we haven't seen much from backup Alex Stalock to inspire confidence.
Wild in NHL Rank
Not a great outlook for the next three seasons in any regard, as the highest-rated category was the prospect pipeline -- at No. 24. The NHL roster (No. 27), owner/GM/coach (No. 28) and cap/contracts (No. 31) filled out the quartet.
Pipeline ranking: 23
8. Kirill Kaprizov, RW
20. Matthew Boldy, LW
Fantasy facts to know
The Mats Zuccarello/Zach Parise forward pairing is one to watch in 2019-20. Signing with the Wild this summer, Zuccarello is reportedly already developing some pretty heady chemistry with the veteran goal scorer. Fantasy managers shouldn't be surprised if these two, both of them often underrated, finish top of Minnesota's scoring table with 65-70 points by spring.
Defenseman Matt Dumba cannot wait to get going after losing more than half of 2018-19 to a serious pectoral injury. The 25-year-old feels fully fit and ready to pick up where he left off after 12 goals and 10 assists in just 32 games. A complete campaign should add up to 60-plus points for the Wild's top defenseman and power-play anchor.
While Minnesota's defense deserves plenty of credit, Devan Dubnyk merits his own share for getting it done on the regular between the pipes. Through his past four full seasons with the Wild, Dubnyk leads the league in games played with 259, and sits second only to Washington's Braden Holtby in total wins with 138. His average .918 SV% and 2.40 GAA over that span isn't too sloppy, either. Other than anticipating a slightly smaller workload -- 55-60 games instead of 65-plus -- the 33-year-old goalie should put up similar numbers this season. -- Victoria Matiash