- Craig Custance
There was significant growth. The Minnesota Wild made the playoffs for the second consecutive season, and after losing convincingly to the Chicago Blackhawks last year, upset the Colorado Avalanche this year, then pushed Chicago further than most anyone expected.
Under general manager Chuck Fletcher, the Wild have solidified themselves as a playoff team, but are still in that second tier below the Stanley Cup contenders in the stacked Western Conference. How do they close that last bit of a gap between themselves and the Western Conference powers? That will be the focus this summer with these moves the priority:
1. Extend Mike Yeo's contract
He entered this postseason as one of the coaches in the playoffs potentially coaching for his job. If that was the case, he did everything you’d want to see out of a coach to keep it. His contract is up after this season, and the way he calmly guided the Wild past the Avalanche despite deficits in the series revealed his character. That confidence and unwavering faith in his abilities was shown against against Chicago, with the Wild making a series of it after dropping the first two games on the road.
He’s matured into a good young coach who deserves to be a part of the process moving forward in Minnesota. The one wild card will be if Dan Bylsma becomes available, considering Fletcher’s connection to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the past, but even if Bylsma is out there, Yeo has done enough to earn security.
2. Sign Thomas Vanek, but don’t overpay
The Wild saw up close the danger that comes with committing big money to an aging winger with the decline of Dany Heatley, so they’ll enter the free agent market with eyes wide open. Considering Vanek's age (he turned 30 years old in January), the team that signs him will be getting a player with diminishing returns, which isn’t something you want to hear when you’re investing millions.