Wild: What’s Missing in Minnesota?

The Minnesota Wild need…something.

The club is 26-21-3 after thumping the Colorado Avalanche Wednesday by a score of 5-2. Minnesota won’t play again until the first of February because of the All-Star break and, like most teams, are starting to look inward as the season gets into crunch time.

Honestly, the Wild are okay. They’ve got three points on the Dallas Stars and Avalanche in the Central Division and could make a go for a playoff spot, but they’ll need to pile up wins. Minnesota is on a three-game winning streak.

General manager Paul Fenton took some time to put his stamp on the team. Eight months, in fact.

But over two days in January, he got the ball rolling. On January 16, he acquired Pontus Aberg from the Ducks for Justin Kloos. And the next day, he traded Nino Niederreiter to Carolina for Victor Rask.

The deals aren’t bad. Aberg gives Minnesota a right-shot forward and Rask makes the centre position younger on a team in need of a little upgrade. While Rask was struggling with injuries, he could benefit from new surroundings.

With the trade deadline around the bend, the Wild have more things to figure out and more needs to address. There’s always that intangible with this club, like they just can’t be a great team without an overhaul.

But how doable is that?

Minnesota has a mature core and could stand to move out some players while the getting is good. Eric Staal is at the top of some lists and he’s making a case for himself, with three points against Colorado and two the game before that against Vegas. Add Jared Spurgeon to the mix, as the defenceman could be a decent longer-term rental for a squad with term to burn. And Charlie Coyle has been a person of interest.

Fenton’s in a decent spot this summer, with just one RFA (Joel Eriksson Ek) and a nice chunk of cap space.

So, what happens next?

Fenton did tell The Athletic’s Chad Graff that he’s less than unswerving when it comes to his opinion on the team. It’s pretty clear the point is to send a message to the squad. Shape up or you may be shipped out. It’s boilerplate for a normal team and it’ll be interesting to see what effect it has on the players.

For now, though, the Wild are stuck on normal. Minnesota wants to do better than okay and there are some serious questions to ask in light of that. Is this a winning roster? Or is this a run-of-the-mill, get-by squad that needs more than just a few pieces to really shake up the league?

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