A WILD SUMMER: RECAPPING THE ORGANIZATION'S 2019 OFFSEASONAug 9, 2019
Can you feel it Wild fans? It’s getting closer and closer to hockey season.
The calendar has flipped to August. Teams are prepping for the Traverse City Prospect Tournament and NHL training camps. The schedule has been released, players signed and drafted and now, all that’s left is to lay down the ice.
But with hockey still a month away, it’s a great time to take a look at what all has happened during the 2019 AHL offseason.
In the first move of the offseason, defenseman Matt Bartkowski resigned with the Wild on a one-year, two-way contract. In Bartkowski’s first season with the Wild organization, he played in 70 games with Iowa, recording 19 points (4g, 15a) as a veteran mainstay on the blueline. Bartkowski also skated in two games with Minnesota, netting a goal in his team debut.
One of the highlights of the NHL offseason, Minnesota drafted eight players in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Highlighting the group was forward Matt Boldy, selected 12th overall. The Wild’s 2019 draft class features five forwards, two goaltenders and a defenseman. Of the players selected, three are American, two are Canadian, two are Russian and one is Finnish. While it may be a few years before any player selected in the draft suits up for the Wild, it is another layer in the foundation of building a competitive and successful franchise.
Minnesota announced on June 25 that the club extended qualifying offers to seven players in the organization, including defensemen Louie Belpedio, Carson Soucy and Hunter Warner. By doing so, the club offered contracts to these players and retained each players’ rights for the upcoming season. Soucy signed a new one-year, two-way contract with the Wild on July 16 and Warner signed a one-year, two-way contract on August 9. Belpedio remains unsigned at time of publishing.
Another tentpole day in the offseason, Minnesota signed four players at the start of free agency: Mats Zuccarello, Ryan Hartman, Gabriel Dumont and Luke Johnson. Zuccarello and Hartman both are projected to make the big club’s roster while Dumont and Johnson will be two of several players competing for the few remaining roster spots in Minnesota.
While the Wild had a historic season on the ice, making the playoffs for the first time in team history, the club also had a record-setting season off the ice, winning five league business awards. The team won Team of the Year, Outstanding Fan Experience, Social Media Department of the Year and Best Unique Game Operations Promotion. In addition to those awards, President Todd Frederickson was honored with the Thomas Ebright Award in recognition for his career contributions to the AHL.
With the NHL Draft and free agency over, all fans’ eyes turned ahead as the Wild and the rest of the AHL dropped the 2019-20 schedule on this day. This season’s schedule will see the Wild take on 14 of the AHL’s 15 teams from the Western Conference. Of the team’s 38 home games, 28 will fall on Friday-Sunday, while 10 will be Monday-Thursday. November, January and February will all see seven home games, the most of any month.
Iowa continued to round out its roster heading into the new season as the club signed four players to contracts for the next season: forward Mitch McLain and defensemen Nick Boka, Alex Breton and Jack Sadek. McLain impressed in his rookie season, notching 20 points (10g, 10a) in 58 games with Iowa last season, while Boka and Sadek joined the Wild late in the season as black aces after finishing up college. Breton was a member of the Allen Americans, earning 39 points (14g, 25a) in 53 games as a rookie.
A major announcement for the organization took place on July 23, as Iowa named Alex Tanguay an assistant coach for the 2019-20 season. Tanguay played more than 1,000 NHL games across five different organizations, while recording 863 points (283g, 580a) in those 15 seasons. The former No. 12 overall pick won a Stanley Cup ring with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001 and competed in the 2004 NHL All-Star Game. Tanguay joins the club from the NHL Network, where he served as a TV analyst.
Minnesota Wild Craig Leipold announced on this date that general manager Paul Fenton was relieved of his duties and that Iowa GM Tom Kurvers would be the organization’s acting GM. The organization’s search for a permanent GM started immediately and Leipold, at a press conference later that day, said there was not a time-table for the hiring; the club will take as much time as needed to get the right hire.
The most recent event in the offseason, the Wild announced the first-ever Iowa Hockey Classic to take place on Dec. 21. That day, the Des Moines Oak Leafs and Des Moines Capitals will compete in junior varsity and varsity level contests on the Wells Fargo Arena ice ahead of the Wild’s game against the Grand Rapids Griffins. One ticket gets you into all three games and the event will celebrate the history of hockey in Iowa.