MINNEAPOLIS - With the Minnesota Wild season ending in a Game 7 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights last week, players had their exit meetings with coach Dean Evason and General Manager Bill Guerin on Tuesday before departing for the offseason.
The clear message coming out of those meetings was that the Wild have an abundance of young talent, and their goal is to take it to another level next season, so it doesn’t end after the first round of the playoffs. This year marked the fifth straight time that when the Wild got to the postseason, they had an early exit.
The Wild has not had a playoff series win since 2015. Here’s a notebook on what a few players had to say heading into the offseason.
KEVIN FIALA MOTIVATED AFTTER TOUGH PLAYOFF SERIES
If it wasn’t for Kirill Kaprizov’s breakout rookie season, Kevin Fiala would’ve led the Wild in points heading into the playoffs. Fiala finished second on the team with 20 goals, and second with 40 points. But in seven playoff games, Fiala had just one goal and one assist against the Golden Knights.
Fiala had 22 shots in the series, and said sometimes that’s just hockey.
"I had a lot of chances, I felt like I could’ve scored a lot of goals. It just didn’t go in. Everything was good, just not the results. That’s how it is," Fiala said.
His offseason plan includes heading back to Sweden and Switzerland to see family and friends, working on all aspects of his game and working towards scoring more consistently next year. It’s also his hope to work out a new contract before next season to stay with the Wild, and avoid becoming a restricted free agent.
"I love it here, I want to win here. Let’s see what happens," Fiala said.
JONAS BRODIN’S GAME 7 SHOULDER INJURY
Jonas Brodin had to leave Game 7 just minutes in after taking a hard hit, and never returned in the 6-2 loss. It’s a tough way for the veteran defenseman to end his season. He said Tuesday he suffered a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder.
He wanted to come back in the game, but the pain was just too much to overcome. So he had to sit and watch as the Wild’s season came to an end.
"So much fun to play Game 7s and then that happened, I think my second or third shift. It was not fun to leave the guys out there, play with five defensemen for the rest of the game, it’s never fun to do. It happens, but it was really disappointing," Brodin said.
He thought immediately after the injury was worse than a sprained AC joint. He won’t need surgery and will rest for a few weeks before starting offseason training.
JOEL ERIKSSON EK EXCITED FOR FUTURE WITH WILD
Joel Eriksson Ek gutted out the Game 7 loss after suffering a knee injury in Game 6, as he slid into the post and made contact with his knee. He re-aggravated the injury in Game 7, but said earlier this week he’ll be fine with a little time to rest and heal.
Eriksson Ek was one of the Wild’s most consistent players this season, and he was one of eight players to record three points against Vegas in the playoffs, including the game-winner in overtime of Game 1. Eriksson Ek could become a free agent this offseason, but wants to return to Minnesota. Bill Guerin said Thursday bringing him back is one of the top priorities.
"I love it here. Great team, I feel like we can win. I felt that before every game we could win. Of course I want to be here, it’s been nothing but great," Ek said.
We have to get better to win, and that’s what I want to do.
MATT DUMBA’S UNCERTAIN FUTURE
Matt Dumba had a goal and two assists against the Golden Knights. Now, the question is will he be with the Wild next season? Trade rumors are nothing new for the veteran defenseman, but this time around, the Wild may not have much control over their future.
The NHL is adding a team in Seattle, and Dumba could be selected in the expansion draft. He hopes that’s not the case.
"This is home for me, this is where I want to be. I love it here. it’s felt different this year, I’m excited to be a part of this new Minnesota Wild team," Dumba said.
Dumba, who has a home in Arizona, plans to spend at least part of the summer in the Twin Cities with his boat on the lakes. But will he monitor rumors about his future? He said it’s almost impossible to avoid.
"Hopefully I can go to the Bahamas and just leave the phone," Dumba said.