Unfortunately, the offseason is here for Minnesota Wild fans. It began all too soon, as the Wild suffered a first-round exit at the hands of the St. Louis Blues in five games, en-ing last Saturday. Now that the offseason is officially upon the State of Hockey (Chicago is on line one about that nickname), here is a handy guide on some key dates for the NHL offseason.
April 29 – NHL Draft Lottery (Toronto)
Bad news for Wild fans, is that the Wild do not have any ping pong balls in the lottery Saturday. In fact, the Wild are now five seasons removed from being in the draft lottery (this means they have made the playoffs for five consecutive seasons, a fact that has been lost on some this week), which is four more than the Edmonton Oilers can say. Speaking of the Oilers, this is the first time since 2006 they are not taking part in the lottery. How nice of them to finally step out of the lottery and give someone else a chance for a change.
Colorado, owner of one of the worst regular season records in recent memory, will have the highest draft lottery odds with 18 percent. They also have a 78 percent chance of drafting a forward with said pick, since they seem to not ever remember you need defense and goaltending. The lottery is also the first event with Vegas in it, as the Golden Knights own a 10.3 percent chance of getting the top pick.
May 5 – Nashville Finishes Off St. Louis (Scottrade Center, St. Louis)
Because the first round wasn't torturous enough for Wild fans, the Predators finally cap off a five-game series win over the St. Louis Blues, sending the Preds to the conference final for the first time in franchise history. Carter Hutton, not Jake Allen, finishes game five in goal as Allen was pulled following three consecutive awful starts. Here is a live look at Bruce Boudreau during Game Five, as he reflects on Allen's performance:
Early June – The Stanley Cup is handed out (from Gary Bettman's cold, lifeless hands)
Hey (insert team name here), congrats on winning the Stanley Cup. For the rest of the league, the real work begins now.
At the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Final, teams are free to start making trades. There could be a bit more this year, as teams try and dictate who they have available for Vegas in the Expansion Draft later in the month. Also in the 48 hours after the Cup is raised, teams are eligible to put players on waivers for the purpose of buying them out. No, Jason Pominville will not be bought out. You better hope Chuck Fletcher can work some voodoo magic and find someone to trade for the winger.
NHL Awards – June 21 (Las Vegas)
The Wild will be well represented at the NHL Awards this year, as they have a pair of nominees. Mikko Koivu's long-awaited nomination for the Selke Award (best defensive forward) finally happened thanks to his rebound season. Unfortunately for him, he was never actually invited to the Award Show as invites were only sent out to the other two nominees, Ryan Kesler & Patrice Bergeon. The other two are in a neck and neck race for the award, so the league actually forgot to invite the Wild center because he seems to be an afterthought here. Also up for an award is Mikael Granlund as he is a nominee for the Lady Byng Trophy. Should he win the award, he will be heckled by angry Wild fans for a poor performance of holding the award (as he still recovers from a broken hand).
Expansion Draft – June 21 (Las Vegas)
The league is so desperate for ratings on their bad awards show, they had to package it right with the Expansion Draft in the hopes of folks tuning in. Minutes after the awards get handed out, the league's best get to watch as some of their teammates get collected up by the Golden Knights in the Expansion Draft. 2016-17 Minnesota Wild scapegoat Mathew Dumba is high up the list of Wild players to be taken by the Golden Knights, but it will be oh so fun when someone besides Dumba (*cough* Scandella) gets taken and Wild twitter has another meltdown.
June 23-24 – NHL Draft (United Center, Chicago)
Draft day is always fun. There are lots of trades, and the future of all clubs are examined as the teams draft the next batch of stars. If you choose to turn in for the first round on Friday night (rounds two through seven are on Saturday), know that the Wild do not pick as their first round selection was sent to Arizona in the Martin Hanzal trade. I wonder if that first-round pick will ruin the Coyotes' chemistry...
Anyways, don't tune in until round three when the Wild do actually pick.
July 1 – NHL Free Agency Opens (Everywhere)
After a great year with Arizona, Coyotes defenseman Chris Pronger finally comes off the Arizona books and will hit the free agent market. As we all wonder what team the 42-year-old Pronger will play for next, you can't help but wonder how long it will take him to get into the Hall of Fame once his career ends.
As for the Wild, don't expect them to be in on anyone big this offseason as they will be tight against the cap. They might sign a depth guy or two, but the big moves (if there are any) will come via trade. Free agency will be the time when all the State of Hockey collectively bids adieu to Darcy Kuemper, who definitely won't be back next year.
Please, don't ask if #notoneofus TJ Oshie will be coming home (but it's actually not) this July.
July 10-September 15 – Nothing (The golf course)
The great thing about the NHL offseason is that everything happens so quickly, it's over in three weeks. So you have two months where there is literally no hockey news and you are free to actually go outside and enjoy other activities.
Mid-to-late September – Training Camps open (All 31 NHL teams)
Hockey is back! Everyone start planning your trip to Las Vegas!