The Minnesota Wild are in the midst of a very important offseason. With many crucial pieces to the team’s future set to become free agents and multiple important roster decisions to be made, general manager Chuck Fletcher will have his work cut out for him. The Wild made their first offseason move earlier this week, signing Swedish forward Michael Keranen to a one-year contract.
Keranen will join an already impressive group of young skaters currently inhabiting the Wild roster. The 24-year-old skated for the Ilves Tampere in Finland’s Elite League this past season. He recorded 52 points in 52 games played, totaling 17 goals and 35 assists.
As a result of his impressive season, Keranen received the Golden Helmet Award, which is essentially the Finland Elite League equivalent of the NHL’s Hart Memorial Trophy award, except the league’s players cast the votes. He was also named to the Finland Elite League All-Star team.
Keranen will quickly be ranked as one of the Wild’s top prospects alongside defenseman Matt Dumba. With this status, it should come as no surprise that Fletcher has stated that Keranen will compete for an NHL roster spot during training camp next season.
Given his one-year contract, it is fair to assume that the Wild expect Keranen to make an impact at the NHL level next season. While it may take some time for Keranen to adjust to the style of hockey played in the NHL, his skill-set and impressive history suggests that he could be a playmaker immediately.
The Wild took a step forward this season, moving onto the second round of the NHL playoffs for the second time in a relatively short franchise history. While this was impressive given their playoff seeding, the Wild will have much higher team expectations next season. The Wild will look to halt the trend of losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in the NHL playoffs next season and Keranen is expected to play some sort of role in that.