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Are the Wild ready to contend?

American Ryan Suter and Zach Parise won silver in 2010 and will now look for Stanley Cup silver with the Minnesota Wild. (Getty Images)

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American Ryan Suter and Zach Parise won silver in 2010 and will now look for Stanley Cup silver with the Minnesota Wild. (Getty Images)

It’s nice to be back answering your mail, even if NHL training camp is (theoretically, at least) weeks away. Thanks as always for your submissions. I hope you continue submitting them come rain, shine or lockout.

Adam, do you think Montreal will re-sign P.K. Subban or is he asking for too much money?
Terrence Peddle, Clarenville, Nfld.


Terrence,

It’s not a question of if the Canadiens will re-sign Subban. It’s a question of when. There is virtually no chance the team would trade him or choose not to match a restricted free agent offer sheet from a rival team. As with most players entering their second NHL contract, Subban is nowhere near his peak as a player, meaning the Habs will have to project what he’ll be and gamble on him to a degree.

The wrinkle in this particular gambling case is the expiring collective bargaining agreement. Because nobody knows what the labor landscape will look like this coming season, agents and players would prefer to have long-term, big-money deals locked in as soon as possible. That’s easier to do when you’ve fully established yourself as a superstar – see Shea Weber’s new 14-year contract for proof – than it is if you’re still working your way up to that level.

So, that’s the challenge for the Canadiens and Subban – finding a happy medium that recognizes he is one of the better up-and-comers, while still paying him as if he has to prove he’s worthy of a Weber-like extension down the line.

Hey Adam, with the Red Wings and Sharks fading, who do you think will take control of the Western Conference next season?
Dan Cearns, Janetville, Ont.


Hey Dan,

Considering Detroit and San Jose finished fifth and seventh respectively in the West last year, you could make the argument new rulers have already established themselves atop the conference.

Without giving away THN’s continually unfolding pre-season predictions, it’s safe to say many of the teams that were the beasts of the West last year – namely, Vancouver and St. Louis – have a very good chance of repeating that dominance in 2012-13.

As well, you have to put the defending (and virtually intact) Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings into the mix. And the Chicago Blackhawks are only a few years removed from being the best team in the world, so you can’t count them out either.

But in the modern-day NHL, there are few teams you can completely count out of making an impressive run. Remember, even the Minnesota Wild had a strong stretch last year before bottoming out. If this season is shortened by a couple months due to a lockout, there’s no telling whether a team like Detroit or San Jose might surprise people the way the New Jersey Devils did in 2011-12.

Adam, with all the additions the Minnesota Wild made this summer via free agency, are they ready to challenge the Canucks in the Northwest Division and become serious Cup contenders?
Tommy McConnachie, Trail, B.C.


Tommy,

I’m with the majority of hockey observers who believe the Wild are much improved and almost certainly will be a playoff team this coming year. Now, are they among the truly elite teams? I’m not so sure.

Chuck Fletcher has done a savvy job of rebuilding this franchise, but they still have a number of young players (Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin) who will need a few years to excel at the NHL level. So I think they’ll be better and potentially much better, but still behind the big boys of the league.

Hello Adam. Do you think it is smart that Bryan Murray traded away Nick Foligno for Marc Methot? What are your thoughts on the trade? Who wins the deal do you think?
Michael Summerson, Creston, B.C.


Hello Michael. I do like that trade for the Senators, who clearly weren’t willing to meet Filip Kuba’s contract demands and needed a replacement for the minutes he ate up. Methot is a solid blueliner who won’t replace the offense of either Foligno or Kuba, but he’s locked up for three seasons at a very reasonable $3-million cap hit – and Ottawa still has nearly $20 million in projected cap space with which to address any offensive woes (which might not come to pass if their young prospects step up) during the season.

Columbus gets grittier and more offense out of the deal in Foligno, who still is just 24 years old and has three years left on a contract that pays him $83,000 more per season than Methot. If he can grow into a bigger role with the Jackets, maybe they look more like the winners of this deal down the road. But for now, considering where both teams are in their competitive cycles, I think Ottawa gets more out of it immediately.

Ask Adam appears Fridays on THN.com. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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