Three years ago when the Minnesota Wild went out and handed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter their matching 13-year, $98 million contracts, they began to turn their team into a potential Stanley Cup winner. Since then, they have managed to surround them with solid players like Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, and Mikko Koivu. So far this core has managed to carry the team as far as the second round of the playoffs, only to get continually knocked out by teams like the Blackhawks, who have always had their number. While the Wild are still attempting to figure out how to solve the Blackhawks, they are running out of time to do so. Minnesota isn’t getting any younger, but most of the Central division is. The group of leaders in St. Paul make up one of the oldest groups in the division with none of the 5 players of Parise, Suter, Vanek, Pominville, or Koivu being under 30 years old. In most sports, players start to hit a decline in their production once they start hitting 30 years or older, which is why the state of the Wild is becoming more urgent. Around the rest of the Central, you can start to see many of these young team’s players hitting their strides. Chicago is still anchored well by Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, who are 26 and 27 years old. Even their star defensemen Duncan Keith looked very strong at the age of 31 in the Stanley Cup Final. St. Louis, who has upped their game within the last few seasons, still has youth. Backes and Steen come in as the oldest of their leaders at 31, to be followed soon by Vladimir Tarasenko (23), Alex Pietrangelo (25), and Kevin Shattenkirk (26). Nashville is also led by many young players like Forsberg, Neal, Weber, and Josi, who have long careers still ahead of them that look to be filled with promise. Winnipeg’s core of Wheeler, Little, Ladd, Byfuglien, and Pavlec have an average age of 28 and could also find themselves in the talks of making the playoffs. The Dallas Stars have also managed to build themselves into the playoff talks this offseason. They added two Stanley Cup Champions in Patrick Sharp and Johnny Oduya who should mix well with the young dynamic duo of Benn and Seguin, who are 25 and 23. John Klingberg (22) and Jason Spezza (33) provide great addition on top what they already have. Even the Colorado Avalanche have hopes for the future in their captain Landeskog (22), Duchene(24), and MacKinnon (19). Sure, the Wild have young players, many of whom could become valuable to the team, but none are expected to be rising stars like those mentioned above. If you look down at the Iowa Wild, there isn’t very much promise there. Many of the hyped up prospects won’t be around for 3 or 4 more years, so we are left with what is currently our NHL youth. Niederreiter and Zucker both have the ability to become 20+ goal scorers for the team, but there is still a hint of doubt in the air which is why they are still on fairly short contracts. Granlund also has the potential to become important to the Wild, but he also has to work to prove that he belongs. The Wild have gone and locked down Coyle (23), Brodin (21), and Scandella (25) to longer term deals and are expected to be a vital part of the team’s future. It’s hard to say how their futures look, but the front office certainly believes that they are staying on the team for a reason. I would like to see young defensemen Matt Dumba and Jared Spurgeon play a role in the future of Minnesota’s defense, but I could see either one or both of them be traded to try and develop an even longer term solution. Having traded away so many second and third round picks within the recent years has not helped them gain and develop more prospects, so they will have to make what they currently have work for the mean time. Can this team manage to pull together their veteran experience to make a contender, or will they have to hit the reset button and go into a rebuilding mode? Only time will tell.