When the Minnesota Wild were knocked out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, there were a lot of questions that needed to be answered. With several players due a raise, the expansion draft, and a never-ending search for a top center, the Wild were due to have a busy offseason but not in the way it has played out.
Bill Guerin shocked everyone after buying out Zach Parise and Ryan Suter and with the submission of their protection list for Wednesday's expansion draft, the Wild's needs are much different than they were as they left the ice in Vegas.
Who will be selected in the expansion draft?
There may have been other motives to buy out Parise and Suter but it put the Wild in a much better position for the expansion draft. Without the need to maneuver around the duo's respective no-movement clauses, the Wild were able to protect Matt Dumba and Nico Sturm, leaving the Seattle Kraken with less to choose from on the roster.
Cap Friendly's mock draft forum has been torn on who that player will be with Ian Cole, Carson Soucy, and Kappo Kahkonen named as potential targets. Either way, it appears the Wild will need to replace someone on the back end.
Can the Wild use their draft assets in a trade?
The Wild's decision to buy out Parise and Suter also complicates their strategy in the draft. With nearly $12.7 in dead cap money in the 2022-23 offseason and $14.7 million the following two seasons, the Wild would be wise to stockpile young talent with the 22nd and 26th overall picks in the NHL Draft.
But those picks could also be used in a bigger deal to acquire a top-tier center.
Buffalo's Jack Eichel is the biggest name on the market but comes with a $10 million cap hit through the 2025-26 season. While the Wild could ask the Sabres to retain some of Eichel's salary in the deal, he also comes with questions about his attitude and a neck injury that might require surgery.
TSN's Darren Dreger reported earlier this week that the Wild are planning to make an offer for Eichel but won't "blow their cap space" or "overpay with trade assets."
This could lead the Wild down a safer road such as Arizona center Christian Dvorak. At 25 years old, Dvorak has a $4.45 million cap hit and is signed through the 2024-25 season.
The Athletic's Michael Russo listed Dvorak as a possibility and with 17 goals and 31 points last season, he's unlikely to come cheap. But the Arizona Coyotes are rebuilding and without a first-round pick in this year's draft. If it doesn't involve Matt Boldy or Marco Rossi going the other way, it's another option for the Wild.
Who could the Wild target in free agency?
The good news about the Parise and Suter buyouts is that it creates $10.3 million in cap space for this season. This means the Wild could be aggressive but they'll need to do it on short-term deals.
Andy Strickland of Bally Sports Midwest reported on Sunday that there's a "strong possibility" that Nick Foligno could sign with the Wild on a short-term deal. He is the brother of Wild winger Marcus Foligno and had seven goals and nine assists for the Columbus Blue Jackets last season before being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Wild could also sign an old rival in Paul Statsny. The 35-year-old has been terrorizing the central division throughout his career and is hitting free agency after one season with the Winnipeg Jets.
Statsny wouldn't come cheap as Cap Friendly projects him to sign a deal with a $6.5 million cap hit but it could be a good move for a team like the Wild, who need to be aggressive.
While some of their cap room will be dedicated to new contracts for Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala, the Wild have the flexibility to be an interesting team this offseason, which could make them an interesting team to follow come October.