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Report: Wild could be in the mix for two free agent centers

Minnesota will have some cap space at their disposal.

With the St. Louis Blues hoisting the Stanley Cup and Brett Hull having the time of his life, the NHL offseason is officially upon us. 

The NHL Draft is this Friday, June 21 in Vancouver, Canada, with free agency beginning on July 1.

The Wild have more cap space to play with this summer – about $19 million – but they'll have some key restricted free agents to re-sign, like Ryan Donato, Kevin Fiala and Joel Eriksson Ek.

Regardless, the team should be fairly active this summer, whether it's via trades or free agency. A couple of players fans should keep eyes on are Minnesota native Anders Lee and Wisconsin product Joe Pavelski, according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.

"Minnesota was believed to be eying Brock Nelson, who re-signed with the Islanders," said Friedman in his weekly 31 Thoughts Column. "It would not be a surprise if the Wild pursued Anders Lee or Joe Pavelski, assuming either hits the market."

Both Lee or Pavelski could be re-signed by their respective teams (Islanders and Sharks) before free agency opens in July.

Lee, who's an Edina native, has been teammates with Nelson – who also happens to hail from Warroad, Minnesota – in New York for the past six seasons.

With Nelson locked up to a six-year, $36 million contract, the Islanders might not have the dough to re-sign Lee.

The 28-year-old center has averaged 34 goals the past three seasons and will likely be seeking a contract near the same amount that Nelson received.

With Mikko Koivu rehabbing an ACL injury and Eric Staal entering his age-35 season, Lee is the exact kind of player the Wild needs. If Minnesota can meet his contract demands, he'd breathe some life into a Wild team that's starving for natural goal scorers.

Pavelski is a veteran center who's spent his entire 13-year career with the San Jose Sharks. He'll be 35 in July, but he's averaged 65 points (29 goals and 36 assists) over the past three seasons.

Although his production is still solid, it's probably safe to assume teams won't be handing out a long-term contract to a player who's on the wrong side of his 30s.

So if the Wild are interested in Pavelski's services, they'd probably lock him up to a one- or two-year deal.

The other conundrum the Wild find themselves in is they'll have to create some roster spots. If you take a look at their depth chart, according to Michael Russo of The Athletic, they'd likely have to trade someone to create a vacancy for free agents to come here.

  • Zach Parise – Eric Staal – Kevin Fiala 
  • Jason Zucker – Mikko Koivu – Ryan Donato
  • Jordan Greenway – Joel Eriksson Ek –Luke Kunin
  • Marcus Foligno – Victor Rask – J.T. Brown

If Koivu isn't ready to go by the start of the season, the Wild could put him on long-term injured reserve, so that's one way a spot opens up. Or, J.T. Brown could be optined to the AHL.

Zucker's name has already been dangled in trade talks multiple times in 2019 and he was nearly traded to Pittsburgh last month for Phil Kessel before Kessel nixed the trade due to his limited no-trade clause.

With the Wild missing the playoffs last year for the first time in seven years and core players being traded away, it's going to be a very interesting and important offseason for the State of Hockey. 

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