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Wild could make a splash with offseason roster moves


Free Agency opens for NHL teams next week and the Minnesota Wild could be a major player in it.

Wednesday was the first time that teams in the NHL could talk to unrestricted and restricted free agents from other teams.

According to the Bleacher Report, the Wild can make a splash through a trade and has the cap space to make a blockbuster signing in free agency.

Minnesota finds itself in pretty good position at the start of free agency. The team has about $10 million coming off the books with the departures of forwards Dany Heatley and Mike Rupp. That leaves the team with an estimated $22 million in cap space.

Wild television analyst Mike Greenlay says they don't want to mortgage the future or overspend on a free agent, unless they know what they are getting, but he says he thinks it will be an interesting week.

"I think (General Manager) Chuck Fletcher will make moves to add scoring," said Greenlay, during a Wild Road Tour Stop in Marshall. "It's something the Wild are always looking for, but I think they are positioned pretty well, because they have a lot of young talent and some veterans who can play well."

The Star Tribune's Michael Russo predicts Minnesota could look to add one of the top free-agents. Russo says the Wild have significant interest in Colorado forward Paul Stasny or Pittsburgh defenseman Matt Niskanen.

Stasny and Niskanen will command lucrative, long-term deals, so there's no way the Wild would be able to land both.

The other name the Wild have been rumored to have an interest in is former Gopher standout Thomas Vanek. He finished the season in Montreal and is expected to become a free agent.

Vanek has scored 277 goals in 663 career games and ranks eighth in the NHL in goals since the start of the 2005-06 season.

According to Russo, if Vanek wants to play for the Wild, he may have to consider a short-term contract.

With some young stars on the rise in the franchise, Fletcher will have to balance this year's needs, with the money the team will need in the future to re-sign some of its young talent.

Minnesota could also venture into the trade market. A lot of NHL teams are in the market for a goalie and the Wild could be looking to deal.

"The goaltending is the biggest question mark," said Greenlay. "But its a really tough position to make a lot of moves. (Niklaus) Backstrom has two years left on his deal, Josh Harding has a year left on his and Darcy Kuemper is a restricted free agent who they'll have to sign."

The Bleacher Report even says the Wild may be willing to retain some of Backstrom's salary to deal him. He is recovering from season ending abdominal and hip surgeries.

Like with the Wolves, the next week could prove to be very interesting for the Wild.

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