ST. PAUL -- On their way to the United Center for the NHL Draft in Chicago last month, the Minnesota coaching staff began conversing about its roster and the moves being made around the League.
When the talk came to Iowa, Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau turned to Iowa coach Derek Lalonde and joked that the club's AHL affiliate might struggle during the upcoming season.
The Wild had already traded Tyler Graovac to Washington and Alex Tuch to Vegas. Earlier that morning, Minnesota shipped Jordan Schroeder to Columbus. Those three were among Iowa's best forwards a year ago.
"He turned around and told me, 'We are going to have the worst team in the history of the League,'" quipped Lalonde.
What seemed like a potentially dire situation was certainly rectified on July 1, when the Wild invested heavily in its depth, signing players who will not only help in case of injury with the NHL club, but one that should reap immediate benefits for Lalonde and the crew in Des Moines.
"July 1 was a huge day for us," Lalonde said from Development Camp last week. "I sat in our pro meetings three weeks ago and Bruce was saying, 'We've gotta get better down there, we've gotta win.'"
The Wild added a number of players who could make huge impacts in Des Moines this season, starting with forwards Landon Ferraro and Cal O'Reilly.
O'Reilly tallied 50 points in 62 AHL games with Rochester and Toronto last season and is considered one of the top playmakers in the league over the past several seasons.
Ferraro had 15 points in 22 games with AHL Chicago last season before a knee injury ended his season and is a proven goal scorer at that level. He will be just 26 when the season starts and the Wild believes there is still upside in his game.
On defense, the Wild signed Ryan Murphy and Alex Grant. Murphy could compete for an NHL job in training camp, but if he ends up in Iowa, could be an elite d-man at level.
Grant was outstanding with Providence last season, scoring 17 goals and 49 points in 70 games, one year after scoring 42 points in 69 games with Springfield.
"I'm very excited about what we did. It just builds depth and attitude and culture throughout," Lalonde said. "It's our job to nourish it now.
"You could just see the momentum there with us winning and playing meaningful games in Iowa [last season]. Guys come up from a culture where they didn't have that. It was a tough go for a while."
After making a big step forward last season, Iowa appears primed to take another big jump in 2017-18. If they don't make the NHL roster, Luke Kunin, Carson Soucy and Justin Kloos will embark on their first full professional seasons in Des Moines. They will be joined by Gerald Mayhew, who scored six goals in 17 games after joining the team at the conclusion of a stellar collegiate career at Ferris State.
Pat Cannone, who led Iowa with 38 points, re-signed with the organization. Sam Anas and Mario Lucia should take big jumps in their second seasons of pro hockey. Zack Mitchell and Kurtis Gabriel are back in the fold, as is defenseman Zach Palmquist.
The organization also signed goaltender Niklas Svedberg to compete with Alex Stalock for the backup job behind Devan Dubnyk. The person who doesn't win the gig will split duties with Steve Michalek in Iowa.