The Wild's defensive core was already going to have a much different look next season without Ryan Suter in the mix.
Now it'll be even more distinctive after the Seattle Kraken selected defenseman Carson Soucy in the Expansion Draft on Wednesday night.
Between Suter's buyout last week, Soucy's selection on Wednesday and the pending unrestricted free agent status of both Ian Cole and Brad Hunt, Minnesota will head into the NHL Draft this weekend and next week's start of free agency with just three NHL defensemen on its roster: Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba and Jared Spurgeon.
"We like who we have in the system obviously, and we're going to continue to try and create depth," said Wild GM Bill Guerin. "But we're going to have to be active in free agency, we could be active in the trade market. There's a lot of things we could do. We just have to understand where we are right now and we have some flexibility."
Depending on what happens over the next 6-7 days regarding trades, the Wild could be shopping predominantly for blueliners when free agency kicks off next Wednesday at 11 a.m. CT.
Video: GM Bill Guerin Expansion Draft reaction
Minnesota has Calen Addison already in the mix, but Guerin has indicated that he wants Addison to earn his spot in training camp.
At this point, Addison is the only option from Iowa that would appear to have a reasonable chance to crack the Opening Night roster. Matt Bartkowski, Louie Belpedio and Dakota Mermis are all set to be UFAs next week. A pair of 2020 draft picks, Ryan O'Rourke and Daemon Hunt are seemingly headed back to junior in the fall.
Restricted free agent Brennan Menell, who played in the KHL last season, could be an option too.
But even if Addison earned a spot, and the Wild circled back to Menell, Minnesota would likely need at least two more veteran defensemen, and likely three or four.
The loss of Soucy won't be an easy one for the Wild to swallow.
A fifth-round pick of Minnesota in the 2013 NHL Draft, the 6-foot-5, 215-pounder from Viking, Alberta by way of the University of Minnesota Duluth is a true draft and develop success story.
"It obviously stings," Guerin said. "Carson is a great kid, a player that we saw a lot of value in. His progression over the past couple years was fantastic."
Soucy played four seasons for the Bulldogs before making his professional debut in Des Moines at the tail end of the 2016-17 season.
The following year, he was a staple in the lineup in Iowa, playing in 67 games and scoring one goal and 15 points. Suter's ankle injury in Dallas late that season opened the door for Soucy to make his NHL debut, as he skated in three regular season games and four Stanley Cup Playoff contests that spring.
Expected to compete for a roster spot in Minnesota in 2018-19, Soucy had a disappointing training camp and was sent to Iowa where he played the entire season. He had a breakout year, scoring five goals and 20 points while posting a plus-6.
He hasn't been back to the AHL since.
Soucy scored seven goals and 14 points in 55 games in 2019-20, then followed it up by tallying a goal and 17 points in 50 games last season, leading the club in plus/minus. Over the past two seasons, Soucy has been a combined plus-38 in 105 games, playing mostly on the third-pair.
"He stole a job, and he kept getting better and better," Guerin said. "It's unfortunate, but those are the rules. We knew we were going to lose a good player and it was Carson. We wish him nothing but the best."
He's also been one of the Wild's most physical defensemen over that stretch, an aspect Guerin has admitted he will likely have to address in free agency starting next week.
Soucy, who turns 27 years old on Saturday, signed a three-year, $8.25 million contract before last season and will have two more seasons left before hitting unrestricted free agency.
His selection frees up an additional $2.75 million in salary cap space for the Wild.
The NHL's roster and trade freeze ends on Thursday at noon CT, at which time, all clubs can proceed business as usual ahead of the NHL Draft, which begins Friday night with the First Round. Rounds 2-7 will commence on Saturday.
Minnesota currently has two picks in the First Round (Nos. 22 and 26 overall) and nine selections in all, including two picks in the third round.