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Wild Preps For Free Agency, Looking For Right Fits

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

If phase one of the Minnesota Wild's offseason roster construction was the NHL Draft, phase two is about to get in full swing with the Wild back in Minnesota after selecting four new players in Buffalo.

What the Wild didn't do, and what hardly any teams across the league did, was make a trade that moved NHL assets, pro roster players of consequence.

In two days at First Niagara Center, with the brain trusts of all 30 teams separated by arm's lengths on the NHL Draft floor, eight trades were made that saw players with appreciable NHL experience get moved.

"There didn't seem to be a whole bunch of activity here this weekend," Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher said. "I thought there would be more, and there wasn't. We'll see what that means, if it means there will be more trade activity in the next week or two, or maybe there will just be free agent activities.

"It's hard to gauge where the overall market will go, but from our standpoint, we're going to have opportunities here in the next week to improve our team, and if we can, we will."

Fletcher and the rest of the Wild's brass has been steadfast in their offseason approach, consistently saying that if the right move, via whatever avenue, presents itself, the Wild won't hesitate to spring into action.

"With a trade situation you can't force it, either," Fletcher said on Saturday after the draft concluded.

What the Wild has, according to Fletcher and new Head Coach Bruce Boudreau, is a roster with the potential for a successful season.

But with free agency officially beginning this Friday, and NHL teams now able to talk to impending free agents, Fletcher said he knows things can change quickly.

"Especially now in the shopping period, we'll have an opportunity to gauge the interest of some of the free agents to see whether they would have interest in us," Fletcher said. "Obviously when you're a free agent you have the right to pick your situation, so we can't just presume everybody will want to come play for us. We'll do a lot of work here in the next week and find out what options are there."

That could slow the brakes on any potential trades, should the shopping period turn up any matches. The Wild has about $14 million in cap space to spend after buying out the final year of forward Thomas Vanek's contract on Friday.

With Boudreau and his two new assistants eager to get in the ears of the returning Wild players, giving up assets is something the Wild is prepared to do only if it is convinced it will improve its roster.

"The trade market is not something we can completely control," Fletcher said. "That's the more difficult one to predict.

"There are going to be opportunities based on the conversations with other teams. I know a lot of teams are looking for elements that they didn't acquire the last couple of days, and whether they choose to satisfy those requirements through a trade or through free agency, we'll find out. There should be a little bit more of a shakeout here."

Boudreau though reaffirmed that he thinks the Wild, as currently constructed, is capable of achieving a satisfactory level of success.

"There are a lot of tools in place," Boudreau said from the draft floor in Buffalo on Saturday. "They don't need an overhaul. They're a really good team right now. It was reminded to me when we were in conversation the other day that halfway through the (2015-16) season, at 41 games, we had (52) points, and that's a 108-point season.

"Some things went a little wrong after that, but at the same point, the ability is there."

Fletcher and Boudreau both said they're expecting the Wild's new coaching staff to make a positive difference simply by providing a new voice from the bench.

"It's still a change," Boudreau said. "I'm sure my personality is quite different than my predecessors. And I'm sure Scott Stevens' is a little bit different. And I'm sure John (Aderson's) is."

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