Let's not waste any time. Here are the biggest issues facing the Wild:
-Mike Yeo's contract
He's underpaid and his contract is up. He proved himself over the last two months. I say he should get a three-year deal that places him in the upper-half of NHL coaching salaries.
Thomas Vanek has been rumored to end up with the Wild for years, and for good reason, but he's not exactly performing like a scoring star right now, and the Wild have a bunch of good young players coming along, and I'm not sure you tie up all of your money in Vanek at this point. It would be a popular but destructive move.
Because Ilya Bryzgalov played better than expected during this series, I can understand fans wanting him back. But he's not a long-term solution, and he may not even be a good short-term solution. He was terrible down the stretch and got benched for good reason during the Colorado series. I want someone more reliable. The Wild will have to decide whether Kuemper is a full-time starter, someone who should split time, or a backup. If he's not a full-time starter, this is where you invest.
The Wild could use a big, physical defenseman, but Clayton Stoner and Marco Scandella both had excellent stretches in the playoffs. This is another area where you could throw money at a problem, but the best solutions might come from within.
Just as Jason Pominville and Matt Moulson weren't magical solutions, the next free-agent the Wild signs probably won't be either. This team will progress based on the development of Kuemper, Erik Haula, Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Jonas Brodin, Stoner and Scandella.
Remember, few of those players have put together a full, impressive, NHL season. They will all have to learn how to grind through a long season and play well when other teams are game-planning for them.
But the talent is there, and Yeo's system gives this team a chance to win even when it's not scoring.
There should be better days ahead, but in the Western Conference, imporvement will be needed just to compete for home ice in a playoff series.
``I thought we were as good as anyone,'' Zach Parise said.
Not quite. There's no rational reason to believe the Wild would have won at Chicago in a Game 7. But at least this team has progressed to the point where it can dream.
I'll be on 1500ESPN in the Twin Cities at 12:15ish tomorrow to discuss this great game, and the Twins' walk-off. My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.