PITTSBURGH - While Chuck Fletcher can't talk about specific free agents the Wild hopes to pursue, the team's general manager said he at least would investigate what it would take to trade for the exclusive rights of a big enough target before he becomes a free agent July 1.
"That's the type of thing that has happened the last couple years," Fletcher said. "Obviously, it's something you've got to at least explore. Certainly, it's something you have to consider, but it's too early to say whether it's even going to be a possibility."
If New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise and Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter test free agency, the Wild will be one of the most aggressive suitors for both.
The Devils have never traded the rights to a free agent. The Predators have, dealing Kimmo Timonen, Scott Hartnell and Dan Hamhuis to Philadelphia and Dan Ellis to Montreal.
Both the Devils and Predators want to re-sign the players even if they test free agency, so it's uncertain if they'd be willing to trade their rights.
Also, even if the Wild somehow could trade for either's rights, another issue is what type of asset or assets would the Wild be willing to risk -- especially if it's unlikely Parise or Suter would sign and forgo their chance of testing the open market.
The objective in trading for a short window to talk exclusively would be to try to wine and dine each player so the Wild avoids a July 1 frenzy where it has to go up against other appealing options, such as Detroit.
The Wild traded Brian Rolston's rights to Tampa Bay in 2008 when it couldn't come to an agreement before free agency. Rolston wound up not signing with the Lightning, signed a four-year, $20.5 million deal with New Jersey on July 1 and the Wild still wound up with a draft pick.
So any effort could prove fruitless.
Fletcher met with Pat Brisson, the agent for Guillaume Latendresse, again Friday in an attempt to sign Latendresse, who played only 16 games last season because of a concussion, to a one-year deal with bonuses.
The Wild doesn't plan to tender Latendresse a $2.5 million qualifying offer by Monday's deadline.
"We still hope to get it done, but it may go until July 1," Fletcher said.
As the Wild looks to sign defenseman Justin Falk to a new contract, it doesn't plan to extend right winger Nick Johnson a qualifying offer Monday.
That means Johnson, who scored eight goals and 26 points in 77 games as a rookie last season, would become an unrestricted free agent. The rationale appears to be that he could be awarded a one-way contract in arbitration.
The Wild wants to free the roster spot to create room to sign free agents, and not shield its prospects from having the ability to compete for a spot next season.
Backstrom's lucky number: 13
Fletcher said last week he has absolutely no interest in trading goalie Niklas Backstrom, but he also couldn't without his permission.
As part of a complicated statistical no-trade clause negotiated by the previous regime, Backstrom can't be traded if he finished in "the top 15 in the NHL in one of the following: goals-against average, save percentage or wins in the 2010-11 and/or 2011-12 seasons."
Backstrom was 13th in save percentage.