With training camp three weeks away, the Wild is discussing the possibility of signing one or two forwards to professional tryouts.
The likelihood seems great because the Wild only has 10 NHL forwards signed to one-way contracts. An injury or two, and the Wild could be relying heavily on an array of inexperienced youngsters and minor leaguers.
"Before we sign anybody, I think we'd like to have a better idea of what we have internally," General Manager Chuck Fletcher said. "There are a lot of guys that either have played or on the cusp of playing, so I think we want to be careful we don't box guys out.
"You want to make sure you have enough depth, but you also want to leave some flexibility."
Fletcher said the Wild is looking at different options for pro tryouts to act as insurance policies if some vying for spots show in camp they aren't ready. Longtime Wild prospects Tyler Graovac and Kurtis Gabriel will be given legitimate shots to crack the lineup, as will rookies Joel Eriksson Ek and Alex Tuch. Minor leaguers Zack Mitchell and Christoph Bertschy will be in the mix, as will depth forwards Zac Dalpe and Jordan Schroeder.
It's clear though that coach Bruce Boudreau wants more NHL experience in camp.
"I've let Chuck know how I feel about it," Boudreau said. He added, kiddingly, "Now, I'm not going to badger him because then he'll get [angry] and that's the last thing we want our GM to do is get mad at me before the season starts."
Training camp and exhibition games will be paramount for all vying players.
"I don't want to go [into games] not being able to play the fourth line," Boudreau said. "I want to make sure [the roster hopefuls] are NHL-ready."
Fletcher feels there are still some "pretty good free agents in the marketplace," including unsigned Wild forwards Ryan Carter, Chris Porter and Justin Fontaine. Some external options could include Paul Gaustad, Lauri Korpikoski, Steve Downie and R.J. Umberger.
"There isn't unanimity. Everybody has different ideas," Fletcher said.
Boudreau has told Fletcher, "I want to be more aggressive, more in-your-face, so we're going to try to get bigger and tougher and stronger."
For that reason, Gabriel has a bona fide chance.
"I've seen him every day for the last two weeks," Boudreau said. "He's working very, very hard at becoming a member of this team. If we think Chris Stewart can play on a line higher than the fourth line, if he can play the second line [with Mikko Koivu], then Kurtis is going to have a good shot at making the team."
In Boudreau's mind, Stewart and Nino Niederreiter are vying for the second-line right wing spot next to Mikael Granlund and Koivu. That could move Jason Zucker down unless the Wild opts to move Charlie Coyle back to third-line center. In that case, Boudreau said Erik Haula would start as fourth line center. All of that depends on how Graovac looks.
"I'd like to have a fourth line in a perfect world that you can put out against anybody and not be worried that you have to get them off the ice right away," Boudreau said.
Boudreau is looking forward to watching "the lifeblood of the Wild for years to come," — Tuch and Eriksson Ek, 19, who by all accounts was outstanding while captaining Sweden at National Junior Evaluation Camp in August.
"It would be great if they started and played 20 minutes in the American League," Boudreau said. "But they might come into our camp and be so good that you can't not have them on your team. That's what we'll see."