Starting the offseason with a general manager search could signal the first of many significant changes for the Wild.
The team cut ties with Chuck Fletcher on Monday following nine seasons together, and a new voice in charge is likely to bring different ideas.
But owner Craig Leipold made it clear his hire isn't going to be tabbed with guiding a complete overhaul, and the team is on board with that outlook.
"It's not a rebuild, I can tell you that," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I'm sure there will be some tweaks. We were [fifth] overall two years ago. We were eighth overall this year. We've got an awful lot of good, moving parts there. We'll tweak it a little bit, and we'll be better."
Ten players have appeared with the Wild in every season since 2013, and all but two of them are under contract for next season. This core has advanced past the first round only twice, but there's still confidence in-house that the current mix can deliver the postseason success the team has been lacking.
"If we all take everything up another notch and everyone takes a little more responsibility for themselves and pick it up as a team, I think we'll be OK," winger Jason Zucker said.
Even so, adjusting a roster each summer is normal and expected after a disappointing finish. How the Wild evolves will become clearer once a new GM is in place, a transition that will be helped along by the insight from the coaching staff.
"It's different until you know who the guy that comes in because you never know what he wants," Boudreau said.
But there's already interest to see who will be at the helm of trying to incite progress for the group.
"As much as we hate to see Chuck not be back and all that," forward Charlie Coyle said, "we're excited to see who's going to come in and who's going to be a part of this team."
Stuck in the middle
After bowing out in the first round again, the Wild will slot in a familiar spot in the NHL draft — the middle of the pack.
This position prevents the team from acquiring one of the headliners near the top of the pecking order, and it also doesn't enjoy a lengthy playoff run as a trade-off for a late pick. But Leipold doesn't want this reality to be an excuse for not adding skilled players to the mix.
"We have to develop it ourselves, if we can, or we're going to have to get it through another means — through a trade, if we feel that's what it takes," he said. "There's no easy answer to any of this, and I'm not saying just because we get a new general manager all of a sudden we're going to be an elite, elite team. It's my hope that it's going to help us get to the next level."
Eager to return
Winger Daniel Winnik is one of the few regulars who doesn't have a contract for next season, but the 33-year-old would like to re-sign with the Wild.
"I'm sure the new GM is going to want to come in and take care of all the signings," Winnik said. "I obviously want to be back. I don't know what's going to happen."
Winnik spent most of last summer unsigned, as he didn't land a one-year, $660,000 contract with the Wild until a day before the season started after being in training camp on a professional tryout.
He eventually carved out a role on the fourth line as a dependable veteran, especially on the penalty kill, and ended up with six goals and 23 points.
"I really think the summer took a toll on my confidence," Winnik said. "I thought the last couple months of the season I was playing some really good hockey, and I think it showed as a line with me, Joel [Eriksson Ek] and Marcus [Foligno]."