The Wild wasn't the only team shopping for its defense in NHL free agency.
So was more than half the league.
But not everyone had the same spending power.
Despite being priced out on some of the top talent available, the Wild stuck to its budget and plugged holes on its blue line by bringing in Grand Rapids native Alex Goligoski and the experienced Dmitry Kulikov to get its roster closer to being ready for next season.
"There are a lot of good players that went today," General Manager Bill Guerin said. "There are a lot of guys that we liked. They didn't fit what we were trying to do. We have to be conscious enough to have the right term and the right dollars and for the right player. That's not easy to do.
"We just have to move methodically."
That was certainly how the Wild began to replace Ryan Suter (buyout), Carson Soucy (Seattle expansion draft) and Ian Cole (free agency).
After signing Goligoski to a one-year, $5 million contract that includes a no-movement clause Wednesday morning, the team didn't acquire Kulikov on a two-year, $4.5 million deal until the evening.
In the meantime, defensemen were flying off the shelves.
But since the Wild is preparing for the salary-cap charge of the Suter and Zach Parise buyouts to escalate in two years to nearly $15 million, the team didn't have the room to make the same long-term, lucrative offers like the ones received by Jake McCabe (four years at $16 million from Chicago), David Savard (four years at $14 million from Montreal) and Cody Cedi (four years at $13 million from Edmonton).
"We're in a different position than other teams that are rapidly signing guys," said Guerin, who was shocked at the money being doled out.
This type of juggling act is the Wild's reality until those buyout costs ease up, but Guerin didn't second-guess the decision to move on from Suter.
"I know it's going to be our life," he said, "and I don't regret it."
Cole was interested in returning, and management had what Guerin called "great dialogue" with the two-time Stanley Cup champion. But the veteran ended up signing a one-year, $2.9 million deal with Carolina.
"I wish it could've worked out here for him," Guerin said. "But sometimes it's a timing thing."
Kulikov, a left shot who split last season between New Jersey and Edmonton, brings a shutdown style to the third pairing as Cole did.
The 6-1, 204-pound Russian had 49 blocked shots and 93 hits in 48 games last season to go along with four assists. Kulikov, 30, has also played with Florida, Buffalo and Winnipeg, tallying 174 points in 725 career games.
As for Goligoski, his homecoming is expected to take place alongside captain Jared Spurgeon on the Wild's first unit.
"They're both real high hockey-sense guys," Guerin said. "Their skill levels are really high."
A 14-year veteran of the NHL, Goligoski was the Wild's No.1 free-agent target. The former Gopher is coming off a five-year run in Arizona, chipping in three goals and 19 assists in 56 games as a poised and reliable defender.
"Everyone has that desire to play for their home state at some point if they have a team that plays there, and I think it's a great fit for me," said Goligoski, who turns 36 on Friday. "I think the team's good, too. That was the main thing for me was I want to play some winning hockey and have a chance."
Goligoski was comfortable with the one-year commitment that suited the Wild, and both sides said they're taking a wait-and-see approach to determine if they have a future beyond next season.
The Wild could add one more defenseman in free agency or the trade market to partner with Kulikov, or the team could let an internal candidate like Calen Addison vie for the sixth spot.
Brennan Menell isn't an option after the Wild traded his rights to Toronto; the team will receive a 2022 seventh-round pick if he plays 30 games next season with the Maple Leafs.
"It just wasn't a fit anymore, and we're not into holding guys back," Guerin said of Menell, who played last season in the KHL. "It's good for him that he got a change."
Still, the Wild could get younger – especially if Frederick Gaudreau is the only new arrival up front.
Gaudreau agreed to a two-year, $2.4 million contract and can play center and wing. He set career highs in assists (8) and points (10) in 19 games with Pittsburgh last season and won 53.7% of his faceoffs. The 28-year-old was previously coached by Dean Evason in the Nashville organization.
"I've always been a guy that I feel the coach can trust on the ice," Gaudreau said. "I'm a guy that can shut down big lines, but I also can contribute offensively when needed."
The Wild also made three two-way depth signings: defensemen Joe Hicketts (two years) and Jon Lizotte (one year) and forward Dominic Turgeon (one year).
Team brass had encouraging talks with Marcus Foligno's brother Nick, but the forward went with Boston on a two-year, $7.6 million deal – a decision Guerin was disappointed in but one that didn't surprise him.
"He's earned the right of free agency and we wish him nothing but the best," Guerin said. "If he's half the guy that Marcus is, then he's an awesome guy."
Guerin made it clear the Wild won't automatically fill out its forward group with a prospect like Matt Boldy. Same with Addison on defense. But these youngsters could get more serious consideration than if the roster was at max capacity.
Forwards Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala remain unsigned, but Guerin has had recent talks with each player's camp. The Wild still has almost $20 million in cap space to work with this offseason.
"There are good players still out there," Guerin said. "There are trades available. There are options. We're comfortable."