Not much changed with the Wild's lineup in the months after Bill Guerin was hired as general manager.
The roster he inherited in 2019 was similar to the one that finished the season; a second-half trade that sent Jason Zucker to Pittsburgh was the only significant shake-up.
"I needed that first year to kind of assess what's going on and to kind of move slowly and methodically," Guerin said. "It took a while for me to make our first deal."
But breaking up with a longtime Wild player like Zucker wasn't a one-off.
That decision was actually the start of a deconstruction of the team's core, a year-plus process that culminated Tuesday in the buyouts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
And more adjustments are waiting in the wings.
"You continually assess your position and what you feel needs to be done," Guerin said, "and we're going to continue to do that. This will never stop. I'm not saying that these size moves are always going to be done, but these things always have to happen."
Going into the 2019-20 season with Guerin at the helm, the Wild had 10 players who had been in action with the team since at least 2016.
Now, only four meet that criteria: Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba and Joel Eriksson Ek.
Zucker was the first to go, a deal that fetched the Wild a package that included prospect Calen Addison, who might become a full-timer on the Wild blue line next season after Suter's departure, and a first-round pick in next week's draft.
Up next was Eric Staal, who left via trade like Zucker. The Wild also didn't bring back then-captain Mikko Koivu and shipped out goalie Devan Dubnyk. The team moved on from youngsters Ryan Donato and Luke Kunin along the way, too.
Add in the exits earlier this week by Parise and Suter, who had the final four seasons of their 13-year, $98 million contracts bought out, and the Wild have been completely reimagined under Guerin's direction — a transformation that may not be unusual when a new leader takes over but a dramatic makeover nonetheless.
"I know that there was great affection for a lot of the players that we've parted ways with the last couple of years — for good reason," Guerin said. "There's been some good years here, but times change. Players get older. New players come in. So, we have to keep changing. We have to keep evolving. This is part of it. It's not a fun part, but it's part of it."
While dissolving the nucleus of the Wild, Guerin also assembled the replacement version.
Spurgeon was named Koivu's successor as captain and signed to a seven-year contract, with fellow defenseman Brodin also getting a seven-year deal. Eriksson Ek has received the longest commitment so far from the Guerin regime, an eight-year, $42 million deal, and the team is also working to re-sign forwards Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala.
Marcus Foligno and Ryan Hartman accepted three-year extensions, and Dumba is now in position to be protected by the Wild in the Seattle expansion draft after the Wild gained flexibility for its protection list by buying out Parise and Suter.
Who will surround, or join, this new guard is the next transition.
Although the Wild will look to add to its roster in free agency with short-term deals, the team also has prospects like Addison, Matt Boldy and Marco Rossi to consider. Same with some players from its minor league team in Iowa.
Even if the addition of youth is limited, up-and-coming prospects could play a key role in ensuing seasons when the team is carrying heftier salary-cap charges for the Parise and Suter buyouts; the Wild may eventually need to rely on entry-level contracts to fit under the salary cap.
And creating space for younger players was a factor in the Wild's thought process when it chose to cut ties with Parise and Suter, the latest chapter in an evolution that doesn't look ready to hit the brakes.
"It opens the door for other guys," Guerin said. "It creates opportunity. Even going back to the Jason Zucker trade, Jason was a very good player here and it wasn't a very popular move. But it opened the door for Kevin Fiala, and that's really what allowed him to start being the player you see now.
"There are some guys that are going to jump on this opportunity, and that's what we expect. That's what we hope for."