The Wild was already in the market for defensive help, but the team could be facing a new hole on its blue line or in net.
Goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen and defenseman Carson Soucy are the most intriguing players made available by the Wild to join the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft after they were left off the Wild's protection list that was released Sunday.
Seattle debuts next season as the NHL's 32nd franchise, and its picks will be announced Wednesday in a televised reveal.
Although Kahkonen and Soucy had important roles with the Wild last season, their omission from the team's list of protected players wasn't surprising.
Like in 2017 when Vegas was entering the league, the Wild chose to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie instead of eight skaters and one goalie: forwards Joel Eriksson Ek, Kevin Fiala, Marcus Foligno, Jordan Greenway, Ryan Hartman, Nico Sturm and Mats Zuccarello; defensemen Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba and Jared Spurgeon; and goalie Cam Talbot.
That left Kahkonen and Soucy exposed along with forwards Victor Rask and Nick Bjugstad and pending free agents Nick Bonino, Ian Cole, Brad Hunt and Marcus Johansson.
Some players who spent last season on the team's taxi squad and/or in the minors also went unprotected, making a total of 21 players from the Wild up for grabs. That group includes forward Joseph Cramarossa, who signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Wild before a signing/trade freeze kicked in on Saturday. The freeze will be lifted on Thursday.
These decisions by the Wild could have been different, but the team chose to buy out the contracts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
Both players had no-movement clauses in their deals and would have had to be protected unless they agreed to waive them. By cutting ties, the Wild opened up two spots.
On defense, Dumba got the nod over Soucy to join Brodin and Spurgeon, both of whom have no-movement clauses. Up front, Sturm was probably on the outs until Parise's exit.
First- and second-year pros like Kirill Kaprizov are exempt from the draft and didn't need to be protected. Zuccarello is the only other Wild player with a no-movement clause.
After signing Talbot last year to take over as the team's starter, the Wild chose to shield him from Seattle instead of the up-and-coming Kahkonen.
A 2014 fourth-round draft pick by the Wild, Kahkonen is coming off an impressive NHL rookie season in which he continued to emerge as a potential No. 1 goalie. He set the franchise record for wins by a rookie with 16 and went on a 9-0 run that tied the fifth-longest win streak in NHL history by a rookie netminder.
Those results could make Kahkonen enticing to the Kraken, which could slot him as a backup and let him keep developing behind a veteran No. 1. Kahkonen, 24, is under contract for one more season at a $725,000 cap hit before becoming a restricted free agent.
Either way, Seattle's goalie deliberation looks like the most interesting.
Montreal's Carey Price, Dallas' Ben Bishop and Los Angeles' Jonathan Quick are other netminders available for selection; same with Florida's Chris Driedger, a pending free agent.
If the Wild loses Kahkonen, the team can acquire a new backup when NHL free agency starts July 28. The options could include last season's No. 3, Andrew Hammond, Philadelphia's Brian Elliott and Petr Mrazek or James Reimer from Carolina.
Free agency is likely how the Wild fills out its defense after subtracting Suter, with Alex Goligoski (Arizona) and Keith Yandle (Florida) set to hit the market in addition to Cole, whom the Wild could try to re-sign.
Still, its needs on defense would magnify if Soucy is scooped up by the Kraken. And like Kahkonen, he's a realistic candidate for Seattle.
Since breaking into the NHL after the Wild drafted him in 2013, Soucy has skated as a steady defender with size (6-5) and grit. He led the Wild in plus-minus last season (plus-22) and established career highs in assists (16) and points (17) while teaming up with Cole on an effective third pairing.
Soucy's workable contract might also be appealing to the Kraken; the 26-year-old has two seasons left on a three-year, $8.25 million deal.
Calgary's Mark Giordano, New Jersey's P.K. Subban and St. Louis' Vince Dunn (a restricted free agent) are among the other defensemen available.
At forward, former Wild players Nino Niederreiter (Carolina) and Jason Zucker (Pittsburgh) went unprotected along with Nashville's Matt Duchene, soon-to-be free agent Gabriel Landeskog from Colorado and St. Louis' Vladimir Tarasenko.
Teams had to expose a goalie signed for next season (or one who's a restricted free agent) and at least one defenseman and two forwards under contract who played in at least 27 games last season or a minimum of 54 games the previous two seasons combined.
Rask, who played for Seattle General Manager Ron Francis when both were with the Hurricanes, met those requirements for the Wild, along with Bjugstad, Soucy and Kahkonen..
The Kraken will draft 30 players (at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies) and needs to add a minimum of 20 contracts totaling $48.9 million. Vegas is exempt from the draft as part of its expansion agreement.
Seattle has an exclusive window to negotiate with free agents left unprotected before its final roster is due, and teams can make deals with the Kraken to sway its picks – a tactic the Wild used previously with Vegas.
But with key players at all positions protected, the Wild may not feel such maneuvering is necessary this time and could adjust accordingly when free agency begins.