Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah sized up the top-heavy roster and salary-cap mess that he inherited from the previous regime and arrived at the conclusion that his initial blueprint should be labeled a "competitive rebuild."

That was a new one in the sports executive lexicon. The idea sounds counterintuitive at first blush, like the phrase crash landing.

Upon further thought, competitive rebuild sounds an awful lot like Bill Guerin's plan to extricate the Wild from the albatross buyouts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter while remaining relevant as a playoff contender.

The Wild begin a new season Thursday with roughly 15% of their salary cap devoted to dead money tied to the Parise-Suter buyouts. Guerin created his own cap quagmire by jettisoning those two highly compensated veterans, thus willing to deal with the consequences by betting on his vision.

One window closed. Another window has opened.

The context for version 2.0 is unmistakable: Give a nucleus of young players time and opportunity to develop with the hope of remaining a playoff team while simultaneously waiting for the Parise/Suter cap crunch to disappear in three years.

The owner basically laid out those cards in an interview last week.

"Here's what we think about all the time," Craig Leipold said in his suite at Xcel Energy Center. "When this time is over with and we get all that cap space back … we're going to have a lot of money available to us to go out into free agency and really help our team. In the meantime, we have all these young players. They're all so good. So I get excited knowing what we're gonna be like in a couple of years."

Whether that plan proves to be successful hinges on Guerin being right on his evaluation of his prospects and Dean Evason's coaching staff helping those players fulfill their potential.

The Wild simply don't have the cap space available in the short term to fix problems with the roster by acting as big spenders.

"We need younger guys," Guerin said in June after trading second-leading scorer Kevin Fiala. "We need guys that don't make millions and millions of dollars. We just have to do it that way."

The question on Opening Night becomes: Can they remain a playoff team this way? Sure, if the young guys seize their opportunity and grow into impactful roles. The Wild will be fine at the end of this cap-strapped stage if Marco Rossi and Matt Boldy and Calen Addison and Jesper Wallstedt and others make good on the organization's belief in them as core pieces to the future.

Leipold offered a measured response when asked for his expectations this season. Win a first-round playoff series, he said.

That might make some fans bristle because the owner didn't shout "Stanley Cup or bust!," but Leipold's honest evaluation reflected reality.

A team featuring superstar Kirill Kaprizov and some proven depth around him looks playoff-worthy. But there are too many unknowns to make bold declarations beyond that. We need to see more first.

The Wild set a franchise record with 113 points last season and still lost in the first round of the playoffs, and then unloaded a 30-goal scorer who happened to be the team's second-most dynamic offensive player.

The team isn't starting over without Fiala, but his production loss has to be accounted for in some way. Maybe it's one or two guys, or the sum of everyone contributing a little bit more.

As he enters his 14th season as Wild owner, Leipold admitted he's getting a "little itchy" to win a championship. In the next breath, he sounded patient, knowing the need to allow young players to develop while dealing with salary cap pain for a few more years.

"We've got a really good team with an open window that is pretty long right now," he said.

This first phase will be tricky but not impossible. Guerin's gamble begins now.