The vacancies in the Wild's lineup could start to disappear soon.
After more departures from the roster than arrivals two months into the offseason, the team has the chance to restock key positions starting at 11 a.m. Wednesday when NHL free agency begins.
"The trade market's not dead either," General Manager Bill Guerin said. "It's still an option. So, we can work at it through free agency and we can work at it through the trade market, as well."
So far, though, the Wild's contribution to the trading blitz that has rocked the NHL in recent days has been limited to draft-pick dealings.
Many of the blockbuster deals, including Tuesday's shocker that sent goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury from Vegas to Chicago, saw one team unloading a pricey contract for a less expensive return.
While the Wild is approximately $29 million under the cap, the team is eyeing dollar-for-dollar trades because the increasing cap charge on the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts will restrict what the team can afford.
Also, a chunk of the budget still needs to be used to re-sign forwards Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala.
Buffalo's Jack Eichel remains the most prized center in the market, but the mechanics of a trade seem complicated — from the uncertainty surrounding Eichel's neck injury to the hefty haul it would likely take to acquire a franchise center, who carries a $10 million cap hit.
Only a handful of teams might want to pull off such a transaction and have the prerequisites, although the Golden Knights may have just entered the chat by clearing out Fleury's $7 million cap hit.
Until the Wild finally lands a No. 1 center, the position will stay a work in progress and it's possible the team relies on a by-committee approach up the middle for another season.
"We're not afraid of that," Guerin said. "We were very happy with the way the guys performed this year. It's all about opportunity, too. A lot of these guys got their first opportunity in a long time at center. You look at what Ryan Hartman did. That's just part of a year; he didn't even get to play a full year. What's he going to do when he starts a season like that and has a training camp like that?
"Victor Rask had a good year. He was back in it. We have guys with a lot of flexibility, too. Like, [Nick Bjugstad] can give us games at center. [Nico Sturm] can play center and wing. It's important for us right now to have guys that are versatile."
But what can't remain status quo is the defense, and that's where free agency can help.
The Wild has three spots to fill on its back end after losing Suter, Carson Soucy (Seattle expansion draft) and Ian Cole (free agent).
Cole could be re-signed, as he has expressed an interest in returning. He played in 52 games last season after a trade from Colorado, blocking the third-most shots on the Wild at 92.
"I'll never shut the door on him," said Guerin, who was in Pittsburgh's front office when Cole won back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Penguins in 2016 and 2017. "He's a good guy. I know what he brought to the table this year, and he helped us out a ton. I have a ton of respect for him and we're just going to have to be patient. I know what it's like to be a player and kind of want to see what's out there. That's fair."
Former Gopher and Grand Rapids native Alex Goligoski makes sense as a Wild target. A left shot who can play both sides, Goligoski's poise could complement captain Jared Spurgeon on the team's top pairing.
Jake McCabe, who is coming off a knee injury that ended his season with Buffalo, is also available and at 6-1 and 204 pounds would help offset the size the Wild is lacking amid the turnover on the back end. Same with the likes of Alexander Edler and Cody Ceci.
"In a perfect world, I guess we would add some size and a right shot," Guerin said. "Sometimes there's some flexibility or some versatility in guys that shoot one way but prefer the off-side. Those things matter, as well. To me, to focus on a good fit team-wise is really important – not just the way you shoot or how you play.
"You have to fit into our structure and how we're going to play, too."
The Wild re-signed depth players Kyle Rau, a forward, and defenseman Dakota Mermis to two-way contracts Tuesday.
The team likely will be searching for forwards in free agency.
Marcus Foligno's brother Nick, who finished last season with Toronto after a trade from Columbus where he was captain, is an intriguing possibility at wing. Mike Hoffman and Tomas Tatar are two of the highest-scoring wingers in this year's free-agent class.
As for the centers, Hastings' Derek Stepan and Tyler Bozak are right shots. Nick Bonino, who had 10 goals and 16 assists with the Wild last season playing center and wing, is also a free agent.
Regardless of position, the Wild must be mindful of its spending.
Short-term contracts are what the team can accommodate before the costs of the Parise and Suter buyouts begin to eat up more cap space.
"You have to be really careful," Guerin said, "because free agency is where you can make some mistakes and sign contracts that you would want back in a year."