DALLAS – The Wild left the NHL draft the same way it arrived in Dallas: with no changes to the roster.
Despite engaging in talks with other clubs, the Wild didn’t finalize any trades that would trigger the jolt that’s been expected to reconfigure the team’s look for weeks.
“It’s a work in progress,” General Manager Paul Fenton said. “It’s going to be continuing to touch base with people that are out there.”
Although the wait for that resolution likely will headline the Wild’s offseason until it happens, the lack of activity over the weekend didn’t prevent the draft from being a fruitful experience.
After adding 10 prospects to the pipeline the past two years, the Wild nearly matched that output Friday and Saturday by acquiring eight players — a restock that should stir optimism for the future while uncertainty lingers in the present.
“We’ve been pretty thin on draft picks the last couple years,” said Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Brent Flahr, who led the team’s draft efforts inside American Airlines Center. “To kind of fill the cupboard is certainly healthy for the organization.”
Most picks were centers. Saturday started with the selection of Jack McBain, a Boston College commit, before the Wild scooped up Alexander Khovanov and Connor Dewar — all in the third round. In the fifth, the Wild secured another pivot, Damien Giroux, after taking right-shot defenseman Simon Johansson.
Shawn Boudrias, who went in the sixth, is a winger, but the Wild’s final pick in the seventh was center/wing Sam Hentges. He became the 14th Minnesota native drafted by the franchise: He is from Fridley and played three seasons at Totino-Grace.
“A lot of us like to have a lot of centers because of their versatility,” Fenton said.
Almost all these prospects are expected to be at Xcel Energy Center for the team’s annual development camp July 10-15. Before then, the Wild has a busy itinerary that could start to ignite roster turnover.
Teams can begin interviewing pending unrestricted free agents Sunday, an opportunity the Wild plans to utilize before the free-agent signing period opens July 1. Qualifying offers for restricted free agents are due Monday.
“That’s kind of the fun part of the job is being able to explore and see what could possibly be out there,” Fenton said. “We’ve identified the free agents that we’d like to maybe challenge, go after, look at, but sometimes it tends to be the most pricey part of the year. And unless you are completely sure, I don’t know. My history has told me to be a little bit cautious.”
Islanders captain John Tavares, Jets center Paul Stastny and Golden Knights winger James Neal are among the most intriguing free agents to-be, with all poised to land sizable deals. But with the Wild not creating any more cap space at the draft via trade, the team likely will use free agency to round out the roster.
A fourth-line center to join Eric Staal, captain Mikko Koivu and Joel Eriksson Ek up the middle makes sense to pursue; same with a right shot for the third pairing on defense — an addition that would allow Nate Prosser to slide into a support role. Internal competition could fill the left side of that unit, with Nick Seeler, Carson Soucy and Gustav Olofsson possibilities.
This approach also keeps the trade market as the most meaningful way to affect the roster even though there has been minimal movement around the league.
“I continue to think that we’ll be making inquiries to see if there’s anything that fits for both teams or three teams depending on how many you get involved in it,” Fenton said. “But we continue to do our work, our research, to touch base with people.”
Like Friday, only one significant deal was consummated Saturday; the Flames received defenseman Noah Hanifin and center Elias Lindholm from the Hurricanes in exchange for defenseman Dougie Hamilton, winger Micheal Ferland and prospect Adam Fox.
A trade like this involving restricted free agents (RFAs Hanifin and Lindholm) and/or roster regulars (Hamilton and Ferland) is probably one the Wild will target, with forwards Jason Zucker (RFA), Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle still likely candidates to be moved out.
When that could happen, though, is up in the air.
“We don’t have a timeline, to be honest with you,” Fenton said. “We’re going to continue to explore things and see if things are going to fit for us.
‘‘We’ve got some hard decisions to make. There’s things out there that we can’t control, so I’m just going to make phone calls and inquire to see if there is something that fits.”