Rookies Calen Addison and Marco Rossi made the Wild out of training camp and, although neither was in the lineup by the end of the season, their development into NHL staples could help the Wild navigate their looming salary pinch.
"We can't go out and spend big dollars on free agents," General Manager Bill Guerin said. "For Marco and Calen to be ready and come in ready to have an impact is really important for us."
Addison was with the Wild all season, but the defenseman's ice time declined in the second half.
He initially helped rejuvenate the power play but was benched for his defensive play. Then when the team added John Klingberg before the NHL trade deadline, Klingberg took over as the quarterback on the power play and Addison became a frequent healthy scratch.
"He really struggled 5-on-5," Guerin said of Addison, a restricted free agent this offseason. "You can't just be a specialty player in the National Hockey League. It's just too good. There's no room on a roster for just a specialty guy. So, we know he has the ability. It's just a matter of focusing in on it and getting to work on it. He's still a young player, and there's more growing to do."
As for Rossi, the center was returned to the minors in November after going goalless in 16 games with the Wild.
The 2020 first-round pick totaled 16 goals and 35 assists for 51 points in 53 games with Iowa.
"Just wasn't ready," said Guerin, who mentioned both players will be in Minnesota this summer. "The worst thing that we could have done is just kind of force him in the lineup every night, and that would have hurt his development. He was in the best place possible, and that was in the American Hockey League."
Talking in the future
The Wild are planning to stay in communication with Matt Dumba.
One of the Wild's longest-tenured defensemen, Dumba will become an unrestricted free agent this summer when his five-year, $30 million contract expires. He has made it clear his "heart is definitely here," but the Wild are facing a stiff budget crunch because of the escalating cost of the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts.
"Matt's been a heck of a player for this organization for a long time now," Guerin said. "Honestly, the last three months he's played just some great hockey for us. He simplified his game a lot. He limited his mistakes or turnovers or his high-risk stuff and really settled in and played a solid role for us. It was some of the best hockey I'd seen him play.
"He's just a great kid, and, yeah, we'll be talking down the road. But we had a real good talk [Monday]. He was good for us."
On the mend
Injury clarity is emerging.
Frederick Gaudreau will undergo surgery after playing the past four months with an abdominal injury, while Mats Zuccarello was dealing with a groin issue.
The knee injury that sidelined Ryan Hartman for Game 2 vs. Dallas occurred in Game 1.
Already, Joel Eriksson Ek and Mason Shaw have had surgery, with Eriksson Ek healing a broken left fibula and Shaw recovering from a torn ACL in his right knee.
In the crease
Guerin said the team will "get something done" with goaltender Filip Gustavsson, who is up for a new contract.
Gustavsson's agent and Guerin decided to shelve contract talks until after the season, Gustavsson's first with the Wild since coming over in the Cam Talbot trade with Ottawa last July. The 24-year-old went 22-9-7 with a .931 save percentage and 2.10 goals-against average before starting five of six games in the playoffs.
"Filip had a great year," Guerin said, "and we're excited to start the negotiation process and get him signed to a contract."
Coaching staff update
Asked whether there will be any changes to the coaching staff, Guerin said he's constantly evaluating every position but is "not even close to anything right now."
There are vacancies on the Iowa staff after the contracts of head coach Tim Army and assistants Nate DiCasmirro and Nolan Yonkman weren't renewed.
"We'll get there," Guerin said.
Already, the Wild staff have met and gone over every decision the group made in the playoffs, including what the coaches could have done better.
"I'm not going to get into all of them, but yeah there's mistakes that were made," head coach Dean Evason said. "There's no question. We have to be better as a coaching staff to get our team prepared to win in the playoffs. Very disappointing again to be up 2-1 and not be able to kind of have that desperation game, that nail-down, get it done. So, we're going to continue to evaluate."