General Manager Bill Guerin was frustrated after the Wild were sacked from the playoffs by another six-game swoon, and he still is weeks later.
"We had an opportunity, and we didn't come through with it again and that bothers me," Guerin said last week. "It's time and time again that that's happened, and it's worrisome."
But team brass is focusing on the future instead of the past as the Wild wade deeper into an offseason that's low on salary cap space yet ripe with significance.
"The disappointment's the disappointment," Guerin said. "But you can't sit there and just dwell on it forever. There's work to be done."
The decisions facing the Wild affect their personnel, but not just the players.
Their coaching staff in the American Hockey League remains vacant after Iowa head coach Tim Army and assistants Nate DiCasmirro and Nolan Yonkman didn't have their contracts renewed. Guerin is looking for a bench boss who will prioritize the players' growth and connect with Wild coach Dean Evason and his assistants.
"Obviously, it's development first over anything, development through winning," Guerin explained. "But someone that's going to create their own culture down there but everything's in line with what we do with Minnesota."
That pipeline to the NHL has become more important to the Wild as the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts eat up more of their spending power, upping the need for younger players on team-friendly deals. The June 28-29 draft is another opportunity to stock up on prospects.
Aside from No. 21 in the first round, the Wild have five other draft choices, including two in the second round after securing an extra from Buffalo in the Jordan Greenway trade. The Wild's amateur department will meet after the pro summit next week.
Following the draft is NHL free agency on July 1, but the Wild aren't expected to be busy buyers because of their limited budget.
This summer is the most expensive to date for the Parise and Suter buyouts, the combined cost rising to nearly $15 million for the next two seasons. Add that amount to the contracts already on their books, and the Wild have approximately $8 million in salary cap space to fill out their roster, according to CapFriendly, and that money could go in a hurry.
Filip Gustavsson is up for a new contract after his breakout season in net, the first-year Wild goaltender posting the second-best goals-against average and save percentage in the league after coming over in the Cam Talbot trade with Ottawa last summer. The Wild have already connected with Gustavsson's camp, and the team has priced out a ballpark figure for short- and long-term deals. Brandon Duhaime, Calen Addison and Mason Shaw are among the team's other restricted free agents.
"It's literally like putting a puzzle together, a numerical puzzle," Guerin said.
And what that finished product looks like matters.
Although the asterisk that is the buyouts is getting bigger, the NHL won't wait for it to go away.
Just look at the state of the Wild's division: Dallas is in the Western Conference final after knocking them out in the first round, Colorado is less than a year removed from claiming the Stanley Cup, and Chicago nabbed first dibs in the draft to accelerate its rebuild. Connor Bedard, an off-the-charts scorer, is the undisputed top pick.
Closer to home, the question of how the Wild translate regular-season success into playoff victories looms large after they haven't won a series in eight years.
They might be better equipped to answer that when they aren't so restricted financially, but what happens from now until then will still be telling.
In fact, it could set the tone for life after the buyouts.
"I'm looking forward to seeing what we can do and try to take another step," Guerin said. "It's always a challenge. That's the thing: We're going to be challenged again, and I just look forward to that."