The Wild has more flexibility this offseason after shaking up the franchise on Tuesday when it bought out the contracts for Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
But General Manager Bill Guerin said the extra room in the Wild's budget won't be shifted to new contracts for forwards Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala.
"This doesn't mean there's just oodles of cap space to spend carelessly and we're going to get whoever we want to get," Guerin said. "That's not the case. We need to try to retain some of the players that we have, and we're going to have to hit the free agent market and try to fill in that way."
Re-signing Kaprizov, Fiala and Joel Eriksson Ek was a priority for the Wild this summer, but so far only Eriksson Ek is under contract — agreeing to an eight-year, $42 million deal earlier this month.
Talks have started for both Kaprizov and Fiala; Guerin began the process with Fiala's camp about 10 days ago and spoke to Kaprizov's agent last week, saying the two had "good conversations" and the dialogue is open.
"We're not afraid of going back and forth or taking our time," Guerin said. "This is how it goes."
Still, the Wild has other work to do to round out its lineup.
Only four NHL defensemen are currently signed for next season after Suter's buyout, and the team will have to expose a defenseman to Seattle in the upcoming expansion draft — a situation that could potentially yield another hole on the blue line.
While the trade market is an option, the Wild can start to restock in free agency when the signing period opens July 28 and the team will be looking for short-term commitments.
Although the Wild has approximately $26 million in salary cap space this offseason after buying out Parise and Suter, the additional cap space created from the buyouts decreases the following two seasons.
"We'll definitely get some cap relief this summer," Guerin said. "After that, it'll be a little bit more difficult."
Parise and Suter were two of the longest-tenured players on the Wild before their exits, a transition that Guerin called difficult for teammates.
"But they're supportive," he said. "Everybody's been happy with the progress that we've made here. They're looking forward to new opportunity. But at the same time, two of their buddies are not going to be back and that's always tough."
The departure of Parise and Suter also means the Wild will need to restructure its leadership.
Parise and Suter were alternate captains since their arrival in 2012.
Candidates to replace them could be the players who wore an 'A' on their jerseys when Parise was out of the lineup last season, a group that included Marcus Foligno, Eriksson Ek, Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba.