La Velle E. Neal III
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Wild fans watched Edmonton and Florida battle for the Stanley Cup on Monday night after Edmonton stormed back from a 3-0 series deficit to force one of the greatest moments in sports: A Game 7.

While doing so, they probably wondered what Wild President of Hockey Ops Bill Guerin has planned to help their favorite team get closer to some of these moments.

Guerin has been watching the series in astonishment, wondering how he can get his team closer to those moments, too.

"It's crazy," Guerin said of the Stanley Cup Final. "I've never seen this. It's a reminder of how well these teams are constructed."

The Wild have qualified for the playoffs in 13 of their 23 seasons. This season was not one of them, and Guerin fully understands that standards were not met.

That brings us to Guerin's mentality entering the meaty part of the offseason: He's going to build up this roster, somehow.

Improving the roster will be a challenge. The Wild have one more year to absorb a nearly $15 million cap hit when Guerin bought out Zach Parise's and Ryan Suter's contracts following the 2020-21 season. No team in hockey has a higher salary cap hit than the Wild, and that makes roster construction additionally challenging.

While Wild fans can fret about being in the financial penalty box, Guerin is rolling up his sleeves.

Guerin is not settling. He's not going to wait a year to enjoy financial freedom. Nothing has changed from his first meeting with the team in 2019 when he told them everything is about winning. He's not wired that way.

"You're right. I'm not," he said. "I don't have that in my DNA and I think we can get better than we were last year. We can add to our team, but we also need to be better as individuals and as a team. But we can add."

On Tuesday, Guerin will travel to Las Vegas, where he will finalize his strategy before the draft Friday and Saturday when the NHL takes over the Sphere, that magnificent spectacle by the Venetian Hotel, to select the top young prospects in the game. But it will be through free agency where Guerin must show he's not embracing the status quo. That is the right approach for a couple reasons.

One, playoffs are unpredictable. We saw proof of that on Monday as the Oilers, who finished the regular season with the fifth-most points in the Western Conference, punched their way to the final game of the final. It's the latest example of how a team can get on a roll in the postseason. The Diamondbacks reached the World Series last year as a wild-card team — and two years removed from a 110-loss season.

Two, top-15 winger Kirill Kaprizov's contract expires following the 2025-26 season. It's important to keep him happy and show him a commitment to winning. That $15 million will come in handy when it's time to talk extension. That also will allow for a deal for emerging star Brock Faber.

It's doubtful the Wild will find an instant impact player at No. 13 in the draft. But if Tij Iginla is available there, I would take him. His Hall of Fame father, Jarome, tormented the Wild for years, so it would be fitting to add someone with the potential to make teams suffer like his pops did with the Wild.

Trading will be difficult. Fans have taken note that Patrik Laine, who also has been a pain in the Wild's breezers, has requested a trade from Columbus. Even if the Wild put goalie Filip Gustavsson in the deal, it would eat up most of their $6 million in cap space. Plus, Laine has had injury problems in recent years and spent time in the league's player assistance program. Pass.

Shrewd free agent moves are needed. One I like is 36-year-old forward David Perron, who scored 47 points for the Red Wings last season. The Wild likely will float him a one-year offer which would be a bridge contract to better financial times. He could provide some scoring and possibly help on the power play. Not a glamorous transaction, but this is the type of move that can help plug a leak in the roster.

With the NHL season ending, it's time for Guerin to prove that, despite being encumbered by financial restrictions, he can follow through on his pledge to make the Wild "postseason worthy" again.