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What can approximately $15 million afford in today's NHL?

Try another Kirill Kaprizov, two Matt Boldys or almost three Joel Eriksson Eks.

That's the kind of spending power the Wild would have had over the offseason if they weren't devoting nearly 20 percent of the salary cap toward the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts.

Instead, they are in the first of the two priciest years of those exits — a self-imposed pinch in an already-tight economy.

Does that mean the Wild could be facing a rebuilding season?

No way, according to owner Craig Leipold.

Actually, Leipold not only expects the Wild to make the playoffs but believes they're that caliber.

"I think we're going to have a very competitive team," Leipold said during a 4-2 preseason victory over Colorado on Thursday at Xcel Energy Center. "We're going to need some of our young guys to step up, and our hope is that they will. We think we got a couple that we believe are ready for the next step.

"If they do that, I think we're going to have a better team than we had last year."

This isn't new territory for the Wild.

They were dealing with a cap crunch last year when the buyouts were eating up more than $12 million; Kevin Fiala was dealt ahead of the season, traded away to Los Angeles.

But now their unavailable funds have escalated to around $14.7 million and since the cap increased by only $1 million, the Wild didn't make many changes.

"It kind of is what it is," Leipold said. "We've accepted it. We're not complaining about it. We're doing the best we can and moving forward."

That's where the intrigue is, in the future.

Although the buyouts will still cost the Wild the same amount next season, the cap is projected to rise by $4 million, a hike Leipold is very confident will happen and one that would provide the Wild will some immediate relief.

Look even further to the 2025 offseason when the price tag on the buyouts drops to less than $2 million, and the Wild will have plenty of flexibility.

"We're going to have a lot of money to play on the open market," Leipold said. "We're going to have these young guys that are going to be on third and fourth years. It's going to be a perfect storm for us."

In 2025 is also when the Wild will be eligible to sign Kaprizov to an extension, and Leipold made it clear keeping the Wild's superstar happy and encouraged by the trajectory of the organization is already on the team's radar.

"Kirill's a special player, and we want him to believe that we're going to help field a Stanley Cup team and he's a huge part of our future, but only if he stays here," Leipold said. "We feel we have a great relationship with Kirill. I think he enjoys it here.

"He's learning how to speak English now. He's becoming more Americanized. He's a good kid, a really good kid. We have to make sure that when his next contract comes up it's going to be a long-term contract that he signs here."

As for what that contract could cost the Wild, Leipold said Kaprizov's "statistics will demand that he gets paid as an elite player, and we will be prepared to do that."

Kaprizov, who scored just 32 seconds into his preseason debut on Thursday with a spinorama move before adding an empty-netter to go along with goals from Alex Goligoski and Jonas Brodin and 25 saves by goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, is beginning the third season of a five-year, $45 million deal.

The Wild have made the playoffs every year he's been in their lineup, but they haven't advanced past the first round since 2015 — their six-game loss to Dallas in April was the eighth straight series they've dropped.

Those struggles resonate with Leipold, who mentioned it takes him weeks to get over elimination and that he wasn't happy with "some of the non-calls by the referees" this past postseason.

Still, Leipold put the onus of improvement on the team.

As much as there are circumstances out of the players' control, they still decide what happens on the ice.

"We have to begin to learn how to play playoff hockey, and it's a different kind of game," Leipold said. "We all recognize it. We all know it, and we're going to have to be better prepared for it this year."