The Wild's defense could be set for next season.
After acquiring Alex Goligoski and Dmitry Kulikov on Wednesday and then adding Jon Merrill on Thursday, the team filled the three spots on the blue line vacated by Ryan Suter, Carson Soucy and Ian Cole.
With captain Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba already signed, the Wild now has six NHL defensemen under contract. Rookie Calen Addison could also be in the mix for minutes.
"I'm really excited," Merrill said. "I know they've done a lot of good things with their lineup over the past couple of years and had a great season last year. I'm hoping to come in and help out any way I can and be a team guy and whatever they need from me, I'll be willing to do."
Merrill took a one-year, $850,000 deal with the Wild after splitting last season with Detroit and Montreal, recording five assists and 70 blocked shots in 49 games.
A pickup by the Canadiens ahead of the trade deadline, Merrill had 11 hits and another 23 blocked shots in 13 playoff games during Montreal's run to the Stanley Cup Final. The Canadiens lost in five games to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"It was a very enjoyable experience," said Merrill, who's a native of Oklahoma City. "It was a wild ride and a great group of guys and something I'll never forget."
Although he's a left shot, Merrill has played on the right side and that's where he could line up with the Wild on the third pairing next to Kulikov. Goligoski is expected to work with Spurgeon on the No. 1 unit.
Before stints in Montreal and Detroit, Merrill played for Vegas and New Jersey after the Devils drafted him in the second round (38th overall) in 2010.
During eight NHL seasons and 405 games, the 29-year-old has 12 goals and 54 assists to go along with 364 hits and 507 blocked shots. He played at the University of Michigan and for the U.S. National Team Development Program and won back-to-back gold medals at the 2009 and 2010 IIFH World Under-18 Championships.
The Wild did get heavier by bringing in Merrill and Kulikov after losing the 6-5 Soucy and 225-pound Cole.
Merrill is 6-3 and 195 pounds, while Kulikov is 6-1, 204.
"I like to think of myself as a two-way defenseman," said Kulikov, who signed a two-year, $4.5 million contract. "I do like to defend, but I also do like to move the puck and jump up on the rush."
The 30-year-old also brings experience, having played more than 700 games in the NHL with Florida, Buffalo, Winnipeg, New Jersey and Edmonton. Kulikov hasn't met fellow Russian Kirill Kaprizov but looks forward to the introduction.
"It's always exciting when a team wants to have you in the lineup," Kulikov said. "That's obviously a big selling point. They were very excited, and that made my decision easier."
The Wild made two more depth signings on Thursday.
Forward Brandon Duhaime returned on a two-year contract, and defenseman Kevin Czuczman agreed to a one-year, two-way contract worth $750,000 in the NHL and $200,000 in the American Hockey League.
Duhaime, a fourth-round pick by the Wild in 2016, could compete for NHL ice time soon after playing the last two seasons with Iowa in the AHL. In 2021, he tallied six goals and three assists in 24 games and led Iowa in game-winning goals with three.
The 24-year-old is on a two-way contract next season that'll pay $750,000 in the NHL and $100,000 in the AHL. Duhaime has a one-way deal for $750,000 in 2022-23.
Czuczman chipped in four assists during 28 games last season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the AHL.
He also played two games with Pittsburgh, his first NHL action since 2014. The 30-year-old has 124 points in 402 career AHL games and two assists in 15 career NHL games with the Penguins and New York Islanders.
Two former Wild players, Gerry Mayhew and Nick Seeler, were signed to two-way deals by Philadelphia.