The Wild are finally at full strength after only recently getting completely healthy for the first time this season, but will there be personnel changes leading up to the NHL trade deadline?
"The team will tell me what direction we're going to go," General Manager Bill Guerin said Saturday while addressing the Wild's first-half performance. "If we're flying high and we're doing real well, then we'll talk about making moves and seeing if we can improve. Or maybe we'll just stay the same. I don't know.
"If we're not doing well, then we'll have to talk about what to do with that."
Since taking over as GM in 2019, Guerin has taken both approaches.
Last year, he was an avid shopper, bringing in goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, defenseman Jake Middleton and forwards Nic Deslauriers and Tyson Jost, which clearly indicated the team was loading up to make a lengthy playoff run.
In 2021, Guerin didn't make any additions or subtractions.
Both seasons ended in a first-round exit.
Guerin, who mentioned the Wild are in a "good spot" after finishing the first half with 50 points (23-14-4), doesn't believe in sacrificing numerous assets for rental players, and he considers how a deal can affect the culture and chemistry of a team.
Still, he said if there's a move that could improve the Wild, he will examine it.
The NHL trade deadline is March 3, and the Wild have some flexibility; their projected cap space is around $3.75 million, according to CapFriendly.com.
Already this season they have tweaked their roster, trading for forward Ryan Reaves, and much of the Wild's surge since their slow start came after Reaves' arrival on Nov. 23 from the Rangers, which isn't a coincidence to Guerin.
"We were flat," he said. "There wasn't that buzz. There wasn't that energy. It was just flat. I don't know why, but it was, and he's not somebody that kind of lets that happen. He's the same every day, and it's high energy and he loves his job and loves being here and coming to the rink and that's infectious."
Guerin said the Wild have explored re-signing a couple players, but he didn't specify who.
The Wild are set to have several restricted free agents after the season, including forward Matt Boldy and goaltender Filip Gustavsson. As for the pending unrestricted free agents, that group is headlined by defenseman Matt Dumba.
Next offseason is also when the cap hits for the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts escalate to their highest cost, which is approximately $14.7 million. That means as it stands now, the Wild will have roughly $16 million in cap space to spend with nine of their current roster players up for new contracts. (This is factoring in a $1 million increase to the NHL salary cap, which is expected.)
"We're trying to make calculated moves," Guerin said, pointing out the Sam Steel and Gustavsson acquisitions.
Steel has become the Wild's No. 1 center after signing a one-year, $825,000 contract as a free agent, and Gustavsson is having a breakout season in net after the Wild landed him in the Cam Talbot trade with Ottawa.
"We have to just continue to do stuff like that," Guerin said. "It's a little more challenging. Big deal."
Marco Rossi is producing just shy of a point-per-game pace through 17 games with Iowa in the American Hockey League, which is one more game than the center played with the Wild after making the team out of training camp.
After getting sent down to the minors on Nov. 28, Rossi, the ninth overall draft pick in 2020, has five goals and 11 assists for 16 points.
"Consistency is a really hard thing for young players to figure out and find," Guerin said. "He's putting together a small number of games and then he'll have an off-night or a slower night and then they'll reset him, and he'll come back and play better.
"Right now, we just don't have room [in the Wild lineup], and there's no sense bringing Marco up right now just for a hot dog in the stands. It's better off that he just plays. But he's doing well."