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What can Wild afford when NHL free agency begins? More now that Cam Talbot is gone

After doing most of their shopping last week, the Wild have roughly $1.4 million in cap space at their disposal.

NHL: Calgary Flames at Minnesota Wild
Minnesota Wild center Tyson Jost (10) skates with the puck while Calgary Flames center Mikael Backlund (11) defends in the second period April 28, 2022, at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
David Berding / USA Today Sports
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ST. PAUL — With NHL free agency set to open at 11 a.m. Wednesday, the Minnesota Wild suddenly have the bandwidth to make a bigger splash.

After doing most of their shopping last week ahead of the draft in Montreal — they re-signed future Hall of Fame goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and physical defenseman Jake Middleton — the Wild entered Tuesday with about $1.4 million in cap space at their disposal.

Then they traded veteran goaltender Cam Talbot and his $3.67 million cap hit to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for young goaltender Filip Gustavsson and his $787,500 cap hit.

That gives the Wild roughly $4.3 in cap space heading into free agency, though it’s important to note that number doesn’t take into account the cap hit of top prospect Marco Rossi, who is expected to make the team out of training camp.

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What will general manager Bill Guerin do with the extra money? That remains to be seen.

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“It’s funny,” Guerin said. “I’m sure every agent out there has seen cap space open up for the Wild and they think we’re just going to go spend carelessly. We’re not. All our pro scouts are in town right now. We’re going through things seeing what we can do.”

Asked last week about potential targets in free agency, Guerin said he wants to add another player that can be used in the bottom half of the lineup.

There wasn’t a lot of money to go around, so some thought that meant he would have to trade defenseman Dmitry Kulikov and his $2.25 million cap hit, or center Tyson Jost and his $2 million cap hit. Instead, he flipped Talbot, whose discontentment started to become obvious the moment the Wild re-signed Fleury last week.

Does the additional cap space mean the Wild will take a bigger swing in the coming days? Not necessarily.

While the opportunity to bring in a more impactful player in now on the table — perhaps a player that can be used in the top half of the lineup — Guerin said the Wild are sticking to their original plan as of right now.

In the same breath, he acknowledged that over the weekend he was convinced to a tandem of Fleury and Talbot would work next season.

“I’m not trying to mislead anybody,” Guerin said with a laugh. “Things change very quickly and different opportunities arise. We will see what happens.”

Briefly

On Tuesday, the Wild officially re-signed goaltender Zane McIntyre to a one-year, two-way contract ($750,000 in the NHL, $300,000 in the AHL) for the 2022-23 season. He likely will split the net with top prospect Jesper Wallstedt.

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