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May 11, 2013 | 5:45pm ET
Wild look to the future
TheFourthPeriod.com

"Everybody just feels sick to their stomach," Matt Cullen told the St. Paul Pioneer Press after losing 5-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks Thursday night, simultaneously ending their season.

Expectations for Minnesota were high after the team signed Ryan Suter and Zach Parise in free agency last summer, but instead, the Wild ended their 2013 campaign with a game that Parise called "frustrating" and "disappointing."

Today, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher told the Star Tribune that coach Mike Yeo will return for a third season and he expects that all other coaches will return with him. Despite a disappointing finish this year, Fletcher believes the team has improved immensely.

"This year, while we think we have to shoot better and execute better, we had the puck more, we were in our zone less, we defended better, our structure was better," Fletcher said. "We were also the most disciplined team in the league. We gave up the fewest shorthanded situations."

While there will be no big shakeup in the front office or in coaching this summer, there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered.

According to CapGeek.com, Minnesota has committed $55,812,201 to 17 players next season, which leaves them with a little over $9 million in cap space.

"It's going to make it a little bit more difficult to be aggressive pursing players from the outside," Fletcher said. "You always look to add. Whether we can get into that kind of conversation or whether those pieces are even there, that remains to be seen. It's a different type of free-agent market [July 5]."

Given the limited cap space, the Wild might need to trade some players to improve this summer. Fletcher pointed out that the team needs more depth on scoring, but they could also use a physical presence on the blue line.

Furthermore, Minnesota has several pending free agents to decide on, including goaltender Niklas Backstrom and center Matt Cullen. The goaltender situation will be a central focus, given Josh Harding's health and Darcy Kuemper's lack of experience.

"We'll sit down and talk with all of them and see whether they want to be here and what they're looking to do and see what fits," Fletcher told the paper.

"That's what the next two months will be about. We'll obviously have to make some decision, but before, we have to break down our year and see where we need to put the money the most."

Fortunately for the Wild, the team has plenty of young talent that point to a promising future.

"We've got four cornerstone pieces in Mikko and Suter and Parise and Pominville," Fletcher said." We've got four high-end players and a lot of those prospects we talked about for a few years are now players. And we have a few more prospects coming, so at least we're down the path quite a bit. We still have work to do, but we're trending the right way."

Although Minnesota still has a lot of work cut out for them, Fletcher seems confident that the Wild are in fact headed in the right direction.


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