The NHL Draft, Day 2, was all about the future. Not this season, or next. Say, 3-4-5 seasons down the road.
On Saturday, the Minnesota Wild chose the 'hometown boy', Mario Lucia, son of U of M head coach Don Lucia, with the No. 60 pick late in the second round of the draft (a pick, BTW, that they traded for, giving the Vancouver Canucks the No. 71 and 101 picks). The Wild then drafted Eden Prairie defenseman Nick Seeler with the 131st pick, in the middle of round 5. In total, the Wild drafted 4 forwards, 1 defenseman and a goalie with their 6 picks in the draft.
With the excitement of the previous day's Brent Burns -- Devin Setoguchi trade out of the way, the team could get down to the business of the day...continuing to re-stock the larder of talent which was laid bare during the admiistration of Doug Risebrough. Most draft observers already have called this draft a definite 'win' for the local sextet, as the quality of talent being infused will help the Wild go that much further down the road.
But there's the rub. It's down the road. Not starting with the big club in 85 days with the start of training camp in September. It's 3-4 years (or more, in some cases) until these guys are ready for the NHL. The temptation is that the Wild get some 'wily veterans' now to tide them over. That was the solution of the old regime in St. Paul. But, as the Chicago Blackhawks will tell you, that framework doesn't work any more. The way to really build a franchise is to build with youth and talent thru the draft. You most certainly can get some older, more experienced players to mix in, but you can't get over the large hump that Risebrough, et. al., left behind three summers ago without youth and talent.
Hence the next big date in the NHL calendar of events: Free agency day, coming at 12 Noon this coming Friday, July 1. Do the Wild need a big free agency splash? Do they really WANT a big time rent-a-player, who will drag the salary cap down to near-zero once again?
In past years, the Wild were definitely buyers in this market. I'm not so sure this season. Supposedly there's not a lot out there that the Wild would actually want. There would be a few players that the Wild would like to have, but most of them will demand so much in terms of money and contract length, that they're really not worth it. So, do you go after a free agent (or two) while keeping the kids down on the farm, or do you give the kids a chance to make it onto the big club?
I guess we'll all find out together, starting on Friday at 12 Noon sharp...