One of the biggest blows for the Minnesota Wild in the aftermath of the Lockout was that the salary cap is to be lowered next year from 70 million to around 64 million. So that's 6 million of cap space eradicated right there.
That said, it could be worse. There were proposals that would have forced the Wild to have the cap hits of Parise and Suter (along with teams that dealt out frontloaded contracts after the Ilya Kovalchuk debacle) on their books in the extremely likely event that they were to retire before the end of their contract. At least this affects everyone. It's not the worst thing that could happen.
However, even though it's affecting most NHL teams right now, it sucks for the Wild. That lowering of cap space, as well as performance bonuses that Jonas Brodin earned last year, has reduced the Wild's buying power to a mere 6,737,799 dollars. When your offseason wishlist includes a physical but mobile defenseman, a physical winger with some goal-scoring ability, and a Number 1 goaltender, this is a problem.
And what's worse is that the initial hope for some relief, the amnesty buyouts offered by the NHL, the same ones that Philadelphia used to eliminate Danny Briere's 6.5 million dollar cap hit, has been snuffed out. Dany Heatley's shoulder injury will likely limit the Wild's ability to gain some cap room, as his 7.5 million dollar cap hit can't be erased while he's not cleared to play by team doctors.
So, is there anything the Wild can do to gain cap relief? It would seem it's not very much, at least not with a buyout. When you look at healthy players making 3 million dollars or more, the only person you'd have to buy out to get rid of might be Tom Gilbert and his 4 million cap hit. Other than that, everyone else is either too crucial to the team's success (Parise, Koivu, Suter, for example), still young enough to retain trade value (Setoguchi), or makes too little money (Konopka, Stoner) to justify a buyout.
The buyout isn't likely to be a viable option to help the Wild this offseason, and that's a shame. A healthy Heatley means the Wild could get close to 18 million in cap space with a buyout of him and Gilbert. But, as it stands now, any improvements the Wild will make outside of that 6-10 million dollar range will almost certainly come via trade. After the Wild's aggressive trade deadline, as well as reports that they're sniffing around Jonathan Bernier, don't be surprised to hear a lot from the Wild on the trade front.