It took long enough, but the Minnesota Wild have signed their top two restricted free agents, Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter, to multi-year contracts. The Wild signed Niederreiter to a five-year deal worth $26.25 million, an average of $5.25 million per year. The following day, the Wild locked up Granlund for three years at $17.25 million, a $5.75 million average per year.
Good or Bad Deal?
There may be some who don’t like these deals, whether it be the term or how much they paid Granlund and Niederreiter, but keep this in mind: both players were originally looking for over $6 million per year. The Wild were able to lock them up for less than that, giving them a little extra breathing room with the cap. On top of that, Granlund and Niederreiter’s deals are staggered, with Granlund signed for three years and Nino for five. This will make it easier to re-sign both players since they won’t become free agents the same year.
Granlund’s contract is similar to players such as Tomas Tatar, Alex Galchenyuk, and Tyler Toffoli. Granlund performed better than all three of these players last season and yet his contract is very similar to these players. Niederreiter’s new deal was also similar to the likes of Tatar, Mika Zibanejad, and Ondrej Palat.
Why They Deserved New Deals
Granlund and Niederreiter both were deserving of a new deal that involved a pay raise from their previous contracts. Granlund had a career year in which he led the Wild with 69 points and 43 assists. He also scored a career-high 26 goals. After playing his entire NHL career at center, Bruce Boudreau moved him to the wing alongside captain Mikko Koivu. That transition to wing helped Granlund elevate his game, and he should continue to take steps to be an even better player.
Niederreiter was an absolute beast. Despite averaging barely over 15 minutes a game, he still managed to score a career-high 25 goals and 57 points. He also finished fourth on the team in scoring with his 57 points. He seemed to make everyone better when he was on the ice. Players like Marco Scandella, Matt Dumba, Koivu, and Eric Staal all had a better Corsi-for percentage when Niederreiter was on the ice with them. According to stats.hockeyanalysis.com, Niederreiter ranked fourth on the team in points per 60/minutes as well as fifth in Corsi per 60 minutes.
Can the Wild Take the Next Step?
The future is now set for the Wild. They have a talented group of young prospects who are very close to being NHL-ready players. They still contain a dangerous top-four defensive group. Now, they have a majority of key players locked up for a couple of years. Through the 2019-20 season, the Wild will have Niederreiter, Granlund, Zach Parise, Charlie Coyle, Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin and Jared Spurgeon under contract. The Wild have made the playoffs five straight years with little to show for it.
General manager Chuck Fletcher obviously has faith in this group to bring a Stanley Cup home to Minnesota. He’s done just about everything in his power to keep this roster mostly intact. They did ship off Scandella and Jason Pominville to Buffalo, but for the most part, this Wild team has had the same familiar faces around for the past four to five seasons.
Moving forward, the Wild will be relying heavily on Granlund and Niederreiter to produce. Fletcher put faith in them by rewarding them both with lucrative deals. Now it’s their turn to show that last season was not a fluke and that they can continue to produce at a high level and help the Wild win a Stanley Cup.