Wild Lock Up Top Defensive Forward Marcus Foligno

On Tuesday, the Wild made a significant transaction by locking up veteran winger Marcus Foligno. The Wild announced they signed Foligno to a three-year, $9.3 million extension. Some may think a $3.1 million cap hit is expensive for a third-liner, but he brings immense value to the roster. This would secure Foligno on the Wild until the 2023-24 season unless he is taken in the expansion draft or moved via trade, the latter extremely unlikely. This puts the Wild just under the cap going into the season. No protection comes in the deal in terms of a no-move or no-trade clause.

Marcus Foligno, Derek Forbort
Minnesota Wild’s Marcus Foligno (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

In hindsight, the trade in which the Wild obtained Foligno has turned out to be one of the better trades in the past decade for the Wild. They made a bold move when they traded Jason Pominville, Marco Scandella, and a 2018 fourth-round selection in return for Marcus Foligno, Tyler Ennis, and a 2018 third-round selection.

Foligno is the only player involved in that transaction who is still on the respective team they were traded to in the deal. It speaks volumes because he has become a fixture in Minnesota and is integral to the Wild’s defensive game and the penalty kill.

What Foligno Brings to the Table

The most important thing to remember is the intangibles that Foligno brings to the table. He is a vocal leader and is one of the key veteran forwards on the roster. Aside from his obvious physical presence and his gritty play, he is one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL.

As previously mentioned, the biggest facet of Foligno’s game is on the defensive side. It shouldn’t be shocking that his even-strength defensive goals above replacement ranks 14th among all forwards in the NHL. He is superior defensively and excels in all defensive situations, including being a mainstay on the Wild’s penalty kill.

Likewise, Foligno ranks 22nd in goals against per hour and 18th in expected goals against per hour among all NHL forwards. This is a testament to his defensive game and his ability to control offensive chances while he is on the ice. This is exactly what makes him so valuable and such a dependable asset to have in the bottom-six.

As shown above, he is below average offensively, but for a forward whose niche isn’t to be an offensive player, but that is fine for a bottom-six forward who specializes in other areas. Furthermore, expanding beyond his ability to limit scoring chances, he excels and is among the best in the league at suppressing shot attempts, which can be reflected by his Corsi numbers.

Foligno does everything that is expected of him. He isn’t a great offensive player, but he is excellent defensively, provides a physical presence, and is a vocal leader in the locker room. All justifiable reasons why he deserved this contract and is worth it.

The 29-year-old winger finished the 2019-20 campaign with 11 goals, 14 assists for a career-high 25 points.

Going Forward: How This Affects Seattle Expansion

One of the biggest themes that has flown under the radar in the Foligno deal is the impact the extension has on the upcoming Seattle Expansion Draft. The Wild have a dilemma on their hands; if they don’t trade Dumba before the draft, they would have a choice between the eight-skater route or the traditional seven forward and three defensemen route.

With all due respect to Foligno, I can’t imagine the Wild going the seven skater route and exposing Dumba. This almost hints there could be a Dumba trade before the upcoming Seattle Expansion Draft. I highly doubt that the Wild want to make a side deal after seeing the result of the Vegas Expansion Draft that has seen Alex Tuch flourish in an elevated role. It just makes this whole situation even more interesting because there is no way that the Wild protect Foligno over Joel Eriksson Ek.

With all the money tied up into the defensive core and with defensive prospect Calen Addison a few years away, it doesn’t make sense to keep such a valuable asset like Dumba. He is the biggest trade chip the Wild can use for a top-six center {first-line center preferred}, and he has term on his deal at a favorable cap hit. It is also important to note the emergence of Carson Soucy, which means the Wild’s defensive core will still remain one of the best even if Dumba were to depart.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is the Wild extended a very important player that is valuable on and off the ice. It’s a fair deal and makes both sides comfortable with the extension. It was really important for the Wild to make this happen because they lack the physicality component on the roster. Because aside from Foligno, Ryan Hartman is one of the few others that is willing to throw his body around to make a big play.

(All Data and Information Via Evolving-Hockey, Hockey-Reference & Capfriendly)

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