The Minnesota Wild announced Thursday that they signed Ryan Hartman to a three-year, $5.1 million contract extension. The newly inked deal will pay him $1.7 million annually, making this an incredibly team-friendly contract. It was weird timing, but a key signing can now be checked off Wild GM Bill Guerin’s long to-do list for this summer.
The 26-year-old forward was a pending restricted free agent and had arbitration rights. The Wild have an array of contraction extensions that they will need to give out, meaning they only had so much money to allocate to a bottom-six forward. This was likely the reason Hartman agreed to take a team-friendly deal because of his desire to stay put in Minnesota and for financial security.
Marcus Foligno signed a three-year contract extension back in January making this the second depth extension for the Wild. While they certainly aren’t the same player, it is very surprising that Hartman didn’t get a raise from his current contract. This is definitely a steal for the Wild and will help them allocate more money to the bigger priorities.
The Chicago Blackhawks selected Hartman in the first round in the NHL Entry Draft back in 2015. He had stints with the Nashville Predators and the Philadelphia Flyers before signing with the Wild in free agency.
Breaking Down His Game
Hartman’s versatility – often being used at center this season – and physical game are two traits that have made him such a reliable option. His game models similar to Foligno with his hardworking forechecking style. He has also been a staple on the penalty kill with the fourth-highest minutes on the penalty kill among Wild forwards.
Hartman finished with 20 points in 69 games last season. The gritty depth forward has followed that up with 18 points in 40 games so far this season.
One has to assume that him being forced into a center role is hindering him from maximizing his best results. His underlying numbers haven’t been strong this season in comparison to last season which hints his deployment could have an impact on it. His shot share this season is 43.74 percent and his expected goal share is 46.09 percent – both numbers have significantly fallen from his strong numbers last season that ranked near the top on the team.
The biggest question surrounding his game is if he has the offensive upside that was displayed in his season when he scored 19 goals with the Blackhawks. He has shown moments of some offensive upside but it is unlikely he becomes anything more than a bottom-six forward, which isn’t a negative thing because the Wild just need him to be a good defensive forward who can be a reliable presence on the penalty kill and be an offensive contributor.
A huge reason why Hartman has been such a good fit is that he has embraced the Wild’s defensive identity and has been a strong defensive presence. His defensive numbers have fallen this season – by a considerable amount – but he has still been a reliable defensive forward. His 2.13 expected goals against is higher than last season’s 1.82 but still remains just above average. Again, this seems like it is more due to his deployment than anything else. It is also important to note that he has been more disciplined this season as he is on pace for a career-low in penalty minutes per game.
Does This Affect the Seattle Expansion Draft?
In my latest Minnesota Wild protection list 2.0 for the Seattle Expansion Draft that takes place this summer, I have Hartman slotted in as the seventh protected forward. I believe that the Wild will ultimately decide to either trade defenseman Matt Dumba before the draft or expose him resulting in utilizing the 7-3-1 protection route.
In one of my recent articles, I wrote about Dumba and the options the Wild have with the defenseman before Seattle expansion. If they do indeed choose to protect seven skaters, Hartman should be protected unless the Wild make a splash in free agency or via trade for a center.
GM Bill Guerin has a lengthy to-do list this summer with many hard decisions, specifically managing how much money can be allocated for each contract extension among other things like trades, free agency, the NHL Entry Draft, and the Seattle Expansion Draft.
The Wild were able to get this done without worrying if Hartman would go the avenue of arbitration, albeit if that were to happen, he likely wouldn’t be on the team next season. This extension is definitely interesting timing, but both sides clearly wanted to get it done instead of waiting until the summer.
(All Data Via Evolving-Hockey, Natural Stat Trick & Hockey-Reference)
Aaron Heckmann covers the Wild for The Hockey Writers & Zone Coverage. His data-driven articles are focused on solving problems, telling stories, and discovering unique storylines. Find him on Twitter @aaron_heckmann.