Two days after locking up Nino Niederreiter on a five-year deal, the Wild also avoided arbitration Tuesday by signing last season’s leading scorer, Mikael Granlund, to a three-year, $17.25 million contract.
The deal averages to an annual $5.75 million salary-cap hit and gives the Wild at least three years of cost certainty knowing it has Granlund and Niederreiter plugged in at a combined $11 million. Granlund will be paid $5.25 million for the upcoming season, $5.5 million in 2018-19 and $6.5 million in 2019-20. The Wild bought one of his unrestricted free-agent seasons and, like Niederreiter, there’s no no-trade clause.
“Mikael has been an important part of our club for the last five years, and he showed a great amount of growth with an impressive performance last season,” General Manager Chuck Fletcher said in a statement.
Granlund, 25, had a strong arbitration case after averaging nearly 19 minutes a game last season, being nominated for the Lady Byng Trophy and being one of coach Bruce Boudreau’s most trusted soldiers when it came to defensive-zone starts and matching up against top players alongside linemate Mikko Koivu.
In avoiding Friday’s arbitration hearing, Granlund’s agent didn’t want a multiyear contract to go too long-term. That way, if Granlund continues to build on last season’s breakout year, he could potentially hit a home-run contract at age 28 if the NHL’s salary cap continues to rise. Even though the Wild was fine signing Granlund to any term between three and five years, the Wild, too, was OK with a shorter deal than Niederreiter’s to ensure different significant player contracts expire at different times and that Granlund continues to increase his production after the one big season.
Jason Zucker and Matt Dumba can become restricted free agents next summer, and Koivu is also entering the final season of his seven-year contract.
Granlund’s 69 points last season was tied for the fourth-most points in a season by a Wild player and the most by a Wild player since 2009-10. He also led the Wild with 43 assists, three shorthanded goals and 16 multi-point games and ranked second with 26 goals after shooting 14.7 percent. All were career highs, including his plus-23, seven power-play goals, 20 power-play points, four game-winning goals and 177 shots. He also set a franchise record with a 12-game point streak (17 points) from Jan. 12-Feb. 4.
He was a Lady Byng Trophy finalist after finishing 19th in the NHL in scoring yet only having 12 penalty minutes in a career-high 18 minutes, 49 seconds per game.
Granlund, who will speak with the media Wednesday, has scored 57 goals and 201 points in 321 games and has missed only one game the past two seasons.
“People across the league are now surely aware of what our management group has always known: Mikael has a tremendous level of talent and skill,” Fletcher said. “Coupled with his excellent work ethic and tremendous character, we know he’ll play a large role in the future success of our team.”
Marcus Foligno is the Wild’s only remaining restricted free agent. Foligno’s agents have also been focused on a half-dozen potential arbitration cases, while the Wild has been focused on Granlund and Niederreiter. So both sides have barely started negotiating a new contract for Foligno, who was acquired from the Buffalo Sabres on June 30 after scoring a career-high 13 goals last season and ranking fifth in the NHL with 279 hits.
The two sides have exchanged ideas on a potential three-year contract. He has two years left before he can become an unrestricted free agent and is coming off a one-year, $2.25 million deal.
The Wild hopes to sign Foligno and then have enough cap space left over to comfortably sign another forward. Depending on who makes the team, the Wild has about $4.7 million in cap space left for next season.
“We’ll get a deal done with Foligno and then see what we have left, and if it makes sense to bring somebody else in, we will,” Fletcher said.