Nino Niederreiter turned his career year into a big payday.
Three weeks after filing for arbitration and four days before the scheduled hearing, the Wild’s net-crashing winger settled Sunday night by signing a five-year, $26.25 million contract. Niederreiter’s annual cap hit will be $5.25 million, a price that likely raises the bar for last year’s leading scorer, Mikael Granlund, if he too agrees to a multiyear contract soon.
Granlund’s arbitration hearing is slated for Friday in Toronto, but the Wild and its young forward first are trying to negotiate a contract ranging from three to five years.
Niederreiter, 24, is the only Swiss-born player in NHL history to score 20 goals in a season, an accomplishment he has done three years in a row. Despite averaging the eighth-most minutes per game among forwards, Niederreiter is coming off a season in which he established career highs with 25 goals, 32 assists, 57 points, a plus-17, 53 penalty minutes, eight power-play goals, 186 shots and 14 multipoint games. He is one of four Wild players who played all 82 games last season.
“Nino has had a big impact on our club during the last four seasons and we’re very happy to know that will continue in the future,” GM Chuck Fletcher said in a statement. “He’s grown into his role as one of the offensive leaders of this group and his shot and net-front presence will continue to play a major role in our team’s success.”
Niederreiter’s contract, which has no no-trade protection and buys three of his unrestricted free agency years, was right in line with the market for recent settled contracts for comparable forwards — the Rangers’ Mika Zibanejad, Tampa Bay’s Ondrej Palat and Detroit’s Tomas Tatar — who also filed for arbitration. He will earn $4.6 million next season and tops out at $6.075 million in 2018-19. Like most recently signed contracts, Niederreiter’s lowest salary ($4.25 million) comes in 2020-21 because of the risk of another lockout.
Niederreiter is an analytics darling, routinely near the top of the league in Corsi (reflects possession). He led the Wild in both Corsi For percentage and scoring chances for percentage. Since joining the Wild in 2013-14, he ranks first in games played (325), second in goals (83), tied for second with 18 power-play goals and fifth in points (173).
Other than Granlund, Marcus Foligno is the only other Wild restricted free agent. Foligno did not file for arbitration but eventually is expected to sign a three- or four-year contract.