The Wild’s defense is used to compensating for the team’s lack of high-end offensive talent.
But the blue line could help out in a different way by sacrificing one of its own in a trade to bring in the long-coveted No. 1 center, especially after the Wild signed Jonas Brodin to a seven-year, $42 million contract extension Tuesday.
That means the team has allocated nearly $30 million in cap space to its top four defenders — Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Suter, Matt Dumba and Brodin — over the next three seasons.
“We could always think about doing that, but we’re really happy with our ‘D’ core the way it is,” General Manager Bill Guerin said. “Not saying I won’t try to do anything else. It was kind of first things first with Jonas. Let’s get him locked up then see where we are.”
If the Wild does decide to use an area of strength to address one of weakness, Brodin won’t be the one to go.
His contract ensures that, with a full no-movement clause kicking in immediately before it carries over into the first four years of his new deal that begins in 2021-22 and doesn’t expire until after 2027-28, making it the longest contract on the Wild’s books.
“I love Minnesota,” Brodin said on a video conference call from his native Sweden. “I love everything about it, the fans, organization, teammates, coaches. I’m super happy, and it feels like home.”
The lengthy commitment is indicative of another reason why the Wild wants to hold onto Brodin, and that’s his play.
In 69 games last season, the 27-year-old set a career high in assists (26) and points (28) while posting a team-high 112 blocked shots in a shutdown role that regularly had him logging hard minutes in the Wild’s end, shorthanded, and against the opposition’s best. Since the Wild drafted him 10th overall in 2011, Brodin has 30 goals and 116 assists in 555 games in eight NHL seasons.
“He’s an elite defender, not just a good one,” Guerin said. “He’s elite. We put a premium on that, just like putting the puck in the net. He’s one of those guys when his name comes up in any discussions with coaches, with other GMs, he’s the type of guy that can defend the top players in the league and there’s a premium for that.”
Talks on an extension started after the team was eliminated from the postseason in August; Brodin was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent once his six-year, $25 million contract expired after next season.
“I was really excited when he told me they wanted to re-sign me,” said Brodin, who’s been relaxing in Sweden but already has started to work out and skate despite not knowing when he’ll return to Minnesota. “I was really happy. That’s a dream come true for me. It’s awesome to stay in one place for [such a] long time.”
After next season, the Wild will have approximately $27 million in cap space devoted to Brodin, his second-pairing partner Dumba and the No. 1 duo of Suter and Spurgeon.
That’s a third of the salary cap if it stays flat at $81.5 million, like it is from 2019-20 to 2020-21 amid the coronavirus pandemic. But even if the parameters stretch, the Wild’s flexibility to maneuver could be limited at a time when the likes of Kevin Fiala, Marcus Foligno and Kirill Kaprizov will be up for new contracts.
Fiala and Foligno are eligible to sign extensions now, but Brodin headlined the Wild’s agenda.
“They’re guys that we’ve talked to, and they’re important pieces of our team,” Guerin said. “We’ll get there.”
Guerin also has had initial conversations with soon-to-be free agent Carson Soucy, another defenseman the team wants to keep.
Since Brodin, Suter and Spurgeon all hold no-movement clauses, Dumba looks to be the most vulnerable on the brink of his third season in a five-year, $30 million contract. But the Wild’s thinking can’t be short-term.
Next year is the Seattle expansion draft when the team will be able to protect seven forwards and three defensemen or eight skaters at any position.
A top-heavy defense, along with the no-movement clauses scattered throughout the lineup, could be a dilemma.
For now, though, it means the Wild’s calling card hasn’t changed.
“We’ve got really good defensemen,” Brodin said, “and I think that’s a big part in a great team to have a good ‘D’ core.”