Why the Mikael Granlund deal is perfect for the Wild

DETROIT, MI - MARCH 26: Mikael Granlund
DETROIT, MI - MARCH 26: Mikael Granlund /

The Minnesota Wild locked up star winger Mikael Granlund to a three-year contract. A perfect deal for the team.

The Minnesota Wild had two huge goals in mind heading into the offseason. First, they wanted to avoid losing one of their most valuable assets in the expansion draft. They accomplished this via a trade that sent Alex Tuch to the Vegas Golden Knights, so they would select restricted free agent Erik Haula. Second, they wanted to lock up restricted free agents Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund. After extending Niederreiter last Sunday, they completed that goal by signing Granlund two days later, a perfect deal for the Wild.

Grandlund, 25, broke out last season in what was his best season with Minnesota, producing career-highs in goals (26), assists (43) and points (69). He was even the top point producer on a Wild team that finished second in the Western Conference with 106 points.

In return, he was rewarded a slick three-year deal. The Star Tribune’s Michael Russo posted details of the contract via Twitter:

Financially, the deal is a steal for a player that was a top-20 scorer in the NHL last season. In fact, this season’s average annual salary of $5.25 million ranks in a tie for 132nd in the league. Essentially, the Wild come out on top with this move.

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Salary values aside, the three-year length of the deal makes the deal better for the Wild. Even though Granlund broke out in the regular season, he hasn’t exactly lit up the stat sheet in the playoffs. In the last two playoffs, he has one goal and four assists in 11 games. Last season, he was largely non-existent against the St. Louis Blues with no goals and two assists.

In turn, the argument is out on whether Granlund’s style of play fits the long-term view of the franchise. Listed at 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, the Finnish skater plays a game that relies on speed, which is understandable for a player of his size. But, when the playoffs come around, the game’s higher intensity and physicality seems to impact his production. This was especially true against the Blues, who were a much more physical team than the Wild last season.

As a key cog on one of the Wild’s top two lines, Grandlund has to prove that he can play with the big boys in the playoffs. A team’s top-scorer has to contribute more than a couple points in a series. Otherwise, they are more than likely heading home early, as was the case last year.

Knowing this, signing Granlund to a short-term deal gives the emerging star a chance to prove that he can make the adjustment in the playoffs. Yes, regular season success is great, but the Wild’s main focus should be on playoff success after five seasons of not getting past the second round. The winger has no choice, but to play a huge role in getting Minnesota over the playoff hump as arguably the team’s best player.

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If he can’t make the playoff adjustment, the Wild will need to replace him with someone else that can on the top two lines. In that case, they are free to let him walk after three seasons or trade him, considering his new deal doesn’t have a no-trade clause. Likely, he would still have great value on the trade market.

That being said, there’s no question that this is the right move for now. Granlund is one of the top players on the Wild roster. Plus, at his age, there’s no reason to think that his game can’t get better in the next three seasons.. At this point, Minnesota is much better off with him than without him.

In the meantime, let’s see how the next three seasons play out for Granlund, hoping that regular season success translates to playoff success. If so, the Wild are going to have to lock up the winger to a likely massive contract extension three years from now. In that time, it’s all up to Granlund to prove what his worth is.

Next: The Twins were right to make their deadline moves

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