Minnesota Wild Lock Up Mikael Granlund With Two-Year Extension


The Minnesota Wild can knock another item off its offseason to-do list. Twenty-three-year-old center Mikael Granlund, whose entry-level contract expired making him a restricted free agent, has agreed to deal worth $6 million over two years.

A bridge deal makes sense, as it gives Minnesota the opportunity to see if Granlund can really up his point production before giving him a lengthy deal. It also gives Granlund the chance to really cash in should he start hitting the scoresheet in the next two seasons.

Through Granlund’s career he’s got 18 goals and 88 points through 158 regular season contests and six goals, 13 points over 23 playoff games. He’s shown flashes of world-class talent in the past. During the 2011 World Championships he scored this lacrosse-style goal against Russia:

And he had a big overtime marker in Game 3 against the Colorado Avalanche during Round 1 of the 2013-14 playoffs:

It’s these moments, along with the great passing, work ethic, and hockey sense Granlund constantly exhibits that lends hope to him becoming a great playmaker at the NHL level. But at the same time, he’s had trouble staying healthy against the Dustin Byfugliens of the league. For a player that’s 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, you have to love his tenacity. But it can be a curse as well as a blessing for the Wild, as it leads to him spending more time on the IR.

Granlund has been very successful at every level short of the NHL. He was a point-per-game player over three seasons with HIFK Helsinki of the SM Liiga – Finland’s top league. He played with the Houston Aeros, Minnesota’s AHL affiliate at the time, during the 2012-13 lockout, where he posted 28 points in 29 games. We looked at the goal he scored against Russia in the Worlds four years ago. He’s also been good in the Olympics. He played on the top line alongside Teemu Selanne in 2014, where he was a first-team all-star and contributed three goals and seven points in six games.

The NHL is built on speed and physicality. There is room, though, for smaller guys to thrive. Tyler Johnson of the Tampa Bay Lightning was a top scorer in the most recent playoffs; and Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames had a phenomenal rookie season. These guys are both 5-foot-9, and racked up 29 goals, 72 points and 24 goals, 63 points respectively. If Granlund can learn to maintain his aggressive style, while avoiding the big hit that has plagued him over his three-year career, he could be a very valuable option at center. He’ll always be more of a passer than Johnson or Gaudreau, but can take a leaf out of their book when it comes to playing an abrasive style without putting himself in vulnerable positions.

The next two seasons will be huge for the Wild as it tries to gauge whether Granlund can be their top center in a league where pivots, and physicality, are at a premium.

Minnesota’s now made progress on their grocery list inked goalie Devan Dubnyk, signed defenseman Mike Reilly, and extended Granlund. The Star Tribune’s Mike Russo says there probably isn’t a whole lot left for Minnesota to do. It sounds like just depth signings, if any, for now.

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