Minnesota Wild: Why Re-Signing Erik Haula Was A Good Move


Prior to an arbitration hearing earlier this month, Erik Haula was re-signed by the Minnesota Wild, settling upon a two-year contract worth $2 million. Not only does the contract carry a manageable cap hit each year, but it is potentially a low-risk, high reward deal being taken on the 24-year-old Finnish center.

Haula has been a hot topic of discussion and sometimes debate between fans, on where he stands amongst the team’s depth. With the departures of bottom-six forwards Kyle Brodziak and Matt Cooke, Haula should see significantly more ice time than what was given last year, or, at the very least have his own stall this season. He should again be a staple of Minnesota’s penalty-killing unit, and an ample amount of opportunity in general to implant himself in the lineup consistently due to far less depth than what the Wild had entering last year.

Clearly, Erik Haula is a young talent that Minnesota did not want to flat out give up on, nor should fans, even after an extremely disappointing season in 2014-15. He spent much of the season in Mike Yeo’s “doghouse” (where Yeo strictly places the “kids”) for simply not playing well. Rumors and insight galore took Wild blogs by storm on Haula’s level of fitness (or lack thereof) by midseason.

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While not forgotten (but somewhat overlooked), is the sheer amount of head shots taken by the young Finn in a six-month timeframe last year.

Evgeni Malkin’s cross check to the side of the face broke Haula’s jaw during the offseason. While that may not have caused him to miss time to start the NHL regular season, it surely could have played a factor into being somewhat out-of-shape.

Then there was this high hit from Colorado’s Erik Johnson in the second game of the year:

(This is the epitome of a hit probably looking worse than what it was.) It was this hit from NY Rangers’ John Moore that in my opinion derailed Erik Haula just a few weeks later.

Whether it was a confidence issue, fitness or health, the three of these hits each undoubtedly played a part in Haula’s lack of progression last year.

His contract being only two years is honestly no worse off than the Wild gambling on Mikael Granlund for another two, who was also locked up this summer in a contract extension of his own. Granlund’s been good but not great in his short career with the club as the team’s number one center, and is a player (much like Haula) who Wild brass are sure to be keeping an eye on extra closely to see if either have a long-term future in Minnesota.

Haula could have a bounce back year of his own, healthy, and with a new contract signed. Knowing that a nightly spot is there for the taking, should certainly be a motivator. Training camp shall be a tell-tale sign if Haula even has matured and learned from last year’s struggles, in which he attempts to regain that “Mikko Koivu replacement” potential.