Minnesota Wild: Mikael Granlund Must Produce Next Season


The Minnesota Wild have been patient with the development of Mikael Granlund waiting for him to take over the role of a top line forward they saw him being when they drafted him.  So far he’s fell short and now next season might be his last chance to realize that expectation.

Mikael Granlund is a player that has had high expectations since being drafted 9th overall by the Minnesota Wild in 2010.  The young Finnish center has shown lots of promise since coming over from the Finnish elite league SM-liiga, and was recently been rewarded last offseason with a sizeable pay increase making him a $3 million a year player.  Still the production still hasn’t really followed Granlund’s pay increase, as he only saw a modest increase of five points last year from the year before.  That’s not really the scoring increase that many think justified his pay increase, and is worthy of the Wild’s precious salary cap space.

The Wild organization really isn’t ready to call Granlund a bust, and stays optimistic on his future with the team.  GM Chuck Fletcher recently said this of him “I thought he was outstanding the last three months of the year. His growth in particular, the maturity.”  He continued that “He’s so in tune with who he is and what he needs to do and he’s intelligent and just a really mature kid.”

Sure he had an excellent end of the season after moving to the wing from center, but you wonder if the production will continue into this season.   The breakout needs to happen for Granlund next season.  His current deal will expire at the end of this upcoming season.  Granted he’ll still be an RFA, but the team will need to make some tough free-agent choices at the end of next season and he’ll need to improve if he wants to make his re-signing a priority as it was last summer.

The free-agent situation shaping up for the Wild at the end of this season will see Granlund, Thomas Vanek, Nino Niederreiter, Erik Haula, Christian Folin, and Nate Prosser all vying to re-up with the team.  As it stands now Granlund’s place on that list is uncertain and definitely not at the top.  Haula and Niederreiter have improved production wise over the last couple of seasons while Granlund has largely stayed the same.  Granlund needs to do something to separate himself from those two players, and it seems like the scoresheet will be his only way to get ahead.

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As explained previously the Wild see the potential and the intangibles with Granlund, but in the end there’s production and putting points on the board.  I’m sure Fletcher would say similarly glowing things about Haula and Niederreiter, so how does Granlund standout from them…by out producing them.

The end of the season does give hope that Granlund can do that.  He scored five goals in the last eleven games and showed an excellent scoring touch that seemed to be missing from previous games played last season.  Moreover, his performance in the IIHF World Championships for Finland was masterful.  Once again playing on the wing, Granlund notched 4 goals and 8 assists playing on a Mikko Koivu centered line.  His 12 points were good enough to be tied for 4th in tournament scoring and it really showed that he’s got another level to his scoring game that can be unlocked.

So if Granlund can channel those performances he might have a chance at not only re-signing with the Wild, but possibly getting another modest bump in pay.  If he reverts back to the numbers we’ve seen last year and the year before, the Wild may have no other choice but to trade him at this season’s trade deadline.   By doing that they avoid the issue of re-signing him and can start to prioritize their cap space sooner in favor of players they do want to keep.

Next: Minnesota Wild Fifteen Greatest Players: #2 Mikko Koivu

Put simply Granlund is going to have to play for his future with the Wild next season.  Right now it seems as if he has the talent to make it a long future, the issue is if he can go out and execute.  His time for growing is over, it’s time for Granlund to show the team what he’s capable of, and how he can contribute for years to come.