Should the Minnesota Wild Re-Sign Brad Hunt?

ST. PAUL, MN - APRIL 04: Brad Hunt #77 of the Minnesota Wild takes a shot on goal during a game with the Boston Bruins at Xcel Energy Center on April 4, 2019 in St. Paul, Minnesota.(Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)
ST. PAUL, MN - APRIL 04: Brad Hunt #77 of the Minnesota Wild takes a shot on goal during a game with the Boston Bruins at Xcel Energy Center on April 4, 2019 in St. Paul, Minnesota.(Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images) /

At 5’9″ and 187 pounds, Brad Hunt doesn’t look like your typical NHL
defenseman. But over the last two seasons, he’s proved he can contribute and be a solid fifth or sixth defenseman.

In 2017-18, Hunt played 45 games for the expansion Golden Knights, his highest mark by far. His previous high was 11 games for the Edmonton Oilers back in 2014-15. This past season, Hunt played 42 games total between Vegas and Minnesota, 29 of them for the Wild. Now Hunt finds himself set for unrestricted free agency this summer. Lets take a look at Minnesota and if they should let the undersized, but solid defenseman walk or, should they re-sign the former Bemidji State Beaver.

Injuries Bring Hunt In

After the injury to Matt Dumba, Fenton (sort of) addressed this by trading for Hunt. Though initially the 6th defenseman, playing with Nick Seeler and at times Anthony Bitetto, Hunt spent the last chunk of his season playing in the top four alongside Jonas Brodin when Greg Pateryn couldn’t cut it. Though a lefty, Hunt proved his versatility and mostly played on his off-side, on the right. In a similar vein to Nate Prosser a few years ago, Hunt twice played fourth line right-wing, when Pontus Aberg was unplayable. This versatility is invaluable when injuries occur, and Hunt makes a fine fifth defenseman.

More from Gone Puck Wild

Hunt split his year between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Minnesota Wild, scoring 5 goals and 7 assists for a grand total of 12 points. 3 goals and 2 assists came with the Wild, so he wasn’t exactly lighting it up in the land of 10,000 lakes. Only managing to enter the lineup 13 times in Vegas, Hunt became mostly a regular fixture on Minnesota’s blue-line (and at times fourth line,) playing 29 games for the Wild. His minus-5 rating could be a concern, but on a team without a plus-player at the end of the season, minus -5 for a 5th defenseman isn’t terrible. It isn’t great either.

Hunt’s Power-Play Prowess

Hunt wasn’t only a decent option at 5 on 5, his powerful and accurate shot landed him a spot on the power play, immediately upon his arrival from Vegas. All three goals Hunt scored wearing forest green came on the power play. One can salivate at the thought of both Hunt and Dumba shooting bombs on the power play next season, should Hunt be brought back.

Dumba sadly never recovered from his injury in time for us to see this combo. However, coach Boudreau may have them quarterback each unit separately with Suter, Spurgeon, Brodin and Luke Kunin all capable of manning the point on the man advantage. Bruce would have options, that’s for sure. Personally I’d have Kunin be the bumper/net-front guy and keep Brodin off the power play entirely. Any combination of Suter, Spurgeon, Dumba and Hunt at the points could lead to more goals on the man advantage.

Where Hunt Could Best be Utilized by Minnesota

By the time the regular season starts in October, Hunt will be 31 years old. His age and bottom pair/fringe defenseman status won’t lead to a big ask. Hunt’s last contact was 2 years at league minimum $650,000. Should Fenton decide to bring back Hunt, a similar deal could be struck. However, with Nick Seeler needing minutes to develop, Fenton may not want to block out his young defenseman from maturing. Though at times being a healthy scratch at the tail end of the season, Seeler was having a solid year on the third pair alongside Pateryn, before Dumba’s injury. Unless injuries occur, Hunt could be a healthy scratch most games, unless Bruce decides to rotate Hunt in for Seeler or Pateryn.

If Minnesota’s power play goes stagnant, Hunt could become a regular on the blue line. Heck, he could even fill in on the fourth line and get time on the man advantage. With the league minimum rising to $700,000 next year, I could see a 1 to 2 year deal for Hunt anywhere from $700,000 to 900,000. As a proud Bemidji State alumni, I’d love to see Hunt return. But with Minnesota’s top six D mostly set in stone, I could see Hunt move on. Unless Seeler finds himself down in Iowa or becomes the team’s seventh defenseman or if Pateryn, Brodin or Spurgeon (God forbid) are moved, I just don’t see it happening.

Wrap Up

Maybe Hunt would accept a two-way deal. He could be at the point in his career where not many teams are looking for an early thirty-something fringe D-man. Hunt and his Bemidji State buddy Matt Read could both realistically be playing for Minnesota’s farm team next season. This would be most ideal for the team in my opinion.

If Hunt isn’t a regular on the Wild, he could take a similar role to Nate Prosser this year and be a mentor for the young blue-liners on the baby Wild. If/when injuries occur, Hunt would surely be the first or second option to call up next to Louis Belpedio. If the contracts he’s offered are all about the same, I could see Hunt choosing to stay in his second home.