Do the Wild’s New Contracts Make Sense?

Creator: Jerome Miron | Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, the Minnesota Wild re-signed Marcus Foligno and Mats Zuccarello to contract extensions of 4 and 2 years, respectively. Then, last weekend, they signed Ryan Hartman to a 3-year contract extension with a significant pay raise. With such an extensive prospect pool, do these contract extensions make sense?

Ryan Hartman’s Jackpot Contract

When Hartman signed his current contract in April 2021, he took a slight pay cut as part of a hometown discount. Hartman wanted to stay with the Wild but was fully aware of the salary cap situation. So he went from an AAV of $1.9 million to an AAV of $1.7 million. Not a huge pay cut, but it also wasn’t the raise he should’ve been getting.

However, Hartman wanted to stick around, and he accepted the lower contract. It was a good thing, too, because after starting as a bottom-six player with the Wild, he has played most of the past two seasons as the first-line center between Zuccarello and Kirill Kaprizov. After thriving in that position and coming away with the two best seasons of his career, last season was Hartman’s second-best season in the NHL with 37 points (15 goals and 22 assists), despite only playing in 59 games. 

The contract extension is a three-year, $12 million contract with an annual cap hit of $ 4 million. As a little treat, it’s a bit front-loaded, with Hartman making $5 million during the 2024-25 season.

Are These Contracts Worth the Amount?

Weighing a contract’s worth is a tricky business. While stats are always a good measure, several aspects can’t be factored in numerically. For instance, what type of player is the person? How are they off-ice and in the locker room? Do they get along with teammates? Do they fit in a specific team’s style of play?

As fans know, the Wild’s GM, Bill Guerin, seems to value off-ice personality as much as he does on-ice skills. If a player wants to stay with the Wild, they will need to buy into the gritty on-ice style along with the family-like atmosphere in the locker room.

Zuccarello’s contract makes sense, no matter how you look at it. He has the on-ice skills and the stats to back them up. Zuccarello signed a 35+ extension with a $4.125 million AAV. This is slightly less than the $6 million AAV in his last contract, but still a good amount. While Guerin is adamant that Zuccarello wasn’t signed just because he’s friends with Kaprizov, the on-ice chemistry that the two share was probably a big part of the reason for such a quick re-signing.

Hartman’s contract also seems to fit. After the hometown deal, Hartman proved that he was worth investing in. He went from bottom-six winger to top-line center and is thriving there. Of course, playing with Zuccarello and Kaprizov probably makes his job a little easier, but not everyone can keep up. Hartman is also a perfect fit with the Wild’s gritty style of play. He isn’t afraid of physical play and won’t back down from a challenge. While this can lead to some problems, it also makes him a pain to play against.

Foligno’s contract is the one that seems to be tripping people up. One problem is that Foligno’s 2022-23 season was much different from his 2021-22 season. Two seasons ago, Foligno blew away all of his previous career stats for the best season of his career. Setting career-high numbers in goals (23), assists (19), points (42), and penalty minutes (112), Foligno started last season with lofty expectations. Unfortunately, he fell short. It’s important to remember, however, that while the 21 points he scored in the 2022-23 season were half of the points from the season before, it was an average production year for Foligno when judged by the rest of his career.

This contract is the one that needs to look beyond stats. Foligno is a huge part of the identity and leadership of this team. He is another gritty, physical player who follows a strict code of conduct when it comes to fighting. Foligno will make it known if something was a dirty hit, and he’ll stick up for any of the other Wild players if he needs to. He is also an alternate captain and a loud voice in the locker room.

Aren’t the Terms Too Long?

They all fit well. Zuccarello is extended for two years. He’s turning 37 this season and playing the best hockey of his life. There is no reason to think that he’ll fall off of a production cliff anytime soon. His contract ends after the 2025-26 season, the same time that Kaprizov’s current contract ends.

Hartman is extended for three years. At 29 years old, Hartman still has plenty of years ahead of him. The three-year term brings him past the worst of the salary cap. If he can keep producing and centering the top line like he has been, he might be in for an even bigger pay raise after the 2026-27 season.

Foligno’s contract has been extended for four more years, signing him through the 2027-28 season. There has been some talk about Foligno’s age. He is currently 32, which makes him 36 during the last year of his new contract. Coincidentally, that is the same age that Zuccarello is this year as he signed his contract extension. Yes, they are two different types of players, but age alone should not be considered a problem.

What About the Prospects Though?

The biggest concern with these contract extensions is that there won’t be spots for the rookies who are waiting in the wings. The Wild’s prospect pool is deep. If Hartman, Foligno, and Zuccarello are still around for 2-4 years, is that blocking some of the incoming players?

No. Simple as that. One common thread between these three veteran players is that they are team-first players. If a rookie is pulled up and performs or shows they’re ready at a future training camp, it’s highly unlikely that Zuccarello, Hartman, or Foligno pull a drama queen act and demand to play higher in the lineup than a rookie. There will also certainly be trades and retirements that will open up slots in the lineup.

Many of the long-awaited rookies are still very young. Rasmus Kumpulainen and Riley Heidt are 18 years old this year. Liam Ohgren, Hunter Haight, and Danila Yurov are all 19. Marat Khusnutdinov and Daemon Hunt are 21. Only Daemon Hunt is playing for the Iowa Wild, while the others are in other leagues and not expected for at least another season. If they need to spend a season or two in the AHL, it shouldn’t be seen as a problem. At most, they’ll be 23 years old when Zuccarello’s contract expires.

But What About Marco Rossi This Year? Shouldn’t He Be on the Top Line?

It’s understandable to feel that way. But is it worth immediately breaking up a powerful top line who has proven to be very productive on the score sheet to try out a new center? While Rossi may certainly play on the top line one day, it doesn’t make sense to rip apart a line that is still skating well together. 

The Wild love to roll four lines during a game. Will Rossi get top-line minutes on the third line? No. Will he still get plenty of ice time and faceoffs against other top centers? Yes. Evason trusts all of his lines to do what they need to do against any of the best hockey players in the NHL.

Also, as upset as fans are that Rossi is not on the top line, it feels like they would be just as upset if Rossi was tossed up there and didn’t gel with Kaprizov and Zuccarello like Hartman does. Remember when Joel Eriksson Ek centered those two, and it just didn’t work? It had nothing to do with how good Eriksson Ek plays. It had to do with the chemistry between the players on each line.

The Bottom Line

Fans can choose how they want to feel bout these contracts, but Guerin is locking down veteran players who are important to the core group, especially as they continue to navigate the worst of the dead money cap space. While people may disagree, none of these contracts are especially terrible.

One thought on “Do the Wild’s New Contracts Make Sense?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Dallas Stars vs. Vegas Golden Knights Game 1 Recap | 04/22/2024

The Dallas Stars faced the Vegas Golden Knights in a Western Conference Finals rematch on Monday night. The Stars lost 4-3 to the Golden Knights in Game 1 at the American Airlines Center. Dallas fell to 0-1, while Vegas improved to 1-0. The Stars’ starting lineup featured Radek Faksa, Sam Steel, Evgenii Dadonov, Chris Tanev, […]

Read More

Bruins Lose 3-2, Matthews Scores Go-Ahead Goal | 4/22/2024

In Game Two for the Maple Leafs and Bruins, Toronto edged Boston to finish with a 3-2 victory on Monday, April 22nd at the TD Garden. Auston Matthews struck the go-ahead goal in the third period and also recorded two assists to help the Maple Leafs even their Eastern Conference First-Round series against the Bruins. […]

Read More
Hurricanes celebrate after scoring in game 2

Sinking Island; Hurricanes Storm Back, Beat the Islanders 5-3 | 4/22/2024

Marty McFly once said, “Hey, I’ve seen this one!” That moment happened to everyone, particularly fans of the New York Islanders, who watched game 2 between the Hurricanes and the Islanders, a 5-3 win for Carolina at home in PNC Arena.  Jordan Martinook scored the game-winning goal with 2:06 left in the 3rd period, just […]

Read More