OPINION: Filip Gustavsson’s Contract is Just Right

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

All summer, Minnesota Wild fans have been waiting for Filip Gustavsson to re-sign with the team. It seemed a sure thing that it would happen quickly, but as the weeks dragged on, worry started to set in. Bill Guerin did his best to calm the fans, using any media appearance to assure the hockey world that it wasn’t an “if” he signs, but “when” he signs. That “when” happened to be four days before the scheduled arbitration meeting.

Gustavsson’s new contract is a great one for a few reasons. The Wild and Gustavsson ended up agreeing to a three-year, $11.25 million contract with an average annual value of $3.75 million. This contract will run through the 2025-26 season.

The 2025-26 hockey season will be the first season without a giant cap hit. If Gustavsson can keep putting up the stats like he did last year, he’ll be second in line (after Kirill Kaprizov) for a gigantic new contract. Gustavsson is betting on himself to be able to do that. During his media availability, quoted here in an article from the Athletic, Gustavsson said, “In three years, I hope to be the No. 1. To be the really outspoken No. 1, to play most of the games and hope to sign another longer deal in the NHL.”

Gustavsson will make a great number-one goalie and can then be a role model for Jesper Wallstedt, expected to come up from the Iowa Wild and make his NHL debut in the 2024-25 season. Watching both Gustavsson and Wallstedt, they have similar styles in the net. Both bring a calming presence, betting on themselves to be in the right place at the right time.

The three-year length also makes more time to overbake Wallstedt in Iowa. While it’s tempting to pull him up to Minnesota right away, it is definitely not time yet. He’s only 20 years old. More time in the AHL will not harm him. The beginning of the Iowa Wild season last year was tough for him. Wallstedt played previously in the SHL, where the rinks are wider than in the NHL. The shift means relearning how to read the play because the angles are different. As a future face of the franchise, Wallstedt will be allowed more time to prepare, thanks to Gustavsson’s contract.

Two other goalies opted for arbitration meetings, and both of them went through with the hearing. Ilya Samsonov was given a one-year, $3.55 million contract by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Jeremy Swayman was given a one-year, $3.475 contract by the Boston Bruins. The fact that both of these meetings happened before Gustavsson’s arbitration hearing was scheduled gave a sense of what the verdict would be for Gustavsson as well.

This is pure speculation, but perhaps those verdicts were what brought the two sides together. The Wild may have offered more than Samsonov and Swayman were signed to if Gustavsson would agree to make it a three-year contract. It makes sense on both sides of the table.

There have been a lot of different takes on this contract, but it will most likely be a great choice. Gustavsson and the Wild are both betting on the fact that Gustavsson’s season was not a fluke. It also gives Gustavsson one more year with Marc-Andre Fleury as a goalie partner. Continuing to learn from the future Hall-of-Famer is invaluable.

Great goalies are tough to find. Keeping Gustavsson for three years and hopefully bridging him to a bigger contract at the end? Invaluable. He was consistently good last year, and even if he “only” plateaus at that high level, he’s a valuable goalie to keep around.

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