This offseason for the Minnesota Wild was never going to be about making major additions.
This was simply the summer of maintenance and sustenance, with a new contract for Mikael Granlund one of the biggest priorities.
Now that Granlund has agreed to the deal, for $17.25 million over three years, the dynamic Finnish forward has his focus on a much deeper push by the Wild through the playoffs. Performing up to the value of the contract is not his concern.
Even without obvious roster upgrades after a five-game loss in the first round to St. Louis, the strength of the core that fueled a top-five finish in the NHL regular season has not diminished.
“There’s always something to prove, but I think the biggest thing is as a team I really want us to make a deeper playoff run,” Granlund said Wednesday on a conference call. “Obviously we need to make it to playoffs first, but I think we have a really good group of guys and we can do some damage.”
Granlund’s deal was done two days after the new contract was finalized for fellow restricted free agent and right wing Nino Niederreiter, who will get $26.25 million over five years.
The Wild acquired left wing Marcus Foligno and right wing Tyler Ennis from Buffalo last month, but they traded right wing Jason Pominville and defenseman Marco Scandella to get them. They lost center Erik Haula in the expansion draft to Vegas and traded former first-round draft pick Alex Tuch to the Golden Knights to keep them away from others. They signed defenseman Kyle Quincey in free agency, but all the other pick-ups were designed for injury protection and AHL depth.
General manager Chuck Fletcher wasn’t going to be able to do much more than that, given the salary cap situation and the requirement to lose a player to the league’s newest team. So the Wild will be banking on good health for their veteran players and continued improvement by their younger teammates, with Granlund squarely in the spotlight after a breakthrough under new coach Bruce Boudreau.
“He was super great last season, and we…