The first domino of an expectedly busy summer for the Minnesota Wild has fallen.
The Wild announced on Friday evening that the team has officially come to terms with forward Joel Eriksson-Ek on an eight-year contract extension worth $42 million that carries an average annual value of $5.25 million, thereby locking in one of their core young pieces for the foreseeable future.
Eriksson-Ek, the 20th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, picked the right year for a breakout in 2021, racking up a career-high 19 goals and 30 points in 56 games despite starting just 43.1% of his shifts in the offensive zone. Eriksson-Ek's offensive numbers, however, were merely the icing on a cake that saw the 24-year-old emerge as one of the NHL's premier defensive forwards to the tune of a fourth-place finish in overall Selke voting.
As a result, the Wild locked in one of their talented young centres until the age of 32 at an extremely reasonable cap hit. That, in the biz, is what we call some tidy business.
Getting Eriksson-Ek's deal out of the way is a victory for the Wild front office, without a doubt. But it in no way suggests that their work is done, either. Rather, Eriksson Ek is only the first of Minnesota's three prominent pending RFAs to put pen to paper thus far, with Kevin Fiala and reigning Calder-winner, Kiril Kaprizov in need of extensions of their own with the offseason fast approach. And with the cap expected to remain flat for the foreseeable future, finding space for everyone will not be easy. Although Kaprizov, at least, offers some solace in baring the classification of a 10.2c player, meaning he has yet to accrue the required NHL service time to be eligible for an offer sheet. Then again, the rumours hinting at a return back to Russia might rob the Wild of any leverage they would have previously had.
Regardless, Wild fans can rejoice over eight more years of Eriksson-Ek. And likely a few Selke trophies along the way, too.