Main­te­nance and sus­te­nance

Newly-signed Gran­lund: Wild ‘can do some dam­age’ in play­offs

Cape Breton Post - - Sports - BY DAVE CAMP­BELL

This off-sea­son 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 de­fence­man

Marco Scan­della to get them.

They lost cen­tre 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 de­fence­man 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 im­proved a lot as a team and in­di­vid­u­ally too,” said Gran­lund, who was the ninth over­all pick in the 2010 draft. “He gave me a lot of re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

With a per­ma­nent move from cen­tre to right wing and the in­stal­la­tion of an of­fence­friendly sys­tem, Gran­lund pro­duced

26 goals, 43 as­sists and a plus-23 rat­ing, all ca­reer highs. His 69 points were tied for the fourth most in fran­chise his­tory, and he was one of three fi­nal­ists for the Lady Byng Memo­rial Tro­phy for ex­cep­tional sports­man­ship and skill.

“Peo­ple across the league are now surely aware of what our man­age­ment group has al­ways known: Mikael has a tremen­dous level of ta­lent and skill,” Fletcher said.

“Cou­pled with his ex­cel­lent work ethic and tremen­dous char­ac­ter, we know he’ll play a large role in the fu­ture suc­cess of our team.”

AP PHOTO

In this Jan. 24 file photo, Min­nesota Wild’s Mikael Gran­lund han­dles the puck dur­ing an NHL game against the Dal­las Stars in Dal­las.

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