The Minnesota Wild have inked a top college free agent, signing Nico Sturm to a one-year entry-level contract. The deal will kick in this season meaning Sturm is scheduled for restricted free agency this summer, but the Wild will happily welcome him into the organization. Sturm recently finished his junior season at Clarkson, where he served as captain.
Sturm, 23, was one of the most sought after names in college free agency this season after a particular effective campaign. With 45 points in 39 games he was named a Hobey Baker finalist and took home several conference honors including Best Defensive Forward. The two-way center brings size and an impeccable work ethic that should help him transition quickly to the professional ranks. In fact, Sturm may get into a game this season for the Wild despite his inexperience.
It’s important to note that if Sturm does play in a game he would no longer be exempt from the expansion draft in 2021. While that is obviously a concern for the Wild, the chance to jump right into NHL action very well could have been the deciding factor in his negotiation. Even if he does need protection a few years from now, Minnesota has added a legitimate NHL prospect for nothing more than a contract slot.
Minnesota has dramatically revamped their forward position this season by trading away core pieces like Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund, and will now add another young name to the group for next season. Sturm should compete with players like Joel Eriksson Ek and Victor Rask for playing time down the middle, though there is certainly no guarantee he’ll be able to bring the same level of offense.