The Athletic’s Michael Russo shared that, while the team hasn’t acknowledged it yet, it seems they’ve begun talking extensions with their ’big three’ – Marcus Foligno, Mats Zuccarello, and Ryan Hartman. All three veterans are pending free agents, a part of the 10 Wild players facing free agency next summer.
Russo walked through what to expect with each player’s contract talks in turn. Foligno is expected to boast the easiest conversations, as the contract he’s currently on (three years, $9.3MM) could be really close to the details of his next deal. Foligno has become a fan favorite, offering an important amount of grit and physicality to the team’s top six. He recorded 42 points and 112 penalty minutes in the 2021-22 season – career highs in both categories and his first time breaking 30 points – but fell back to Earth this year, only netting 21 points in 75 games. Still, with scoring not the reward of Folingo’s game, there’s some reason to expect he can maintain his impact through the end of his career.
Mats Zuccarello is facing a similarly positive outlook on his next deal. There’s no denying the chemistry formed between Zuccarello and Wild star winger Kirill Kaprizov, both on and off of the ice. That bond alone is enough to warrant a contract extension, although Russo notes it will likely have to come at a reduced cost. Zuccarello currently carries a $6MM cap hit on a deal he signed in 2019. Now 36, a new deal will likely have to carry short-term and short costs. But how much longer Zuccarello, who scored 67 points last year, can play will be an interesting storyline to follow.
While Foligno and Zuccarello seem like sure bets to re-sign, Russo doesn’t express that same optimism with Hartman. The forward has emerged as the team’s top-line center and a dangerous goal-scorer, netting 34 goals in 2021-22. But, like Foligno, Hartman’s scoring didn’t survive through last season. He recorded just 37 points in 59 games. While not a terrible tally by any means, it could be just low enough that Hartman begins to feel pressure as young prospects earn roster spots. The Wild are overflowing with young talent and Hartman is set for a pay raise from his current $1.7MM cap hit. If the Wild can support both of those things at once is yet to be seen, although Russo does note that Hartman would carry great trade deadline value. He was traded for a first-round pick at the 2018 trade deadline, before he was ever the goal-scorer he is today. While he’s now much older, Minnesota has shown the extent of Hartman’s untapped potential – something a team on the playoff bubble could really enjoy. Of course, this trade feels most likely if young centermen like Marco Rossi are able to step up.