The Minnesota Wild have signed center Sam Steel to a one-year, $825,000 contract, according to a team release. Steel became an unrestricted free agent after the Anaheim Ducks chose not to issue him a qualifying offer earlier this summer.
The 2021-22 campaign wasn’t too kind to Steel. He did finish with a respectable six goals and 14 assists for 20 points in 68 games, but he’s yet to develop into anything more than a run-of-the-mill bottom-six forward. With his ice time taking a hit, too, dropping to 12:19 per game in 2021-22 from 14:32 per game in 2020-21, Steel’s clout within the Ducks organization was dropping fast.
Steel’s game has been serviceable defensively throughout his four-season NHL career, but he’s yet to make the impact offensively he was expected to after going 30th overall in the 2016 NHL Draft. He’s scored exactly six goals in every NHL campaign and has never eclipsed more than 22 points in a season.
He’ll be 25 by the time next season ends, and the clock on his development is beginning to run out, but that doesn’t absolve him of being valuable to the Wild organization. The team needed another NHL forward in the lineup, plain and simple. While he may not have a breakout year in Minnesota, he’s still a very good insurance option to let players like Connor Dewar and Brandon Duhaime play more limited roles suited to their skill set. Steel could easily fit in on the team’s secondary scoring line alongside Frederick Gaudreau and Matthew Boldy, too, which could help spur some increased offense for him.