When his agent called him Saturday at 7 a.m. with the Wild’s offer, Jared Spurgeon reflected on how he got to this point.
An undersized defenseman told by many in hockey he wouldn’t progress in the sport, Spurgeon went unsigned after the Islanders drafted him in the sixth round in 2008 and could have continued his career overseas in Austria.
Instead, it was another call from his agent Eustace King that set him on this path with the Wild.
The team invited him to development camp in 2010; if he performed well, maybe he’d stick around for the tournament in Traverse City, Mich.
But Spurgeon didn’t just impress enough to log a few prospect games.
He secured a contract, earned minutes in the minors and then merited a promotion to the NHL.
So when he discussed a new contract with his wife Danielle Saturday morning, he looked at her and asked if she’d ever think they’d be here in 10 years.
“It was pretty cool,” Spurgeon said.
Later in the day, not too long before he’d take the ice for the second day of on-ice action at training camp, Spurgeon signed a seven-year, $53,025,000 extension that’ll kick in next season and continue a partnership that has been extremely successful for both parties.
“It’s a perfect fit,” General Manager Bill Guerin said. “We didn’t want him going anywhere.”
Locking up Spurgeon is significant for a handful of reasons.
First, it keeps a vital player on the roster for the foreseeable future – a key move for a team seeking to recalibrate and get back to the playoffs. Spurgeon’s value was only magnified by his career performance last season when he was a force all over the ice.
“His efforts for three years-plus that I’ve seen him [have] been extraordinary,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “So you always like to see the little guy succeed. He might be small in stature, but his heart is so big that I think the Wild are really extremely lucky for seven more years.”
Getting him signed before the season nixes any potential of the negotiations becoming a distraction or added pressure on Spurgeon. How quickly Guerin acted to facilitate this deal made it clear he prioritized Spurgeon, awareness that reflects well on how he’s settled into his new role.
“We love Jared,” Guerin said. “He’s a homegrown guy. He’s been here for his whole career, and we want him to be here his whole career. It was very important to get this done.”
While Spurgeon said he didn’t think about free agency and always wanted to stay in Minnesota, Guerin also made him feel important and the message he relayed about his plan for the organization resonated with Spurgeon.
“He talked to me about the vision he has, and he’s won as a player and in management,” Spurgeon said. “To be in one spot as a player your entire career is a pretty cool thing. Ever since I’ve been here, all I wanted to do is win here. So I’m not sure why you’d want to leave.”
At $7,575,000, Spurgeon’s cap hit will be the highest on the team next season and it’ll rank 11th in the NHL among defensemen – a number that was in line with the other deals doled out this summer for established blue liners.
The Rangers signed Jacob Trouba to a seven-year, $56 million contract. Tyler Myers got five years for $30 million in free agency from the Canucks. And Ivan Provorov will receive $40.5 million over six years from the Flyers for his first deal after his entry-level contract.
None of these players are a perfect comparable to Spurgeon, but their contracts all highlight the rising cost of the position. Since Spurgeon has become such an integral part of the team, it made sense for the Wild to pay the price to keep him. And that can be a powerful statement.
“For the organization it's important to keep the good people around,” captain Mikko Koivu said. “He's first class on and off the ice. I think we all know his capability to play the game and what he brings each and every night, the way he battles, the way he overcomes everything like injuries and things like that. Having a quality person like he is, that's the No. 1 thing I think about as a teammate.”
Despite having a high-profile contract, Boudreau figures Spurgeon will remain under-the-radar until the Wild reaches the Stanley Cup Final.
Pursuing that stage is Spurgeon’s ambition the next eight seasons.
“There’s a lot of work left to do, but we got a great group of guys down there and a leader that’s taking us in the right direction,” he said. “So we’re all excited.”