Mikael Granlund, fresh off his brand-new three-year, $17.25 million deal, spoke on a conference call earlier today.
Obviously excited about his new pact but mostly talked about his desire to see the Wild to take the next step as an organization and go on a deeper playoff run. That’s something he mentioned four or five times.
The Wild has made the playoffs five years in a row but has only been past the first round twice and only won one playoff game this past spring.
Jim Souhan’s writing a Wild column for Thursday’s paper, but I wanted to toss up a blog with Granlund’s thoughts on his new deal.
Granlund, 25, who scored a career-high 26 goals and team-leading 69 points last season, said there’s always room for him to improve defensively, but “the biggest thing is just to as a team, I really want us to make a deeper playoff runs. Obviously we need to make the playoffs first, but we have a really good group of guys and we can make some damage in the playoffs. I think that’s my, personally, my biggest goal to help team success and hopefully we can make something special next year.”
I explained in today’s article here the reasoning for going three years with Granlund as opposed to longer (also in the article, what’s going on with Marcus Foligno).
For one, Granlund’s side didn’t want the length to go too too too long for the reason spelled out in the article, so please check that out if you’re confused by the term.
Out of curiosity though, I asked Granlund for his explanation as to why he was OK with three years and not longer. He simply said he’s happy with the contract and he’d prefer to only talk about on-ice things and let the decision makers – agent Todd Diamond and GM Chuck Fletcher – talk about the contract stuff.
“I’m really happy I can stay here in Minnesota and improve the team and hopefully we can make it even better next playoffs and do some damage,” Granlund said. “But I’m really happy with my situation. I’m just happy we got the deal done.”
He said his pal and mentor Mikko Koivu already called him to “pretty much say, ‘You’re paying the next dinner.’”
(Granlund may want to remind Koivu that the captain's actually the highest-paid player on the team this season at $9+ million)
Granlund, who averaged nearly 19 minutes a night, credited Bruce Boudreau for how he was deployed last season, saying the coach was “super great. We improved a lot as a team. Individually, too, he gave me a lot of responsibility. I think I took a step as a player. Hopefully we can keep that going next year and be even better.”
It is amazing how far Granlund has come when one considers frankly how out of place he looked at times his rookie year. Remember, he looked undersized, wasn’t strong on his skates, not confident offensively. But he slowly made improvements to his skating, got used to the smaller confines of an NHL rink, showed durability by missing no regular-season games to injury the past two seasons (one scratch to rest before the playoffs in Game 82 last season in Glendale) and last season broke out dramatically.
The question: Can he build on that next season or does he take a step back?
He had a heck of a season next to Koivu and, for much of the season, Jason Zucker. Granlund did shoot a robust 14.7 percent, something that very reasonably could come back to Earth this season.
But, hey, this is the state of the league right now. Contracts continued this summer to erupt and this contract was on par with the market. Knowing Granlund’s work ethic and character, the Wild was comfortable with the risk of the money and definitely the term. Granlund still believes he can improve “every little aspect of the game,” but more so, he feels as a team it’s time for the Wild to improve every little aspect and deliver in the postseason.
“I think we’re really ready to make a deep run in the playoffs,” he said.