DETROIT – Look no further than Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s recent six-year, $33 million extension with Phoenix as one reason why the Wild will have to be cautious adding expensive, long-term contracts via free agency or trades the next few years.
For instance, if Jonas Brodin develops the way the Wild expects, he could compare to Ekman-Larsson when Brodin’s entry-level deal expires in two years. The early signs under the new collective bargaining agreement are that second contracts will still be lucrative, if not inflated.
With prospects like Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker, Mikael Granlund and even Johan Larsson, Brett Bulmer and Zack Phillips all on entry-level deals at the same time — and Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella at the end of entry-level deals — the Wild has to be able to afford to re-sign its own in a few years.
“I don’t know if it precludes us from making every move, but I don’t know how smart it would be to take on a lot more long-term commitments at this point,” General Manager Chuck Fletcher said. “Certainly you can go out and add a player that is on a shorter term type of contract.
“But it’s something we’ve been looking at for a while. You always want to stay ahead of it, but everyone’s going to mature at different stages.”
The big issue with long-term deals is teams usually are paying more on projection than production.
“Sometimes you want to get ahead of the curve and get into these long-term deals and project what guys are going to do and pay them as you think they’ll progress,” Fletcher said. “We’ve just got to make sure we avoid bad contracts just to keep our flexibility. There’s going to be that tension, who do you try to go long-term with and how do you stagger the contracts, but we’ll figure it out.”
In the NHL, players can’t have contracts extended until the last year of their deals, so the Wild doesn’t have to start worrying about re-signing its top prospects for some time.
The contracts for Brodin, Coyle, Larsson, Bulmer and Phillips don’t expire until June 30, 2015.
Because Zucker’s contract began last year, he is the only one of the blue-chippers whose contract expires June 30, 2014.
Defenseman Tom Gilbert and left wing Mike Rupp each missed a second consecutive game with lower-body injuries Wednesday in Detroit. The Wild’s lone healthy scratch was recently signed Brett Clark.
Clark, who initially needed quality practice time, continues to wait because coach Mike Yeo has been happy with the blue line and because he felt Nate Prosser deserved another chance.
The Wild is 9-4 with Prosser in the lineup (8-6-2 without), and he has been on the ice for two goals all year.
“Pross has done a really good job for us this year, and we haven’t given him anything. He’s had to work for everything,” Yeo said. “We want to get Clarkie in there, for sure, but the guys that are in there have been doing a good job, so they deserve to stay in.”
A report on the Finnish website Suomikiekko says Karpat Oulu of the Finnish Elite League is trying to sign two-time Gophers leading scorer and Wild prospect Erik Haula.
Wild assistant GM Brent Flahr said the Wild isn’t worried and knows Haula’s goal is to play in the NHL. Flahr wouldn’t comment about it, but it is likely the Wild will sign the junior center after the Gophers’ season ends.