It will be a merry Christmas in the Spurgeon household.
Jared Spurgeon became the first of the Wild’s pending restricted free agents to have his contract extended Monday when the sixth-year defenseman signed a four-year, $20.75 million contract before Monday’s game against the Dallas Stars.
Spurgeon fittingly then scored the game’s first goal unassisted.
The deal, which comes with a $5.187 million cap hit starting next season, occurred four days after his agent, Eustace King, met with Wild management. Starting in 2017-18, Spurgeon has a limited no-trade clause where he can submit a 20-team no-trade list in the second year and 10-team no-trade lists in the third and fourth years.
“We were able to secure the prime years of Jared’s career,” General Manager Chuck Fletcher said.
Spurgeon, 26, was signed by the Wild as a free agent in 2010 after the Islanders, who drafted him in the sixth round in 2008, didn’t sign him. Thirty teams passed him up in the 2010 draft, but Spurgeon has since become one of the Wild’s most important defensemen.
The smart, mobile, 5-9 blue liner’s 17 points rank second among Wild defensemen and his average nightly ice time of 22 minutes, 15 seconds ranks second on the team. He leads the Wild with 65 blocked shots and has 118 points in 327 career games.
The analytics show he has been the Wild’s best defenseman since 2013 when it comes to puck possession and scoring chances generated.
“Just an excellent hockey player,” Fletcher said. “He’s a remarkable defender for a smaller man.”
Next season, Spurgeon will be the Wild’s second-highest paid defenseman behind Ryan Suter. Those two, plus Jonas Brodin and Marco Scandella, eat up $21 million on the blue line and pending restricted free agent Matt Dumba has yet to be extended.
Fletcher said the Wild can afford each. But with Gustav Olofsson and Mike Reilly also developing, Fletcher said the blue-line depth could “absolutely” spur future trades. Fletcher specifically mentioned a lack of depth at center.
“Our defense is the strength of our team, it gives us depth and may give us the opportunity to look at different options down the road,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher said there’s no rush re-signing Dumba and Jason Zucker. Goalie Darcy Kuemper is also a pending restricted free agent, but with Devan Dubnyk in the first year of a six-year deal, a Kuemper trade in the future seems destined.
Center Erik Haula was scratched a third consecutive game since the Wild picked up veteran Jarret Stoll.
“I think there’s a mutual agreement that I’ve been playing well,” Haula said.
That’s why Haula, 24, who has two goals and two assists in 28 games, wasn’t sure when the Wild grabbed Stoll “if it was going to hurt me or help me” and was shocked when he was scratched last week against the Rangers.
“I feel Haulzy was playing good hockey,” coach Mike Yeo said. “I don’t think that he was playing necessarily great hockey, but he was playing well defensively, his penalty kill was coming along, his faceoffs were coming along. He’s not a guy by any means that we are giving up on or don’t think that he can come in and contribute and help us win hockey games.”
Mikko Koivu was named the NHL’s Third Star of the Week after eight points in three games. “I told him, he’s going to have to try to get 14 points in his next three games to try to bump it up to No. 1,” Yeo joked.