After the Wild snagged right wingers Mats Zuccarello and Ryan Hartman in free agency earlier this month, the team seemed set for the summer — especially since it had more possibilities at forward than lineup spots available.
But there was still work to be done to ensure everyone made it back for next season, a process the Wild began Tuesday when it re-signed restricted free agents Ryan Donato, Nico Sturm and Carson Soucy.
Donato is locked up for two years at $3.8 million, and Sturm ($874,125/$70,000) and Soucy ($750,000/$125,000) landed one-year, two-way contracts.
These moves leave forwards Joel Eriksson Ek and Kevin Fiala and defensemen Louie Belpedio and Hunter Warner as the team’s only unsigned RFAs.
Of the three who signed, Donato had the most ice time with the Wild last season and is poised to resume his post as a regular in 2019-20 after the team acquired him in a pre-deadline trade to add more youth. Where Donato slots, though, is unclear; a left shot, he could play on the right side — a flexibility that may end up helping him carve out a niche amid a crowded depth chart.
And if Donato picks up where he left off last season, it’d make sense for that role to be in the top nine. In 22 games after the trade that sent forward Charlie Coyle to Boston, Donato racked up four goals and 16 points — including six multi-point efforts.
What stood out the most was his shoot-first mentality, a welcome approach for a Wild offense that struggled to produce. Not only did he tie for second in shots per game (2.5) among NHL rookies, but Donato also finished seventh in overall shots (139) for the season despite playing just 56 games. He also led NHL rookies in scoring after Feb. 21.
A former standout with Harvard who was a Hobey Baker Award finalist in 2018, Donato was drafted in the second round (56th overall) by the Bruins in 2014. The 23-year-old will be a RFA when this contract expires.
Sturm was another second-half addition to the Wild, signing a one-year, entry-level contract after leading Clarkson University in scoring with 45 points in 39 games. The center appeared in two games with the Wild, putting seven shots on net, and he’ll compete for a roster spot at training camp in September after spending a chunk of the summer training in the Twin Cities.
Once Eriksson Ek and Fiala are re-signed, the Wild could have 15 forwards in the mix for 12 jobs. Sturm would be a more feasible candidate if captain Mikko Koivu isn’t ready to return from a torn ACL and meniscus, but it’s possible Sturm reports to the American Hockey League.
That’s also where Soucy likely will be headed since the Wild’s defense is stacked with returning veterans.
Soucy spent last season in Iowa, totaling five goals and 20 points in 66 games. A fifth-round pick (137th overall) in 2013, the 24-year-old Minnesota Duluth product has skated in three games with the Wild and has 35 points in 136 career games with Iowa.