Jason Pominville told none of his teammates. So moments before the Wild’s first morning skate of the season Thursday, coach Mike Yeo spilled the beans.
Yeo told players he knew somebody “who might be able to afford to buy you guys lunch.”
With that, Pominville received a joyous celebratory stick tap from his comrades after signing a five-year, $28 million contract extension that could keep the two-way winger in Minnesota through 2018-19.
“I’m just really excited to be a part of this group for the next six years,” said the 30-year-old Pominville, adding that his family “can say that this is home now.”
The former Buffalo Sabres captain wanted to avoid distractions this season by getting an extension agreed to before Thursday’s opener. As linemate Zach Parise said: “Now that it’s finally done, he can relax and just play. It’s a big signing for us.”
Pominville, who has hit the 30-goal plateau twice and has scored 189 goals and 465 points in 589 games, has reached or exceeded 20 goals six times and 60 points five times in his career. Among the roughly dozen Pominville “comparables” who make between $4.85 million and $8.63 million annually with contracts that end when they’re between 35 and 37 years old, Pominville is the only one to accomplish that.
Since 2007-08, Pominville is tied for 19th in the NHL with 230 assists and 26th with 367 points. Since 2006-07, he ranks 28th with 171 goals. He has missed 16 games because of injury in his entire career.
Pominville said he believes in the Wild’s future and was impressed by last year’s commitment to Parise and Ryan Suter.
“The addition of those guys will probably help bring more guys here,” Pominville said. “When you see a team that’s heading in that direction, I mean, why wouldn’t you want to be here? … We’re fortunate to get it done, and hopefully we can add some more pieces to the puzzle to make it even better.”
One player the Wild might pursue next summer is Pominville’s former Sabres linemate and close friend, former Gophers star Thomas Vanek. General Manager Chuck Fletcher can’t talk about specific free agents, but he said the Pominville signing doesn’t inhibit the Wild from re-signing its own youngsters or pursuing free agents the next couple of summers.
The Wild had been negotiating with Pominville’s agent for eight weeks. It picked up steam the past few days.
The annual salary cap hit will be $5.6 million — a $300,000 annual raise on his previous contract, which expires next summer. The new contact includes a limited no-trade clause.
In April, Fletcher traded two prospects and a first- and second-round pick to get Pominville. He said that didn’t apply added pressure to sign Pominville long-term.
“Not every draft pick becomes a prospect, not every prospect becomes a player, not every player becomes a captain in the NHL that’s [26th] in the league in scoring since 2007,” Fletcher said. “He’s a good hockey player and to get a good hockey player, you have to pay a price, and to me, the assets we gave up, we already gave them up and we’ve moved on and it was more important for me to sign him from the standpoint that he’s a quality player and one of the better forwards in the league and he wanted to stay and we wanted him to stay.”