Marcus Foligno felt like a zombie when he'd leave the ice last season.
The hernia surgery he had in mid-May corrected an issue that popped up before Christmas, a problem that hindered Foligno's skating and dulled the explosiveness in his game. Workouts were a no-go because of the pain, and Foligno channeled his focus on simply readying his body to play.
Now healed up, the winger is eyeing a return to the form he had before his health deteriorated.
That was when he was a first-time 20-goal scorer with the best shooting percentage in the NHL.
But regardless of how this next season goes, a raise is waiting for Foligno at the end of it.
The four-year, $16 million extension he signed Friday is an endorsement of who he already is, not an advance payment on potential.
"One thing that was clear with Marcus is just because you get an extension and it's more money, don't change anything," President of Hockey Operations Bill Guerin said. "You've got the contract. Just be who you are and don't put too much pressure on yourself to live up to it because that's when you just play with stress and anxiety.
"Just be who you are."
As-is Foligno gives the Wild bang for their buck being a secondary scorer, defensive specialist, physical agitator, all-around tone setter and alternate captain.
If the Wild didn't have the 32-year-old, they'd immediately be searching for someone just like him and players like him aren't a dime a dozen.
"I like our team with Marcus Foligno way better than without him," Guerin said.
Foligno, who was idle on Saturday when the Wild continued their preseason preparation with a 3-2 overtime victory over Chicago at Xcel Energy Center, felt the decision to stick around and bypass free agency was a no-brainer.
"It's just unfinished business here that I didn't really want to walk away from," said Foligno, who's wrapping up a three-year, $9.3 million deal that's his second contract with the Wild after initially coming over in a trade from Buffalo in 2017. "We have a great team, and the future's bright."
Even though his job description is staying the same, that doesn't mean Foligno can't evolve.
Over the summer, he worked on his quickness and first three steps to go from a forecheck in the corner to the front of the net. He wants to force turnovers into scoring chances and unleash more shots; finishing in the teens for goals is realistic in his mind — right in between the seven he picked up last season in 65 games and the career-high 23 he tallied in 2021-22.
What Foligno doesn't want is to have goals go against him.
To him, his creativity comes in the form of anticipating plays and preventing high-danger shots.
And in terms of leadership, what will be different without Matt Dumba, one of the team's former sparkplugs before he and the Wild parted ways during the summer, is making sure the team is "revved up." But Foligno wants everyone to speak up, not just him and captain Jared Spurgeon.
Even so, because he's involved with so many aspects of Wild, Foligno will be at the forefront, like he was in the playoffs against Dallas last April.
In Game 3, he had an electrifying goal during a blowout win, but next time out was whistled for two questionable penalties and the Stars scored on each power play to help them claim Game 4.
"It's unfortunate with the penalties because it's like, was it too aggressive?" Foligno said. "But those calls, they are what they are. They're pretty iffy if you ask me."
Then barely two minutes into Game 5, Foligno was ejected for kneeing Dallas' Radek Faksa. The Wild never reset, losing 4-0, and were eliminated in Game 6 to drop their eighth straight playoff matchup.
"Would I have that hit back? Absolutely," Foligno said. "I just don't think it was a hit I was trying to do what the outcome was."
He stewed over that series for about a month into the offseason, the shoulda, coulda, woulda eating at him.
"You're watching them play, and you're watching them go all the way to the conference finals," Foligno said. "You're just like, 'That could have been us. That should have been us.'
"You're just thinking about what could have gone differently, and a lot of things could have gone differently."
Eventually, enough was enough.
"It's time to use it as fuel and to become more aggressive this year," Foligno said. "I'm excited to make sure it doesn't happen again."