If you looked solely at Eric Staal's career trajectory at the time the Wild signed him this past offseason, there certainly were some Dany Heatley-esque and Thomas Vanek-esque red flags. Staal, 32, was coming off a disappointing season. He looked to be on the decline.

Halfway into this successful Wild season, though, signing Staal to a three-year, $10.5 million contract appears to be a smart bargain on the part of the Wild. Staal has 15 goals and 24 assists for 39 points. He didn't get a point Sunday in Chicago, but before that he had registered at least one point in 17 of the previous 18 Wild victories.

Goalie Devan Dubnyk and improved depth across all four lines are huge reasons for the Wild success this season, but Staal is also near the top of that list.

So far — and again, we're half a season into a three-year contract — it looks like one of the best free agent signings in terms of production vs. cost in recent Minnesota sports history.

Read Michael Rand's blog at startribune.com/randball. mrand@startribune.com