Exactly one year ago, Jared Spurgeon signed a four-year contract extension. A year before that, Marco Scandella signed for five more years.
Don’t expect similar middle-of-the-season contract extensions for the Wild’s two biggest potential restricted free agents, Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund, this season.
General Manager Chuck Fletcher said Tuesday his strategy as of this moment is to save that portion of his to-do list for the summertime.
“The only focus right now is having the best season we can have,” Fletcher said. “We’ll deal with those contracts in the summer. We have expansion we have to deal with, so there’s still a lot of things we have to contend with after the season.
“I’ve purposely just tried to keep all those discussions to the end of the year.”
Fletcher said from a salary-cap standpoint, if the Wild wants to keep both players, it’ll find a way to afford both.
“We’ve always found a way to keep the players we wanted to keep,” Fletcher said.
Niederreiter and Granlund have arbitration rights in July, so Fletcher believes that will spur a quick resolution for one- or two-year arbitration awards or long-term contracts. Asked what makes Niederreiter’s and Granlund’s situations different from extending Scandella and Spurgeon in-season, Fletcher said, “Sometimes those contracts go well and they happen quickly and sometimes they don’t happen quickly, and when they don’t happen quickly, I just think it becomes a distraction. We’ll have plenty of time.”
Niederreiter has eight goals and 20 points in 31 games. Granlund has seven goals and 21 points in 31 games.
But 31 games doesn’t make a season, Fletcher said.
“I don’t think we’ve seen their peak yet, but they continue to get better,” Fletcher said. “But the key thing with these players, we’ve seen them have great stretches before over the last two or three seasons, but it’s just that consistency. We’re 30 games into an 82-game season, so right now we’re really happy with what we’ve seen.’’
Pat Cannone became the second-oldest player in Wild history to make his NHL debut Tuesday against Colorado. Lubomir Sekeras was 31 when he debuted in 2000. Coach Bruce Boudreau has a soft spot for minor league debuts.
“Well, I was there for 33 years,” said Boudreau of his seasons as a minor league player and coach. “I sort of get to like those guys. It’ll make everybody in Iowa better knowing they all have opportunities to play in the NHL if they play well.”
Cannone played because center Erik Haula (lower body injury) is out. While Haula’s injury isn’t expected to sideline him long-term, Boudreau expects him to miss at least the back-to-back games at Montreal and the New York Rangers. The Wild is not permitted to practice Saturday to Monday, but Boudreau said, “Sometimes not skating is going to let everything heal even better.”
• Defenseman Nate Prosser, scratched for three games since Christian Folin returned from a knee injury, replaced Folin in Tuesday’s lineup. “He played really well,” Boudreau said of Prosser. Folin will play on the road trip, Boudreau said.
• The Wild recalled right winger Jordan Schroeder from Iowa for the upcoming trip.
• The Wild and KFAN (100.3-FM) announced a three-year extension through 2019-20. KFAN has been the Wild’s radio partner for six seasons.