The Wild struggled to put Ryan Donato in a position to succeed, so it gave him that opportunity with another team, trading the forward to the Sharks on Monday for a 2021 third-round pick.
“It was better for his career to get a fresh start somewhere else,” General Manager Bill Guerin said.
Donato, 24, signed a two-year, $3.8 million contract last summer with the Wild after being acquired in the Charlie Coyle trade with Boston in February 2019, but he never found a permanent home in the lineup.
He bounced between wing and center and was up and down the lineup, ultimately settling on the fourth line. Even so, he still managed a career-high 14 goals — all of which came at even strength — and he added nine assists through 62 regular-season games last season.
The third-round pick in 2021 originally belonged to Pittsburgh; the Wild also has Pittsburgh’s No. 1 pick in 2021 as part of the Jason Zucker trade.
Soucy gets hefty raise
Defenseman Carson Soucy, who was eligible to become an unrestricted free agent Friday, signed a three-year, $8.25 million deal.
Even though he was a rookie last season, Soucy gained free-agent eligibility because his NHL service time is less than 76 games after completing three pro seasons and being older than 25. The 26-year-old chipped in seven goals and seven assists and was a plus-16 through 55 regular-season games before getting sidelined with a broken wrist.
Still, he morphed into a reliable member of the Wild’s defense despite being a long shot to even make the team out of training camp.
“Minnesota was kind of always my first choice,” said Soucy, who played four seasons at Minnesota Duluth and was originally drafted by the Wild in the fifth round in 2013. “Familiarity is nice.”
Barring a trade, potentially involving Matt Dumba, the Wild’s defense is essentially set for next season. The top four are under contract, as is Brad Hunt, who played on the third pairing next to Soucy with Greg Pateryn injured for most of last season. Pateryn is also signed through 2020-21.
“We wanted him back,” Guerin said of Soucy. “I really feel like we came out with a fair deal, and both sides are happy.”
By being a pending UFA instead of a restricted free agent, Soucy likely earned an extra $1 million per year.
Restricted free agent center Nico Sturm got a two-year, $1.45 million deal that will pay him the same salary whether he’s in Iowa or in the NHL, but the plan is for him to stick with the Wild.
“He brings speed and size,” Guerin said. “He’s got great energy. He’s a great skater, and we’re happy to have him back.”
Sturm, 25, skated in six regular-season games last season with the Wild, making his NHL debut and recording his first career point. He also appeared in two games during the team’s qualifying-round series against Vancouver, scoring his first NHL goal in Game 4 to become the second player in franchise history (behind Jordan Greenway) to record his first career goal in the playoffs.
In 55 games with Iowa in the American Hockey League, Sturm tallied 12 goals and 20 assists. He signed as a free agent with the Wild in 2019 after three seasons at Clarkson.
“I have a lot of untapped potential offensively,” said Sturm, who is spending the offseason focusing on his shot and working with a skating coach.