LOS ANGELES – At the beginning of his career, Ryan Hartman envisioned sticking with one team.
Instead, the opposite happened.
He debuted with Chicago, was traded to Nashville and then shipped to Philadelphia. Hartman even had a brief layover in Dallas despite not suiting up for the Stars; they didn't retain his rights after acquiring him in a trade with the Flyers, giving Hartman the freedom to choose his next destination.
The forward picked the Wild, and now he has a chance to discover the stability he pictured after signing a three-year, $5.1 million extension on Thursday that kicks in next season.
"It's really exciting," he said. "I want to be here. I know what this team is capable of, and I see a really bright future."
This new deal actually has a lower average annual salary than the two-year, $3.8 million contract Hartman signed in 2019 as a free agent even though the 26-year-old could have received a raise as a pending restricted free agent with arbitration rights.
But Hartman felt if he waited to negotiate, he ran the risk of not being re-signed.
"Earlier in my career, that's what's gotten me traded a few times was looking for more and expecting more," he said. "Not that I'm not happy with what we agreed upon. I'm extremely happy."
General Manager Bill Guerin said Hartman "gave a little bit on the salary and we gave a little bit on the term," and that's why the contract works. Hartman's agent reached out a couple of months ago to see if the Wild was interested in hashing out a deal, and Guerin said he jumped at the opportunity, which led to the team securing some cost certainty amid a flat salary cap.
"He's kind of one of the centerpiece guys in this evolving core," said Guerin, who believes Hartman still hasn't reached his full potential. "You can tell. He's kind of in the thick of things. He wants to be here. He wants to be part of building something special here. We love that about him.
"He's just a good guy. He's just an honest hardworking tough kid. He drives the same F-150 [pickup] that he bought with his signing bonus."
Since moving from right wing to center earlier this season, Hartman's influence on the Wild has increased and he's one of the team's most versatile players, offering secondary scoring and being an option for the power play and a regular penalty killer.
"This is the first team that's given me the opportunity to kill penalties, which I think is a big part of my game," Hartman said. "It's opened up opportunities for me elsewhere. I wouldn't have signed here if I wasn't happy with my role here. I appreciate the opportunity."
He's also brought grit and a competitive edge to the lineup and contributing to a team that's hard to play against is what appealed to Hartman when he initially signed with the Wild.
And his girlfriend, Lauren, is from Lakeville.
This new contract, the longest he's had since his entry-level deal, could help him settle in even more.
"To be honest, money doesn't really matter," Hartman said. "It's winning. You can make as much money on your career and if you don't have anything to show for it, what's the point really in my mind.
"I saw where this team is heading. I know what this group has and how special it is. I think we're very confident here and that was a big reason of staying around."
Guerin said "there's no real rush" to sign Kirill Kaprizov, Kevin Fiala and Joel Eriksson Ek, the other youngsters up for new deals after this season.
Although he's talked to Kaprizov's agent, Guerin said they haven't spoken in a while. He hasn't started talks with agents for Fiala and Eriksson Ek.
"Hopefully we can get all those guys signed," Guerin said.
Nick Bjugstad has been cleared to return from an upper-body injury suffered April 5, but he didn't play Friday against the Kings.