Wild sign Joel Eriksson Ek to 8-year, $42M extension

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ST. PAUL, MN - MAY 22: Joel Eriksson Ek #14 of the Minnesota Wild skates with the puck against the Vegas Golden Knights in the first period in Game Four of the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Xcel Energy Center on May 22, 2021 in St Paul, Minnesota. The Golden Knights defeated the Wild 4-0. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
Joel Eriksson Ek and the Minnesota Wild agreed to a 8-year extension worth $42 million. (David Berding/Getty Images)

The Minnesota Wild have a busy summer ahead of them but they shortened their to-do list on Friday.

Announced by the team, center and restricted free agent Joel Eriksson Ek has signed a new eight-year, $42-million extension that carries a $5.25-million cap hit.

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The longest contract handed out by the Wild since signing Ryan Suter and Zach Parise to 13-year deals in 2012, back when teams were able to lock up players for that long. It is also the first time Minnesota has used the ability to sign their own player to a maximum term extension, since the eight-year rule was established after the 2012-13 lockout.

Eriksson Ek, 24, has exploded on the scene as one of the league’s best two-way forwards after scoring a career-high 19 goals and 30 points through 56 games this season. Always a top-tier defensive forward, the contribution at both ends of the ice earned him fourth place in the most recent Selke Trophy voting.

The 20th pick of the 2015 draft has steadily seen his minutes and role in Minnesota increase over his five seasons, finally earning the trust to be a top-six center on a team that surprised most after finishing the regular season with a 35-16-5 record, finishing ninth in the overall league standings.

Eriksson Ek was set to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2023-24 season, so this new deal buys a total of five free agency years from the Swedish center.

For Minnesota and GM Bill Guerin, the remaining hurdles to having a very successful offseason is certainly other restricted free agent forwards Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala — the Wild’s top two offensive talents.

After displaying his electrifying talents, earning himself an almost unanimous Calder Trophy win, Kaprizov is set to get a significant pay raise that has been controversial as of late. After rumours of the KHL sniffing around the situation, Kaprizov and his agent Paul Theofanous made it clear that they would prefer a short-term deal to maximize his future earning potential, instead of signing an Eriksson Ek-esque contract.

For Fiala, he might be considered third fiddle after the other two young forwards. He has certainly been productive — scoring 20 goals and 40 points last season — but with $16 million in cap space and just 15 players signed on their first-team roster after Eriksson Ek’s extension, filling out the lineup can be more challenging than previously thought. It also doesn’t help that the Wild are one of the teams reportedly in on disgruntled Buffalo Sabres star center Jack Eichel.

It’s going to be an eventful offseason in the State of Hockey.

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