Minnesota is banking on Mikael Granlund repeating last season's breakout campaign, no matter what position or who he plays with.
With the re-signing of Mikael Granlund, the Minnesota Wild have just purchased what should be the peak years of the Finnish forward’s career. Granlund, 25, just inked a new three-year pact that comes with an annual cap hit of $5.7 million – a fair sum for a player who broke out last season and promises to have more in the tank.
“People across the league are now surely aware of what our management group has always known: Mikael has a tremendous level of talent and skill,” said GM Chuck Fletcher. “Coupled with his excellent work ethic and tremendous character, we know he'll play a large role in the future success of our team.”
Though Granlund can play center, he was largely a winger this past season, flanking fellow Finn Mikko Koivu. The pair had great success and Granlund hit career highs in all offensive categories with 26 goals, 43 assists and 69 points.
Taken ninth overall by Minnesota in 2010, Granlund bore a lot of weight on his shoulders after helping Finland win the World Championship in 2011. The fact he was still eligible for the world juniors a year later should give you an idea of how advanced he was, but he couldn’t help Finland get past Canada for bronze at the WJC, even though he had a personally great tournament.
Granlund continued to dominate in Finland for the rest of that 2011-12 campaign while playing for Helsinki’s HIFK franchise, and soon made his way over to North America. Between time in the AHL and becoming a full-fledged member of Minnesota, the gifted passer was always a solid member of the Wild, but this past season really saw him break out.
Now, the question is: how much better can he become? Is Granlund a 75-point player on the Wild; maybe even higher? Or should we expect him to be more in the 60-point range for the rest of his career? Obviously linemates will be a consideration and Koivu has just two years left on his deal with Minnesota. Where the veteran goes from there (and what his role on the team is) naturally remains to be seen.
But Minnesota does have some nice weapons coming up in the future, from Joel Eriksson-Ek, Jordan Greenway and Luke Kunin to the electrifying Kirill Kaprizov (rumors of a KHL contract extension are out there, but the Wild have no knowledge of it and the KHL’s official website doesn’t list it).
So Granlund will serve his prime years with a lot of options. Does he do so at center, or on the wing? That’s obviously up to coach Bruce Boudreau to determine. Granlund played a ton of center in 2015-16 and wasn’t great on draws, but did play decent possession hockey.
With his mind for the game, there should be plenty of opportunities for offense in the coming years. While there will be some pressure for him to take another step, it’s nothing Granlund hasn’t gone through before: he survived the hype of being Finland’s golden boy when he was still a teenager and came out of it alive.
Minnesota has an impressive lineup now and it may even get better in the next year or two. Count on Granlund being a key element once again.
“There’s always room to improve, but the biggest thing is for our team to make a deep playoff run,” he said. “Personally, that’s my goal. We want to do some damage.”