Charlie Coyle (Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Minnesota Wild signed RFA winger Charlie Coyle to a five-year contract extension Wednesday, leaving highly-touted young center Mikael Granlund as the biggest RFA target still to lock up.
The Minnesota Wild locked up another young talent Wednesday, signing right winger Charlie Coyle to a five-year, $16-million contract extension with an average annual value of $3.2 million. The deal is the second major extension handed out this month by GM Chuck Fletcher to a pending restricted free agent: on Oct. 12, he signed defenseman Jonas Brodin to a six-year, $25-million deal – and that leaves 22-year-old center Mikael Granlund as the organization's biggest RFA concern this season.
As is the case with Brodin, Fletcher’s investment in the 22-year-old Coyle, who in his first full NHL season posted 12 goals and 30 points in 70 games, is not outrageous. He has slowly and steadily grown his game, and his 6-foot-3 size, skill and resolve – remember, this is someone who played with two separated shoulders in last year’s post-season – bode well for his employer’s future. A less than maximum-term-length contract also encourages Coyle to be motivated to cash in on another big-bucks pact in his prime. Fletcher has limited his risk with the new deal and put the team in a good position to reap a lot of value out of Coyle if he continues to improve.
Now comes the biggest challenge of all: signing Granlund, Minnesota’s long-touted Finnish sensation who scored eight goals and 41 points in his sophomore NHL campaign.
Selected ninth overall by the Wild in 2010, Granlund has been regarded as the crown jewel in the system and will command at least as much as Coyle. But he also hasn't done enough so far to break the bank on a long-term deal, and may choose to sign a contract even shorter than Coyle's to give himself more leverage at the negotiating table.
The Wild are estimated to have approximately $12.4 million in available salary cap space after Coyle's contract; with that amount, they'll need to address Granlund, soon-to-be RFA defenseman Marco Scandella and RFA winger Erik Haula and fill a few roster holes here and there. It's going to be tight, but Fletcher has demonstrated a willingness to make trades and likely will have to do so again.
For now, though, the biggest cap question is clear: how much – and how long – for Granlund?