The Minnesota Wild made some news Thursday ahead of their season opener against the Los Angeles Kings, signing winger Jason Pominville to a five-year contract extension worth $28 million (per Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune). The deal will keep Pominville, who will turn 31 in November, in a Wild sweater through the 2018-19 season. The two sides had expressed desire to get something done before the season started, so that looming distraction is now gone.
Pominville was acquired from the Buffalo Sabres last April in exchange for two prospects (Johan Larsson and Matthew Hackett) as well as two draft picks (a first-round pick in 2013; a second-rounder in 2014), and he made an immediate impact with nine points (four goals and five assists) in 10 regular season games before being sidelined by a concussion for the first few games of Minnesota’s first-round playoff series against the Chicago Blackhawks .
Pominville had a streak of six straight seasons with at least 20 goals and 30 assists prior to last year’s lockout-shortened campaign, so he should be an important part of Minnesota’s offensive attack this year. The Wild ranked 24th in the league in goals scored last season with 122, and only Zach Parise (18) had more than 15 goals. So Pominville’s presence for a full season adds some needed scoring punch for a team that has routinely struggled to put the puck in the back of the net.
Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher had to keep Pominville in the fold long-term with what it took to acquire him last spring, and now the speculation will start in full force about the team’s chances to sign Thomas Vanek, who played collegiately at the University of Minnesota and will be a free agent next summer. Pominville and Vanek played together in Buffalo, and are friends off the ice. But that does not take into account Minnesota’s salary cap situation, which is sure to be difficult in the midst of the contracts Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter signed in July of 2012.
When considering other long-term contracts players have gotten around the league recently, the Wild got a relative bargain by securing Pominville for less than $6 million (average annual value) per season as they try to reach the heightened expectations surrounding the franchise. But he will turn 36 years old during the final season of the deal, and how long he’ll be able to maintain the production he has shown throughout his career is a big question.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.