MINNEAPOLIS - Joel Eriksson Ek sees the start of something big on the horizon after the Minnesota Wild made the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the seventh time in nine seasons to finish 2021.
He wanted to make sure he’s a part of what the future may hold for the Wild. Coming off one of the best seasons of his career, Eriksson Ek late last week signed an eight-year extension to stay in Minnesota. The deal is worth $42 million, and the 24-year-old is now under contract through the 2028-29 season.
In a Zoom session with reporters last Friday, Wild GM Bill Guerin said it took just three days to reach a long-term agreement with Eriksson Ek.
"We like the player obviously. We like the person. It just shows how much Joel wants to be here and his commitment to the team. When you see the way he played this year and you see how he played in the playoffs, it was kind of a no-brainer for us," Guerin said.
Eriksson Ek recorded a career-high 30 points last season, including 19 goals, in a 56-game regular season shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He set career-highs in goals, plus-minus rating and time on ice per game. He also led the Wild with 395 face-offs won, was second with 105 hits and third in goals and shots.
He was one of three players to skate in every game.
"The strides we took last year, I really liked the team we have. I think we can build something really good. I like it there and I like where our team is heading," Eriksson Ek said.
Eriksson Ek also had three points, including two goals, in the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Vegas Golden Knights. One of them was the overtime game-winner to steal Game 1 in Las Vegas.
In 266 career games, Erikson Ek has 96 points, including 43 goals and nine game-winning goals.
"It’s a little more real what we are starting to build, and people want to stay around. The atmosphere around our team last year felt different. Just want to keep being a part of it and start to build to get even better," Eriksson Ek said.
It wasn’t the only move Guerin and the Wild made last week. The team is bringing back Blaine native and former University of Minnesota standout Nick Bjugstad on a one-year, $900,000 contract.
Bjugstad had 17 points, including six goals and three game-winning goals, 48 hits and 22 blocked shots in 44 games last season. He had 13 of his 17 points, and all three game-winning goals, at Xcel Energy Center.
The moves come on the heels of signing Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon and Marcus Foligno to new contracts before last season. Guerin has more work to do, trying to keep Kevin Fiala and Kirill Kaprizov in Minnesota long-term.
Fiala and Kaprizov were the Wild’s top two scorers last season. Kaprizov set rookie franchise records with 27 goals and 51 points in the regular season. Last week, he got 99 of 100 first-place votes to win the Calder Trophy, which goes to the NHL’s top rookie.
Guerin said talks with both are ongoing.