The Minnesota Wild made a significant re-signing on Friday afternoon when they announced a new eight-year contract for forward Joel Eriksson Ek.
A restricted free agent this offseason, Eriksson Ek’s deal is worth $42 million over the full term of the contract, coming out to a $5.25 million salary cap hit through the 2028-29 season.
On the surface that might seem like a risky deal for a forward that isn’t known for his offense and has never recorded more than 30 points in a single season. But there are a few things to keep in mind here when analyzing the signing in that context.
The first is that Eriksson Ek’s offense has improved in each of his four full seasons in the NHL, topping out this past season at 19 goals and 30 points in 56 games for the Wild.
Over the course of an 82-game season that would come out to a 27-goal, 45-point pace. Even better, he did that almost entirely at even-strength, playing just over 60 minutes on the power play all season and scoring all 19 of his goals at even-strength.
His 1.37 goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 this season is the seventh best rate in the league (minimum 500 minutes of ice time). So his offense has been on the rise every year, and he is just now entering his age 25 season meaning he should be right in the middle of his peak years offensively.
But his value extends far beyond just the offensive side of the game.
Eriksson Ek has also become one of the best defensive forwards in the league and is coming off of a 2020-21 season where he finished fourth in the Selke Trophy voting.
When you combine elite defense, steadily improving offense, and what should be an increased role it gets easy to see why the Wild would want to make such an investment.
There is always an element of risk with an eight-year contract, especially for a player that is not a superstar, but Eriksson Ek is clearly a player the Wild view as a core piece. He clearly is. They paid him as such.
Now that his deal is signed the priority for Minnesota this offseason will switch to re-signing its other two significant restricted free agent forwards, Kevin Fiala and Calder Trophy winner Kirill Kaprizov.