MINNEAPOLIS – The clock was ticking for the Minnesota Wild and free agent right wing Nino Niederreiter with the opening of training camp a week away.
Deadlines often spur action, and that’s exactly what happened Thursday when the Wild signed Niederreiter to a three-year contract. The two sides went back and forth all summer long, with Russia looming as a possible Plan B for the 22-year-old forward who scored the series-clinching goal in overtime of Game 7 to beat the Colorado Avalanche in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.
But with the Wild due to report for training camp Sept. 18, general manager Chuck Fletcher was able to lock a deal in with one of the team’s many up-and-coming players.
“I’m excited and happy to stay a part of the WILD family,” Niederreiter tweeted after signing what the Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported was an $8 million deal.
Niederreiter was acquired in a trade from the New York Islanders last summer and blossomed into a promising power forward in his first season in Minnesota. He scored a career-high 14 goals and had 22 assists to help the Wild reach the playoffs.
He was huge in that Game 7 win over the Avalanche, scoring two goals and assisting on the other in a 3-2 victory.
The signing leaves goalie Darcy Kuemper as the Wild’s lone remaining free agent.
Goaltending is the biggest question mark for a team that added Thomas Vanek to help beef up its offence and is hoping to make a deep run in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Josh Harding is trying to play despite being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and Niklas Backstrom has battled injuries the last few seasons.
The 24-year-old Kuemper went 12-8 with a 2.43 goals-against average last season.