The Minnesota Wild inked Marcus Foligno and Mats Zuccarello to contract extensions, and there’s another one comin’. At this point, it’s all but guaranteed that Ryan Hartman will be signing his new contract extension soon. Bill Guerin has done all but hung a banner outside the Xcel Energy Center saying, IT’S SIGNING HARTMAN SEASON. Between now and when the ink hits paper, we can assume Hartman will be a member of this team for many years to come.
The if is assured, the when is likely soon, so the only question is how? How much will he get on that contract, that is.
Hartman makes $1.7 million against the salary cap as a pending unrestricted free agent. Hartman flourished during his time in Minnesota. The Chicago native had a career year with 34 goals and 67 points during the 2021-22 season. But when Dean Evason broke up the top-line trio of Kirill Kaprizov, Hartman, and Mats Zuccarello last season, Hartman didn’t see nearly the same amount of success without them. Still, a down year for Hartman was still the second-best season of his career. He had 37 points in 59 games, a 51-point pace if he had played 82 games.
It’s no secret that Kaprizov’s presence revolutionized Hartman’s game. Still, the team believes he brings something to Kaprizov’s line. Hartman was back with Kaprizov and Zuccarello at the end of last season and in the playoffs. Evason just couldn’t get anyone else to stick with the top-line duo and resorted to what he knew worked.
But how much will it cost? Evolving Hockey has a tool to help predict contract extensions for players. Based on an $83.5 million cap, Evolving Hockey predicts Hartman could command six years, $38.9 million on the open market.
However, that’s just the most likely scenario with the term (the model forecasts a 25% chance at a six-year term). At four years (20%) or five (16%), that figure falls more into the $5.3 to 5.5 million per year range.
While that may seem rich, Hartman is a gritty center who’s scored 49 goals and 102 points over his last 141 games. I’m sure Hartman’s agent would love to have his client test the market. Of course, the numbers don’t always tell the entire story. Again, almost all of Hartman’s successes have come with Kaprizov on his wing.
If you think that level of money is unreachable for Hartman, let’s look at Martin Hanzal, the player Evolving Hockey lists as Hartman’s closest comparable over the last three years.
The infamous former member of the Wild was a solid depth player for most of his career. Hanzal could fill a role as a middle-six center on any team as a reliable 30- to 40-point guy. Hanzal’s biggest contract was $4,750,000 AAV for three years, coming off his stint in Minnesota. That’s not a big leap from what the projections suggest Hartman can command.
Hartman would probably be considered a Hanzal-level player now. But before he skated next to Kaprizov? Not a chance.
Hartman was incredible during that 65-point season. But as last year showed, you can’t expect that always to be who he is. Before Kaprizov, Hartman’s time in Minnesota was solid but nothing special. The Chicago native had collected 44 points across two seasons, never cracking more than ten goals.
Chandler Stephenson is the easiest comparable to Hartman. Both are 29 years old and were depth forwards with a minor role on a different team. Then they signed elsewhere, grinded it out for a few years, then finally got a chance to play with some stars and thrived in that role. Now, they are both looking to cash in on their production.
Stephenson had never scored more than 18 points before joining their new team – Hartman never more than 31. Before the 2020-21 season, Stephenson signed a $2.75 million deal with the Vegas Golden Knights after serving as a valuable depth option for the Washington Capitals.
Stephenson got to play with Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, Alex Tuch, Jonathan Marchessault, and Jack Eichel. All of them are premier offensive talents. Speaking of “elite,” we must mention a pair of star offensive defensemen: Shea Theodore and Alex Pietrangelo. That isn’t to discredit Stephenson as a player. The Saskatoon native is very effective in his role. But it appears clear that the players around him have elevated his production, just like Hartman.
The Wild should not be paying Hartman for the player he is with Kaprizov. The Wild need to pay Hartman for the player he is individually. Hartman won’t always play with Kaprizov. Or at least, he better not be. The player Hartman is without Kaprizov is not worth nearly as much as the Hartman we’ve seen these past two years.
So, yes, those Evolving Hockey contract predictions are a bit too high on Hartman. Guerin has given some favorable contracts to “his guys,” but signing Ryan Hartman to a long-term deal approaching $6 million would have people storming the gates of 317 Washington trying to get some of that money Guerin is giving away.
Hartman probably realizes that he won’t get to be with Kaprizov forever and has also stated he wants to stay in Minnesota. Hartman just got married and is looking to settle down. It seems like a recipe for him to, once again, trade money for security by signing a longer-term deal that lowers the AAV. Maybe even one that tries to get less money in the short term but guarantees himself a bigger payout for the long haul. The Wild probably see it that way, too. Minnesota has also shown they have no problem extending players into their mid-to-late-30s.
Hartman earning an AAV somewhere in the $3-4 million range feels most reasonable, and it’s a deserved raise for his quality of play. A four-or-five year deal approaching the $20-25 million range would not be surprising. But even a reasonable outcome would be concerning.
Not by itself, necessarily, but coupling a Hartman deal with the Foligno extension is a bit nerve-wracking. Hopefully, when Marco Rossi (or someone else) steps into that No. 1 Center role, that will relegate Hartman to bottom-six duties. But then, the Wild will have two bottom-sixers making $4 million or more signed through their mid-30s. That definitely isn’t the most efficient or marketable commodity.
But, like it or not, none of us are the general manager, and this seems to be a fait accompli. For better or worse, Hartman will be a member of the Wild for the foreseeable future, and his name will have a bigger price tag attached to it. We all might as well get used to it.
All stats and data via Evolving Hockey and HockeyDB unless otherwise noted.
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