The Minnesota Wild are not letting a narrative go on until next summer.
Announced by the team on Friday morning, the Wild have signed veteran winger Mats Zuccarello to a two-year, $8.25-million contract extension that will carry a cap hit of $4.125 million through the 2025-26 season.
According to multiple reports, this new deal for Zuccarello also includes a No-Move Clause for both years.
The 36-year-old's five-year deal was set to expire after the upcoming season. As he heads into the real twilight years of his career, Zuccarello will also now be taking a significant pay cut of $1.875 million to stay in St. Paul. As of right now, Zuccarello's future cap hit of $4.125 million slots in below three of his forward teammates: Kirill Kaprizov, Matt Boldy, and Joel Eriksson Ek.
With this signing, the Wild have approximately $20.5 million of cap space next summer but with significant holes in the lineup. As it stands, Minnesota is without a second goaltender, need ot fill at least one spot on the blue line, and now Zuccarello is just one of seven forwards under contract for the 2024-25 season. There appears to be at least some forward momentum for GM Bill Guerin to re-sign one or both of Marcus Foligno and Ryan Hartman, who are also on expiring deals and hold significant roles on this team.
While some are projecting for some certain forward prospects like Marat Khusnutdinov, Liam Öhgren, and Danila Yurov to fill those holes, we do know that this Minnesota team likes to play it more safe with team building and keep familiar faces around. In the middle of last season they signed center Frederick Gaudreau to a five-year contract, and right before free agency, they re-signed Marcus Johansson to a two-year deal. They like what they know and some prospects being projected to come in and be the type of players that Foligno and Hartman are, is most likely something they are not willing to do.
Outside of the roster construction, we do know that keeping Zuccarello keeps the most important player on this team happy. Ever since Kaprizov made his NHL debut, him and Zuccarello have established a chemistry on the ice and a friendship off of it. It's not always awful to cater to the team's star.
In the last two full seasons of being on the Wild, Zuccarello has been more or less locked to Kaprizov's side on the ice. Because of that, the aging veteran has had two career years, hitting 79 points during the 2021-22 season and 67 points last season.
It's clearly working to have Zuccarello on this team, so why not have him for a little bit longer at a lower price?