Wild sign 2010 first round pick Mikael Granlund to three-year deal
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The Minnesota Wild announced Wednesday they have officially signed Mikael Granlund, the team's first round pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, to a three-year, entry-level contract.
The finalization of Granlund's deal ended ongoing speculation of when or if he would join the Wild. After being selected with the ninth overall selection in 2010, Granlund chose to remain in his native country of Finland in order to complete his government mandated military service and finish high school. Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher said he was not worried about the delay.
"Mikael made it very clear to us last summer that there were some things that he needed to take care of," Fletcher said on a conference call Wednesday. "We've had a very good relationship for two seasons, so there was really never any concern on our part. Frankly, we don't want to rush young players into the NHL. We want to make sure we give them every opportunity to be successful when they get here."
The 20-year-old Granlund has spent the last three years becoming a breakout star for HIFK Helsinki of the Finnish Elite League. Though he missed part of last season due to injury, he totaled 51 points (20 goals, 31 assists) to rank sixth in the league in scoring and seventh in assists. In three seasons in Finland, he combined for 41 goals and 86 assists.
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound forward will be expected to add a jolt to the Wild's sputtering offense next year -- the Wild posted an NHL worst 2.02 goals per game average last season. Fletcher indicated that the team intends to insert Granlund into the lineup right away.
"We are projecting based on what we've seen. I think certainly he's ready to play in the NHL," Fletcher said. "Our expectation is that he'll play for our club next year and contribute."
Fletcher wouldn't say whether the Wild plan to use Granlund as a center or a wing, stating that that decision would be left to coach Mike Yeo when training camp begins this fall. Granlund has played both positions throughout his short career.
Granlund will be in familiar company next season as he transitions to life in the NHL. He has developed a close friendship with Wild captain Mikko Koivu. The pair has played alongside each other on the Finland national team in the last two IIHF World Championships.
"He's been great," Granlund said when asked about Koivu's role in easing any concerns about moving on to the NHL. "I'm just looking forward to playing there. Hopefully everything goes well. I think it is a big help for me that Mikko is there."
Granlund's contract is reportedly worth $2.7 million, including a $90,000 annual signing bonus.