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Niederreiter agrees to five-year, $26.25 million contract with Wild

Forward avoids arbitration with deal worth $5.25 million annually

by Jessi Pierce / Correspondent

Forward Nino Niederreiter agreed to terms on an five-year contract worth $26.25 million with the Minnesota Wild on Saturday. It has an average annual value of $5.25 million.

"I'm definitely very excited to be [in Minnesota] for the next five years," Niederreiter said during a conference call on Monday. "It was a long summer, a lot of thinking [and not being sure] what's going to happen. … I feel like now, I can just go and play the game and don't have to worry about the contract situation, don't have to worry about where I'm going to be the next few years."

Niederreiter, 24, who was a restricted free agent, had an NHL career-high 57 points (25 goals, 32 assists) with the Wild last season. He was scheduled to have an arbitration hearing in Toronto on Aug. 3.

"You never want to go to Toronto [arbitration] and make a deal there," Niederreiter said. "At the end of the day, I think it's a good deal for both parties."

Video: Breaking down Niederreiter's contract with the Wild

Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher said, "Nino has had a big impact on our club during the last four seasons and we're very happy to know that will continue in the future. He's grown into his role as one of the offensive leaders of this group, and his shot and net-front presence will continue to play a major role in our team's success. Nino has a great attitude and personality, and we know our fans will be as happy as we are about this news."

Niederreiter, who has scored at least 20 goals in each of the past three seasons, had 22 power-play points and three game-winning goals last season. He is the only Switzerland-born player to score 20 goals in an NHL season. Niederreiter ranked eighth among Wild forwards last season with an average of 15:04 ice time. There is potential for that time to increase as Niederreiter aims to improve areas of his game.

"Even last year, I don't think everything went perfectly smooth," Niederreiter said. "There's always been stretches in the season where I don't find the score sheet, and that's something I definitely want and need to improve on. I think I'm capable of getting [30 goals in a season] and it's something to work on."

Niederreiter was selected by the New York Islanders in the first round (No. 5) of the 2010 NHL Draft. He has 176 points (85 goals, 91 assists) in 389 NHL games, 173 of those points with the Wild. He was acquired by Minnesota from the Islanders on June 30, 2013 in a trade for forward Cal Clutterbuck and a third-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft (Eamon McAdam, No. 70).

Niederreiter completed a three-year contract he signed with the Wild on Sept. 11, 2014.

"I had quite a rough start [in my career] and I didn't know what direction I was going to be headed," said Niederreiter, who had one point in 55 games as a rookie with the Islanders in 2011-12. "Things definitely turned around when I got to Minnesota. From the get-go they gave me a nice, clear chance to evolve into a better player and I want to keep getting better.

"I know where I'm heading to and I know what I need to do to be a better player for this team and I think that's a good direction to head."

The Wild have an arbitration hearing scheduled with center Mikael Granlund on Aug. 4. They have roughly $10.5 million remaining under the NHL salary cap of $75 million. Restricted free agent forward Marcus Foligno also needs a contract.

"If you look around the League, negotiations tend to go right down to the arbitration day or the day before or the day after the hearing sometimes even," Fletcher told the Star Tribune last Wednesday. "Nothing prods progress more than a deadline."

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