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Hunt hopes his hockey future remains in Minnesota

Defenseman is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent on July 1 but proved his game can stick at the NHL level

by Dan Myers @MNWildScribe / Wild.com

ST. PAUL -- For a guy that wasn't supposed to even make it this far in his hockey career, Wild defenseman Brad Hunt could reach a career crossroads on July 1, when he's scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. 

Acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights on Jan. 21, Hunt became a solid contributor down the stretch for the Wild. It wasn't that he posted eye-popping, career-best numbers. But the journeyman defenseman did bring some late-season stability to the team's second pairing with Jonas Brodin.

Not bad for a guy who was an eighth defenseman with the Golden Knights and had gotten into just 13 games over the first 3 1/2 months of the season.

Video: MIN@DAL: Hunt powers one-timer past Bishop for PPG

"It was awesome. You never want to leave a place, and I had a lot of friends in Vegas, but to come here to Minnesota -- basically a place that is my second home -- was really special," Hunt said last week during the team's locker clean out. "I'm glad I was a part of something like this and I was fortunate enough to get a really good chance here."

Now the offseason question becomes: Where will Hunt get his next chance? Could it be in Minnesota, a place that is near and dear to his and his family's heart? After a few months with the Wild, Hunt has proven his game plays at the NHL level.

Hunt was a former standout at Bemidji State University, where he met his wife, Katie, a native of Grand Rapids. The two had their first child, Colby, late last month. 

Katie was seven months pregnant when Hunt was traded to Minnesota, and on the day he arrived with his new teammates in Denver, Hunt said how excited he was that his son would be born in the State of Hockey. 

"It was incredible and it's flown by," Hunt said. "Having him born here, it was something that was really special to my wife as well, to have him born in Minnesota is something that's really cool for her and her family. It's been a whirlwind of a time and for me to get an opportunity here, it really made the off-ice stuff even better."

After entering the NHL as an undrafted free agent in 2014, the Wild is Hunt's fifth team in five years.

Video: NJD@MIN: Hunt flips backhand past Kinkaid for PPG

He played in three games with Edmonton that season, 11 more in 2014-15 and seven with the Oilers in 2015-16 before moving on to the St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators, getting 12 games between the Central Division clubs in 2016-17. 

Vegas provided him with his first real shot at playing time last season, skating in 45 games where he posted 18 points last season, helping the Golden Knights reach the Stanley Cup Final.

But that chance at playing time dried up in the desert this season. With Matt Dumba injured and badly in need of a threat from the back end on the power play, the Wild swooped in after a game in Vegas in January, swapping spots in this summer's NHL Draft for a chance to bring Hunt to Minnesota.

Hunt was as advertised; his booming shot from the point gave the Wild a credible threat on its second power-play unit, as four of his five points in 29 games came with the man advantage, including all three of his goals. 

Video: MIN@WPG: Hunt wires wrister past Hellebuyck for PPG

With Dumba back in the fold next season, and the Wild currently in position to bring back its top-4 group of defenseman, Hunt's future with the organization is in flux as the offseason approaches. 

But Hunt said he'd love to be here and the potential of pairing his booming shot with Dumba's does provide an intriguing thought if he does make his way back to the Wild next season and beyond.

"That's what people have said. That would be fun," Hunt said. "It'd be one of those things where they'd have to take one of us, and if it'd be me, you just get the puck to him and let him rip it.

"This is a place I want to be. It's like a second home. Going to school in Bemidji and having my wife be from Minnesota, it's a special place. I would like nothing more than to spend the rest of my career here."


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