ST. PAUL -- It's a return to the State of Hockey for new Wild defenseman Alex Goligoski, but it's not exactly your storybook homecoming for the Grand Rapids native and Minneapolis resident.
A former Golden Gopher, Goligoski inked a one-year, $5 million contract with Minnesota on Wednesday, the opening day of unrestricted free agency. He's expected to jump right onto the Wild's top defensive pairing next to Jared Spurgeon.
And while Goligoski grew up here, played college hockey here and still lives here in the summer time, he admits he hasn't exactly been the biggest Wild fan over the years.
Part of that is the fact that Goligoski has played a lot of games against Minnesota over the years ... a lot of hard games, without having a bunch of success.
Still, there was something tugging at Goligoski's heartstrings about the potential of playing in front of friends and family, and that was a big reason why he decided signing with the Wild was the right decision now.
Video: Goligoski joins hometown team
"It's home," Goligoski said. "I think everyone has that desire to play for their homestate if they have a team. I think it's a great fit for me. And I think the team is good too, and that was a big thing for me. I want to play some winning hockey.
"I've played against the Wild a lot in my career and last year they gave it to us pretty good."
Goligoski has spent the past five years with the Arizona Coyotes, where he has chipped in in all facets, playing big minutes as a top-4 defenseman, on the power play and on the penalty kill.
"His game just keeps getting better," said Wild GM Bill Guerin. "I just love the way he plays because he can do a lot of different things."
He's also served as an important veteran presence next to the emerging Jakob Chychrun, who is one of the best young defensemen in the NHL.
It's a role he says he's grown into as he's piled up the seasons on his own resume after breaking into the NHL as a teammate of Guerin with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008-09 in his first full season.
That season, when Guerin was traded to the Penguins midseason from the New York Islanders, Goligoski was actually wearing sweater No. 13 ... until the veteran Guerin arrived on the scene.
"I said 'thanks very much, kid, but that's my number,'" Guerin said. "And he gave it to me. But he's an awesome guy. We're happy to have him. He was a good teammate, I know that first hand."
While no wrist watches were exchanged with the number - Guerin said he "may have bought him an Iron City Light" to grease the skids - it was the first time Goligoski and Guerin's paths crossed.
Now, the Wild is hoping for similar results as the soon-to-be 36-year old admits things have come full circle.
"It's a little bizarre," Goligoski said. "He's running an NHL team now and the guy that I knew from all those years past, not that you couldn't see [him doing] it, it's just such a different role. It is a little full circle, but a funny little wrinkle."
The best memory from that year? Hoisting the Stanley Cup. It's a moment in his career that Goligoski says he'd love to experience again, and one that drives him now, especially as he gets into the later portion of his NHL career.
"You see what it takes and I remember a lot of the older players on that team, when they got that Stanley Cup, it was cool to see because it meant a lot more to them at the time than the younger players I think," Goligoski said. "You really value winning as you get older and that's where I'm at.
"I'd love another crack at a Stanley Cup, for sure."
Wild adds depth on free agency's opening day
Minnesota had its tenticles everywhere on Wednesday, but Goligoski and forward Frederick Gaudreau were the only two signings expected to start the season in the NHL.
Gaudreau played up in the lineup in Pittsburgh last season and is versatile, playing both wing and center during his career with both the Predators and Penguins. Last season, Gaudreau tallied two goals and 10 points in 19 games. He also had four points in six games in the American Hockey League.
Video: Frederick Gaudreau on signing with Minnesota Wild
Gaudreau also has experience with Wild coach Dean Evason, having played for him with the Milwaukee Admirals.
"He can do a lot of different things," Guerin said. "He's a very motivated guy. He knows what he is and he's very focused on being successful and helping the team win."
The Wild also added some organizational depth with the signings of defensemen Joe Hicketts and Jon Lizotte as well as forward Dominic Turgeon.