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Granlund Hungry to Push Wild Deeper into Postseason

After earning new three-year contract, forward hopes to be key player in long playoff run

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers / Wild.com

Needless to say, the next time Mikael Granlund and Mikko Koivu get together for a meal, it's Granlund who will be picking up the check. 

So said Granlund on Wednesday during a conference call with local media after he signed a three-year, $17.25 million contract with the Wild, keeping the Finnish winger in Minnesota for the foreseeable future. 

Koivu, the Wild's captain, has been a big part of Granlund's adjustment to Minnesota since coming to the State of Hockey from their native Finland as a 21-year old. Often, that's included picking up the tab at local eating establishments. So it goes for the guy playing on a contract worth more than $47 million, like Koivu has since the 2011-12 season.

Tweet from @mnwild: ���� Finntastic news! ����Mikael Granlund agrees to terms on a 3-year contract ($17.25 million) with #mnwild ��� https://t.co/EUdKQEGqcX #nhlfi pic.twitter.com/KLFqA7WP4Q

Granlund's deal will pay him an annual average of $5.75 million, putting him firmly inside the "dinner-buying" category of contracts. In fact, he's already heard from Koivu in the hours since signing the new deal, letting him know just that.

"He called me and said, 'You're paying the next dinner,'" Granlund said.

More than just helping out with the dinner tab, however, Koivu has played a big role in helping turn Granlund from the shy, new kid in town into a player brimming with confidence, one who led the Wild with 69 points last season and seems primed to reach 70 for the first time in 2017-18.

"Mikko has been such a big help for me my entire stay in Minnesota," Granlund said. "I've learned a lot, and I'm really happy to be on the same team with him."

It's been an exciting -- if not busy -- summer for Granlund, who began the offseason in Las Vegas after being named a finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy, awarded to the NHL's Most Gentlemanly player. He didn't win it, but it was his first trip to the NHL Awards, one he hopes to make a regular part of his offseason.

After returning home from Las Vegas, Granlund has gone about training for the upcoming grind. His focus has not been on getting a new contract done, something that became inevitable one way or another once he filed for arbitration last month.

With his hearing scheduled for Friday, the two sides picked up their conversation, agreeing to terms late on Tuesday afternoon -- around midnight for Granlund back in Finland.

"It's been a good summer," Granlund said. "The trip to Las Vegas was something I had never experienced before, and obviously, the contract situation and everything ... but [other than that] it's been a pretty normal summer for me, being here in Finland and seeing my friends and family and working out."

Video: Granlund Signs New Deal

Following a breakout campaign under first-year coach Bruce Boudreau in 2016-17, Granlund said his main goals for the upcoming season are more team-related. A first-round exit at the hands of the St. Louis Blues still stings, but Granlund said he believes the Wild has the pieces to make a run next spring.

"I think there's always room to improve. I think the biggest thing is to, as a team, I really want us to make a deeper playoff run. We need to make it to playoffs first. But I think we have a really good group of guys and we can make some damage in the playoffs," Granlund said. "Personally, that's my biggest goal; hopefully to make something special happen next year."

In that regard, Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher believes the club has taken a big step this week toward making sure that happens. The signing of Granlund came 48 hours after Minnesota signed fellow restricted free agent Nino Niederreiter to a five-year contract worth $26.25 million. 

"It's been a long summer and I'm looking forward to getting to the other side of this," Fletcher said. "But it's a necessary part of the process. The negotiations with both Nino and Mikael have been professional; everybody has been fair and working hard at it.

"They are players that we hope to have on our team for a long time."

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