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Niederreiter Flying High After Signing New Deal

Wild forward working toward first career 30-goal season

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /

Nino Niederreiter gained fame two summers ago by strapping himself to the outside of an airplane for a quick flight over the Alps. 

With his future up in the air, the Wild winger has decided to keep it a little more low-key this summer. A fishing trip to Alaska with his dad and some friends was the major highlight until Sunday, when Niederreiter signed a five-year contract extension with Minnesota worth $26.25 million, a deal that will keep him in a Wild uniform through the 2021-22 season.

"I'm definitely very excited to be with the Wild for the next five years," Niederreiter said during a conference call with local media on Monday. "It was a long summer, a lot of thinking and you're not sure what's going to happen."

As a restricted free agent, there were plenty of things that could have happened. 

Minnesota could have chosen the unlikely route of non-tendering him, unheard of for a three-time 20-goal scorer who is just entering his prime.

It could have traded him earlier in the summer, perhaps during the NHL Draft, netting itself a number of assets. 

Or it could have chosen a final bridge contract, with a shorter term and a higher average salary. 

Instead, the Wild chose to invest long-term in the 24-year old, who tallied a career-high 25 goals and 57 points last season. 

"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," Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher said in a statement Sunday. "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."

Tweet from @thelnino22: verry happy to be a part of the @mnwild for the next ����� years! #stateofhockey ��

With things progressing slowly, Niederreiter chose last month to go to arbitration, a process by which the player submits what he thinks he should make and the team says what it believes he should make. A neutral party makes a final decision. 

"I wouldn't say I was worried it wouldn't get done," Niederreiter said. "Once we got past the expansion draft, I had a good feeling that they wanted to keep me. And then after that, it's waiting until the draft was over to start talking [about a contract]."

Niederreiter's arbitration hearing was scheduled for Thursday, but with a long-term contract now signed, sealed and delivered, no hearing is needed. 

Instead, Niederreiter can focus on the remainder of his summer and achieving his next set of goals, including his first 30-goal season.

Video: Niederreiter Signs Five-Year Contract

"Even last year, I don't think things went perfectly smooth. There's always stretches during the season where I don't find the score sheet. That's definitely something which I want to improve," Niederreiter said. "I haven't had my best season yet."

Niederreiter has seen his offensive production increase in each of his four seasons in Minnesota. He scored 14 goals and 36 points his first year with the Wild after being acquired in a trade from the New York Islanders during the summer of 2012.

He had 24 goals and 37 points in 2014-15 and 20 goals and 43 points in 2015-16. Last year, Niederreiter was a career-best plus-17, scored eight power-play goals and had 186 shots on goal.

Selected fifth overall by the Islanders in the 2010 NHL Draft, Niederreiter had just two goals and three points in 64 games over two seasons in New York before being dealt to Minnesota. He was also a minus-30 in those games.

"I had quite a rough start," Niederreiter said. "I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know what direction [I was] going to be headed. Things definitely turned around when I was traded to Minnesota.

"Right from the get-go, they gave me a nice, fair chance, and I had the chance to take it and evolve [into] a better player. I know where I'm headed to and I know what I've got to do to be a better player for the team."

With Niederreiter signed, the Wild has business to settle with two remaining restricted free agents. Mikael Granlund, who led the Wild with 69 points last season, is set to have his case heard before an arbiter on Friday if a contract can't be reached before then.

Marcus Foligno, acquired in a trade from the Buffalo Sabres last month, is also a restricted free agent but did not file for arbitration. The Wild and his agents have been in negotiations on a new contract.

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