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Hartman adds 'grizzle' to Wild's bottom-six

Former Blackhawk, Predator and Flyer provides big energy, offensive upside

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /

ST. PAUL -- It's been an eventful nine days for new Wild forward Ryan Hartman, who joined his third team in the past week when he signed a two-year deal with Minnesota on Monday, the opening day of NHL Free Agency.

Hartman was a member of the Philadelphia Flyers when he left for a fishing excursion in northern Ontario nine days ago, announcing to the world that he was going off the grid. 

Little did he know that his efforts to get away would go quickly by the wayside.

Two days after leaving, the Flyers traded his rights to the Dallas Stars for Tyler Pitlick, and the hockey world was left wondering if Hartman even knew about it. 

Tweet from @RHartzy18: Heading off the grid till next Saturday... if you need me... leave me a voicemail ���🏽world

"It kind of put a little damper in the fishing for the day, but I made sure to call and check in," Hartman said. "We weighed our options daily and see how this whole process was going to go. I think that this has worked out really well for me."

As it turned out, Hartman's stay with the Stars would be short. Dallas didn't give him a qualifying offer, which made him an unrestricted free agent at 11 a.m. CT on Monday. 

Minnesota pounced, badly wanting a right-shot, right wing to help fill out its bottom-six forward group while also adding a little offense, a little penalty killing and a lot of sandpaper.

"He just brings the grizzle that I like," said Wild General Manager Paul Fenton. "I would like our team to play with a little more hardness and passion and excitement and I think he'll not only do it himself, but he'll bring people along with him."

If that's what Fenton wants, he's certainly done a good job of relaying that message to Hartman, who scored 19 goals as a rookie with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2016-17 and a total of 23 goals the past two seasons, which have seen him go from Chicago, to Nashville -- where Fenton was the Predators' assistant GM at the time -- to Philadelphia and, for a short time, Dallas.

"It's a team that needs some guys on the right side, needs some right-hand shots," Hartman said. "I think talking to Paul, being a guy that can come in and be a hard guy to play against and make it a difficult night when they come into our rink. On the road, just be that guy that makes it a pain to come in and play against us. that's what I plan to do. I feel like it's a void that needed to be filled and I believe I can do that for our team the next two years.

"I kind of feel like throughout my career just trying to be a guy that can put our team on the power play and just kind of agitate guys, but at the same time if momentum's not going our way to start a game or in the middle of the game, go out there and lay the groundwork and try to flip that momentum in our direction. I've done that throughout my career. That's what's brought me to this point. I'm not looking to change anything. I want to bring that tenacity and grittiness to this team."

While Hartman is likely slated to skate on the Wild's third or fourth line, his upside -- he'll be just 25 years old when the season begins -- could mean he could move up and down the lineup as needed. 

Video: Highlights: Ryan Hartman

He's also an experienced penalty killer and can even play center in a pinch if needed. 

"He just adds to the depth that we have going down there right now," Fenton said. "I'm thrilled at the depth. I think the internal competition is now going to show what each and every guy is made of and how they're going to be able to contribute to us winning."

Born in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, Hartman is the only player in NHL history from The Palmetto State. 

In addition to Hartman and forward Mats Zuccarello, the Wild also signed a pair of forwards to two-year, two-way contracts, adding Luke Johnson and Gabriel Dumont to the organization.

Johnson, a Grand Forks native, was a critical part of the University of North Dakota's run to the NCAA championship in 2016, serving as the Fighting Hawks' No. 2 centerman on the team's shutdown defensive line. 

Video: Paul Fenton on free agent signings

A fifth-round selection of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013, he's been an effective player for the Rockford Ice Hogs the past couple of years, scoring 18 goals and 31 points in 53 games there last season while also making his NHL debut and skating in 15 games with Chicago. 

With Cal O'Reilly a free agent, it's possible Johnson could slot in immediately into a top-6 role in Iowa and serve as a potential call up in Minnesota should need arise.

Dumont, the captain of the AHL's Syracuse Crunch last season, scored 15 goals and had 43 points in 2018-19. He's skated in 486 AHL games in his career, scoring 117 goals and 277 points.

A fifth-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 2009, he's also played in 87 NHL games with the Canadiens, Tampa Bay Lightning and Ottawa Senators, scoring four goals and nine points.  


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