Since becoming a regular with the Wild nearly five years ago, Jason Zucker has considered Minnesota a second home.
That second home is about to become his first.
Zucker, a man who has become a staple of the team's offensive attack on the ice and one of its most involved off of it signed a five-year, $27.5 million contract with the Wild on Wednesday, forgoing an arbitration hearing that was scheduled for Saturday.
"We're so excited to be back," Zucker said. "To have it done and to know that we're going to be back in Minnesota for the next five years is incredible and it's exactly what we wanted."
A three-time 20-plus goal scorer, Zucker last season surpassed 30 goals for the first time in his NHL career, finishing second on the team with 33. He also amassed 31 assists (his first time over 30 helpers in a season) and 64 points, each career highs.
Zucker also played in all 82 games for the first time in his career and has missed a total of three games in the past two years combined.
"I think it's now my job. I'm excited for it, I'm excited for the challenge that comes with [building on last season]," Zucker said. "I'm not satisfied with what I did last year and I'm excited to keep working this summer and get back at it."
Zucker made his NHL debut at the tail end of the 2011-12 season following a standout two-year career at the University of Denver. He was up and down between Minnesota and the minors over the next three seasons, playing in a total of 92 games between 2012-13 and 2014-15.
Zucker signed a two-year extension with the Wild after a disappointing 2015-16 campaign, one in which he scored 13 goals and just 23 points in 71 games.
He was determined not to let that happen again.
In 79 games in 2016-17, Zucker scored a career-high 22 goals, 25 assists and 47 points while posting a plus-34. He bumped those totals up again this past season.
"When we look at the league now, we look at the speed that has started to dominate our game. He generates so many chances based off of his speed and skill level. It's really hard to find natural goal scorers, and he's had a history of being able to score goals," said Wild General Manager Paul Fenton. "We see Jason as being a big part of both the now, and the future. It's hard to come by goal scorers, and him having a great year scoring goals last year, it was our intention to get him signed [long-term]."
Away from the rink, Zucker and his wife, Carly, have become forces in the Twin Cities community.
Together, their #Give16 campaign has raised more than $1 million for the Zucker Family Suite and Broadcast Studio at Masonic Children's Hospital in Minneapolis.
Video: Becoming Wild Webisode: Zucker returns home
"That's a huge part of it for Carly and I, we really enjoy everything we do with Masonic and enjoy everything we do with every other community and company and organization that we work with," Zucker said. "We know that we want to leave a great legacy as a family. forget myelf, it's our whole family legacy that we want to leave [in Minnesota]. We knew this was another step in making sure we could do that."
For his work in the community, Zucker was named a finalist for the NHL's King Clancy Memorial Trophy last month at the NHL Awards in his home town of Las Vegas, awarded to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.
"I've watched what he's done this summer and he's just become an integral part of our fabric," Fenton said. "That's the nice thing, is when you can get players and families that are wanting to do the extra to bring charities to mind and helping to promote things. It helps to promote our product, but it's also great ... that he and his family are so willing to give back."
Zucker becomes the Wild's fifth-highest paid player in terms of average annual value, behind Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Matt Dumba and Mikael Granlund, tied with team captain Mikko Koivu.
[RELATED: Track all of the Wild's free-agent news at Wild.com/freeagency.]
The signing leaves the Wild with just over $1.7 million in salary cap space, according to capfriendly.com, but the club has now re-signed all of its restricted free agents; Dumba inked a five-year deal over the weekend while defenseman Nick Seeler signed a three-year contract on July 1.
Signing Zucker was believed to be the final piece of the Wild's offseason, at least from a free-agent perspective, but Fenton has not ruled out a trade, either late this summer or after the season begins.
"Without doing anything, I want to see what our team looks like before I go and make changes," Fenton said. "I'm hoping that everybody plays well but we know the nature of sports, and at some point, it might have to go down the [trade] road. But right now, I'm very comfortable with the lineup that we have."
Video: MIN@MTL: Zucker records his first career hat trick