Nino Niederreiter has been bold enough with his hobbies to ride on the outside of an airplane . On the ice, he plays a fearless game with a thick frame that’s tough to knock off the puck around the net.
The last few months, though, he found himself feeling a little anxious.
Niederreiter was a restricted free agent who filed for salary arbitration, and the long-term contract he expected with the Minnesota Wild, a deal they spoke openly of desiring to complete, had not yet come together. The arbitration hearing scheduled in Toronto was coming closer and closer.
“I wouldn’t say I wasn’t worried. Obviously the longer the summer went, the more you start thinking,” Niederreiter said, adding: “All of a sudden you have to make plans for Toronto and all that stuff. Obviously you get a little nervous. You never want to go to Toronto and make a deal there.”
He didn’t have to. The Wild and Niederreiter agreed to terms on a five-year contract worth $26.25 million on Sunday night, keeping him under the team’s control through the 2021-22 season. His average annual salary is $5.25 million, which is what the hit will be against the Wild’s cap.
“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,” general manager Chuck Fletcher said in announcing the deal. “Nino has a great attitude and personality, and we know our fans will be as happy as we are.”
Niederreiter, who will turn 25 on Sept. 8, had career highs last season with 25 goals, 32 assists and a plus-17 rating, among several other statistical categories, while playing in all 82 regular-season games.
The 6-foot-2, 211-pound Swiss star, speaking on a conference call with reporters on Monday, said he’s aiming for the 30-goal mark. There’s room for his production to increase, for sure. He has played with a slew of different centers and wings over four years with Minnesota. He’s been prone, too, to going long stretches of games without goals. He also ranked just eighth among Wild forwards in average time on ice, with 15:04 per game, last season.
“I’ve got to do the best I can with the ice time I get. Obviously I’m going to prepare myself to get more minutes this year, and if that’s the case, then great,” Niederreiter said. “And if not, I’ll just do whatever I can to be great in the minutes I get.”
This summer, realizing his unresolved contract status, he gave the daredevil airplane wing walking a rest. Instead, he went fishing for salmon in Alaska with his father and some friends.
“Now I’m very happy that I can relax the next little bit,” Niederreiter said, “and we’ll obviously work hard to get ready for the season.”
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