As he sat on the beach in Bonita Springs, Florida with his wife Felicia, 3-year-old son Simon and 1-year-old daughter Selena, life probably couldn't have gotten much better for Alex Stalock during the NHL All-Star break and the Wild's subsequent bye week.
Then he got a call from his agent confirming the South St. Paul native son will be staying in Minnesota for another three years.
At least that's the plan for a 31-year-old goaltender who's resurrected his career since signing with the Wild in 2016. After solidifying his role as Devan Dubnyk's backup, Stalock can keep putting down roots in the same place they began sprouting.
"Family-wise it's awesome," Stalock told Wild.com on Tuesday, shortly before boarding a flight back to the Twin Cities following his family's vacation. "[Simon] is just getting to that age where understands a little bit. We know this doesn't happen to everybody. Not everybody is as lucky as we are to get to play the sport I love. Someday, it'll sink in for him how special it was."
For Simon -- and later, likely, his sister -- staying home means more outdoor skating lessons with mom and dad and more mini-stick hockey in the Xcel Energy Center home dressing room after games. Alex will remain close to his side of the family, as will his wife, also a South St. Paul native. The offseason fishing journeys on the St. Croix river will persist. So will Stalock's love for horse racing and ownership at Canterbury Park.• January 15th, 2019
And from an occupational standpoint, Stalock has earned a continued opportunity to do what several Minnesota athletes have done throughout the state's history, yet it's so largely uncommon across the greater professional athletics landscape.
"You realize how lucky you are," Stalock said. "Just to make it to the top level of any sport is such an honor, and when Minnesota called and I realized I had a chance to go to this organization, it was a no-brainer. [Former General Manager Chuck Fletcher] brought me in and gave me a chance to establish my name again, get my game back where I wanted it to be and get back to the NHL, and it's worked out.
"I've enjoyed every second of it."
Stalock's three-year, $2.355 million, contract represents a vote of confidence from first-year General Manager Paul Fenton. After winning the backup job from 2018 free-agent signee Andrew Hammond during training camp, Stalock is 6-5-0 with a 2.92 goals-against average and .894 save percentage in 14 games this season. He's 17-16-4 with a 2.80 goals-against in 44 career games with the Wild, including a 10-3-2 mark at home. The extension's one-way nature means in order for the Wild to assign him to the minors, he'd first have to be placed on waivers.
All this after Stalock at one point wondered where his career was heading.
Drafted by San Jose in the fourth round out of Minnesota-Duluth in 2005, Stalock made his NHL debut in 2011. Shortly thereafter, he was reassigned to the American Hockey League, where a sliced nerve behind his knee cost him the remainder of the 2010-11 season and part of the following season.
Stalock spent 2013-15 as Antti Niemi's backup in San Jose. The Sharks traded him to Toronto at the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline, and he was immediately placed on waivers and assigned back to the AHL.
That's also where Stalock spent his first campaign after signing with the Wild organization, appearing in just two games toward the end of the 2016-17 season. But in the years since, the 6-foot, 198-pound netminder has stuck by embracing his spot in the pecking order and adding a different dynamic with his puckhandling, which ranks among the best among NHL goaltenders today.
"At my age now, I know my role," Stalock said. "Obviously, we have a top goalie in the League that's an All-Star. ... It's my job help him if he sees things in his game that need correcting, and if he needs a night off, I'm here to give him a chance to rest. That's my goal every night: just give him a chance.
"It's a unique position, but I take pride in it. It's a job where have to have the right mentality, that's for sure."
That approach has made Stalock a favorite among fans, coaches, the front office and his teammates. Whether it's palling around and drawing a rare smile from always-stoic captain Mikko Koivu or springing a rush with one of his infamous long saucer passes from the defensive zone, Stalock has stuck in the NHL this time due to a willingness to avert narcissism.
And while there are no guarantees in the world of professional hockey -- especially with Fenton making recent trades and preparing for an expansion draft in 2021 -- Stalock and his family's immediate future is secured.
"It's obviously a huge confidence boost that they're willing to commit to someone that long," Stalock said. "It's an honor for me, but now it's time to go out and prove on the ice that it's worth it. I'm looking forward to the test."