It's a big day for one of the Wild's smallest players.
What Jared Spurgeon lacks in physical stature he more than makes up for in what he means to the Wild both on the ice and off. On Saturday, he was rewarded with a brand new contract extension, one that comes in at seven years and $53.025 million.
The average annual value of the deal ($7.575 million per season) makes him the highest paid player on the team and assigns him the kind of financial value that he's consistently brought to the franchise since joining the team as an unlikely free agent in 2010. The deal begins next season and could keep Spurgeon in a Wild sweater through the end of the 2026-27 season.
"I think the group of guys that we have ... and also with [Wild GM] Bill [Guerin], when he came in he talked to me about the vision he has and, like I said before, he's won as a player and in management, and to be in one spot as a player your entire career is a pretty cool thing," Spurgeon said. "Ever since I've been here all I wanted to do is win here, so I'm not sure why you'd want to leave."
A sixth-round pick of the New York Islanders in 2008, Spurgeon was cast aside by the team that drafted him and able to sign with any team in the NHL.
A standout performance as an invitee at Minnesota's development camp in 2010 put him on the club's radar, and the Wild signed him to an entry-level contract on Sept. 23 of that year, shortly after returning from the Traverse City Prospects Tournament, where he led the Wild to a championship.
Had he not earned that contract with the Wild, he would have been off to Austria to continue his pro hockey career. He had no other opportunities to continue his career in the NHL other than in Minnesota.
"It's pretty surreal, especially being with family and talking to [agent] Eustice King. I talked to [Wild owner] Craig [Leipold] a bit and thanked him for the opportunity from the beginning and to be in this position, it's pretty crazy from the first Traverse City camp," Spurgeon said. "I couldn't be more grateful, especially for Bill, it happened pretty quick, I think it was two days and it was done. Family's pretty excited. There's a lot of work left to do, but we got a great group of guys down there, and a leader that's taking us in the right direction."
In the nine years since his debut, Spurgeon has not only become a foundational piece for the Wild, he's made himself one of the finest -- if not most underrated -- players at his position in the NHL.
Spurgeon ranks second in team history among defensemen in games played (591), second in assists (178), points (248) and shots on goal (944). His 70 goals are most and his 26 power-play goals are tied with Brent Burns for first.
Amongst all Wild players, Spurgeon ranks in the top eight in games, assists, points, power-play goals, shots and plus/minus.
He will become just the third player in franchise history to skate in 600 games with Minnesota, doing so as soon as Oct. 22 if he plays in the first nine games this season.
His 96 penalty minutes are the fewest by any NHL defenseman that has played at least 500 NHL games since he entered the League.
"He's earned every bit of it," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "His efforts for three years plus that I've seen him has been extraordinary. So you always like to see the little guy succeed. He might be small in stature, but his heart is so big that I think the Wild are really extremely lucky for seven more years."
That productivity put Spurgeon's new contract atop Guerin's to-do list once he became general manager of the team last month. Within a day or two of taking the job, he was on the phone with King trying to work on a deal.
Then, two days ago, King came to St. Paul to meet with Guerin in person and the two were quickly able to hammer out a deal.
"As for player transactions and things like that, this was the priority," Guerin said. "We're just really happy that we got it done. He's excited about it, we're excited about it, it's a perfect fit. We didn't want him going anywhere."
Spurgeon began the 2010-11 season in the American Hockey League, playing in 23 games with the Houston Aeros.
He was recalled to Minnesota in November and made his NHL debut in his home province of Alberta against the Calgary Flames on his 21st birthday, Nov. 29, 2010.
He hasn't been back to the AHL since.
Mistaken that day by some as the team's new stick boy, Spurgeon has forged a career that has put him among the best defensemen in franchise history. Despite his longevity in the league -- he's entering his 10th season in the NHL -- he won't turn 30 until after Thanksgiving.
The father of four has become a fan favorite because of his stature and his remarkably boyish looks. At 29, he seemingly hasn't aged since first joining the club nearly a decade ago.
He's also a favorite of teammates because of his quality play on the ice and his quiet, confident demeanor off of it.
"I think naturally that's who he is. I think players do know how good he is. I think that maybe goes for the media and the fans that he doesn't get the recognition that he should," said Wild captain Mikko Koivu. "But I think he's OK with it. He should know that his teammates have the respect for him and how he plays the game ... and I know the staff and everyone does. I don't think you're going to find a person that's going to say a bad word about him. That's the way I would describe him."
"For the organization it's important to keep the good people around. He's first class on and off the ice. I think we all know his capability to play the game and what he brings each and every night. The way he battles. The way he overcomes everything like injuries and things like that. Having a quality person like he is, that's the No. 1 thing I think about as a teammate."
Spurgeon is coming off a career-best season in which he scored 14 goals and 29 assists for 43 points -- all three figures representing high-water marks.
He also played in all 82 games for the first time, matched a career high with 20 penalty minutes and even won his first faceoff.
Spurgeon's new deal won't take effect until next season. He'll wrap up a four-year, $20.75 million contract in 2019-20, a contract that has provided the Wild with one of the finest values in the NHL during that span.
His new number makes him the highest paid player (by annual average value) in team history.
"When we talked about it this morning I looked at my wife and just asked her if you'd ever think we'd be here in 10 years," Spurgeon said. "It was pretty cool."