When the Wild acquired Marcus Foligno in the summer of 2017, he was a player that did not wow anyone in terms of production, underlying numbers, etc. But now, here we are, three years later, and Foligno has made quite an impressive case for a new contract following 2020-21 with general manager Bill Guerin.
It is not often you find a player of Foligno’s stature that you argue is worth extending when the new contract would kick in at the age of 30. Bottom six players are not ones you generally want stuck around long term — remember all those bottom six forwards Chuck Fletcher signed to multi-year deals? — and they can easily be replaced on the roster with someone cheaper either on an entry-level contract or a call-up from the minors.
In the case of Foligno and the Wild, there are several players in the minors coming in on entry-level contracts who could take Foligno’s spot. But he is still someone you want to keep around for a few more years.
He’s a strong Defensive player
It cannot be stressed enough how good Foligno has been defensively over the past two seasons, and pretty much for his entire tenure with the Wild. But more specifically, if you look at the past two seasons, it is hard to find a forward in the league that is better defensively at suppressing shots than Foligno.
Between the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, with players who have played a minimum of 1,200 minutes 5-on-5, there is no better player in the NHL in terms of expected goals against (meaning quality shots against) than Foligno. This is also being done from a player that gets more starts in the neutral and defensive zone, as expected from a bottom-sixer.
He has been so good in that regard and has gone criminally under-appreciated for his work defensively. Maybe throw a Patrice Bergeron jersey on him and someone will give him more love for the Selke.
He is still a quality offensive producer for a bottom-six forward
If you have painfully watched over the last decade, you will remember Minnesota’s rotating door of bottom-six players who did not do a whole heck of a lot (Darroll Powe, Chris Porter, Torrey Mitchell, etc.). Foligno has been a consistent 10-plus goal, 20-plus point guy for his career, and was even setting career highs in 2019-20 with 11 goals and 25 points before the season was paused.
Foligno gets into the dirty areas when in the offensive zone, which is something the Wild have been lacking in recent years. Still not enough to warrant more time offensively, but still worth noting because the Wild, more or less, have lacked a player who can do that.
He could be the team’s next captain
It is hard to measure things like grit, leadership, etc., but that is something Foligno brings on a nightly basis. Again, guys that excel in the checking part of the game typically do not produce in the areas above like Foligno does.
The Buffalo native is praised for the leadership aspect by those who cover the Wild on a daily basis. In fact, if you had to create a small list of players to succeed Mikko Koivu as Wild captain after this 2019-20 playoff season ends, Foligno will absolutely be on that short list. And should Guerin offer up a contract extension to the forward, you might as well put his name at the top of that shortlist to wear the “C.”
Say what you want about the intangibles, but Foligno brings them and brings them very well.
So what would a contract extension for Foligno look like?
Following the Evolving Hockey contract projections, Foligno would be looking at a deal in the neighborhood of three years at a $2.5 million cap hit per year. Sure, years and dollars can fluctuate a bit there, but you could probably expect his deal to settle in around that mark.
Bottom-six players getting multi-year deals is a slippery slope, but Foligno appears to be an outlier to that notion. Guerin would do right, even with the logjam at wing on his roster, to give him an extension and keep him in St. Paul for a few more seasons.
At the cost, and what he brings, it almost seems like a no-brainer decision. Quite a turnaround from what was thought of Foligno when he was brought in three years ago.
Data used in this post courtesy of EvolvingHockey.com.