At the trade deadline last season, the Minnesota Wild shocked their fanbase by doing something few Minnesota teams do- Make an impact trade. And boy, was it an impact. The Wild sent over Johan Larsson, Matt Hackett, their 2013 1st rounder, and their 2nd rounder for 2014 to Buffalo for Jason Pominville. Quite a high price to give up, but the Wild got immediate dividends from it, as Pominville got a the Wild some very needed points and they made the postseason. There's an almost indisputable case that the Wild don't make the playoffs without Pominville.
However, a Dustin Brown elbow to the head mitigated those benefits, and Pominville either didn't play or wasn't Pominville for the rest of the season. However, he is now healthy, and is going to open the regular season in the last year of his contract.
Naturally, the Wild fanbase and bloggers alike look at the deal that was made, and see the high price the Wild gave up for Pominville, and are anxious to see Pominville extended to get a maximum return on their investment. And I would love to see Pominville brought back on a deal with reasonable term, myself.
But the trade to acquire Jason Pominville can't be a motivation to extend him.
When you trade for a player, what you're essentially trading for is contract(s) for contracts(s) or draft rights. The Wild traded the draft rights to two unknown players, as well as the contracts for Johan Larsson and Matt Hackett (who are both under team control until they've accrued 7 years in the NHL or turn 27), for Jason Pominville's contract, which runs until the Wild are eliminated from the Stanley Cup. That's it. The Wild had no rights to Pominville after the end of next season, and no guarantee that they would be able to retain his services after that point. Tomorrow isn't promised to anyone, especially when Free Agency is involved.
While it's true that the Wild owning Pominville's rights entitles them to be the sole team that can negotiate with him for an extension, it must be noted that A) Teams fail to come to terms with players on contract extensions all the time, and B) The value obtained in an extension this close to a player's Free Agency is likely to be minimal, as the impending Free Agency is fairly strong leverage in contract negotiations. Extending Pominville was, from the time the trade was made, a decidedly uncertain proposition that was likely to produce little value as opposed to signing Pominville or an equivalent in Free Agency.
With a healthy season from Pominville, it's quite possible that he can continue to justify the massive price the Wild paid to obtain his services. A productive regular season would provide value in the Wild's ability to make the playoffs, and if he proves to be a key cog in the Wild winning a playoff round, after helping the Wild into the playoffs last year, it would be hard to say that the Wild didn't benefit from the Pominville trade, even if he walks in free agency. He may even provide enough value that the Wild wish to keep that caliber of player on their team and extend him.
But I hope it's only for on-ice reasons that Pominville gets an extension with the Wild. To re-sign a player based on trying to justify a previous move opens the team up to making a mistake, whether it's in term, cap hit, or both. With long-term contracts to Koivu, Parise, and Suter, and a slew of young players coming up through the ranks, the Wild can ill-afford to make a decision that could hamstring them when it comes time to sign Jonas Brodin, Mikael Granlund, and Charlie Coyle. The best way avoid that possibility in this situation is to make an offer that represents what Pominville is likely to be worth, and to be willing to walk away if he doesn't take it.
For what it's worth, I have confidence that Chuck Fletcher will be rational during this process. In Chuck We Trust, right?