The Minnesota Wild checked another box off their offseason to-do list. The team announced an extention for restricted free agent defenseman Louie Belpedio on Friday, having inked him to a one-year, two-way contract worth $700K with the big club, and $135K with the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League.
The 2014 third-round draft pick out of Miami University of Ohio played the last two full seasons with the Iowa Wild, earning 11 goals and 30 assists in 132 regular season games, and added a goal and two assists during Iowa’s playoff run in 2018-19. His five goals last season tied for the team lead amongst Iowa defenseman, and his 20 points trailed only Brennen Menell (47) in scoring by blueliners. Belpedio has also played in three NHL games, earning two assists.
The 24-year-old Belpedio has been one of the better defensive prospects in the Wild system, but thanks to Minnesota’s already stout defensive corps, along with recent additions to the pipeline in Calen Addison and Ryan O’Rourke, Belpedio will have stiff competition to see icetime in St. Paul. Should the Wild suffer injuries to their top blueliners, Belpedio would likely be the primary beneficiary of any opportunity, not only because of his prior (though limited) NHL experience, but also because Menell left the team to sign a one-year deal in August with the Dinamo Minsk of the KHL. Calen Addison would also likely figure in to any defensive training camp battles or mid-season call ups.
Belpedio’s signing means the Wild have signed all of their restricted free agents for the offseason save Menell, who was offered a qualifying deal earlier this fall but who will likely not return to the Wild organization after his season in the KHL. But while Belpedio is sticking around for now, he might not be here for too much longer either. As PuckPedia noted on Twitter, Belpedio’s one-year deal also means that, unless he plays 77 games in the NHL this season, Belpedio will become an unrestricted free agent heading into the 2021-22 season. With most of the Wild defensemen on long term deals, Carson Soucy having a break out season in 2019-20 and blueliners like Addison, O’Rourke and Filip Johansson and Marshall Warren breathing down his neck, Belpedio may find himself looking for a new landing spot if he doesn’t see time with Minnesota for the second season in a row.