Wild's Nick Seeler finally can put down roots with new three-year deal
ST. PAUL — Nick Seeler can finally start putting down roots in the Twin Cities.
Seeler, 25, grew up in Eden Prairie, Minn., and played his final college season in 2015-16 with the Gophers, but he only recently started looking for a place of his own. That's something he can do after signing a three-year, $2.175 million contract with the Minnesota Wild earlier this week.
"I'm definitely looking forward to it," Seeler said. "It was pretty special to be able to stick around here."
It was never a guarantee that Seeler would get to this point in his career after being selected by the Wild in the fifth round of the 2011 NHL Draft out of Eden Prairie High School. Seeler, who played two season at Nebraska-Omaha before transferring to Minnesota, was viewed by some in the Wild organization as a minor-league lifer, someone who brought a sense of grittiness to the blue line but not much else.
Seeler understood this. "I don't know if anyone would've expected this," he said. "I'm looking forward to proving they made a good choice to keep me around."
After more than 100 games over three seasons in the American Hockey League with the Wild's minor-league team in Iowa, Seeler finally made his NHL debut last season in a mid-February game against the New York Rangers, and immediately made himself too valuable to send back to Des Moines.
"There were a ton of unknowns," Seeler said. "That said, I knew the only thing I could control was how I played. All I wanted to do was make the best of the opportunity, and thankfully it turned into staying up for good."
Seeler ended up playing 22 games with the Wild last season, averaging 14½ minutes and using his 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame to add a badly needed physical presence to the blue line. He played in all five playoff games, averaging 17½ minutes per game in the first-round series loss to the Winnipeg Jets.
"I couldn't have ever imagined a better second half of last season unless it would've ended in a Stanley Cup run," Seeler said. "It was a whirlwind of an experience. It kind of had everything."
Seeler is looking forward to his new-found stability on the roster. Now he won't have to be looking over his shoulder, which should allow him to play with a sense of comfort day in and day out.
That can a good thing, according to Seeler, as long as he doesn't get comfortable.
"I need to continue to work on the simple things and continue to learn from some of the older guys," he said. "I feel like sticking to my identity is important, too, because that's what got me here. I take pride in being that gritty player on the blue line."
With a $725,000 cap hit next season, Seeler could turn out to be a steal, someone who could play a key role in the team's success. He likely will slot in alongside newly signed defenseman Greg Pateryn to form a hulking bottom pairing.
"Just knowing what everybody is saying, and how much they endorsed him, and the type of character he is, for me, it fits in our plans for the future," new general manager Paul Fenton said.
Not that Seeler is taking anything for granted. After all, he knows there's someone in the organization working just as hard as he was a year ago to prove the doubters wrong.
"I feel like I still need to continue to earn my spot," Seeler said. "There are always people vying for spots, so I have to continue to stay true to the things that got me here. I'm focused on continuing to prove myself next season."