Wild sign enforcer Kassian to two-year deal

ROSEVILLE, Minn. — Matt Kassian agreed to represent the Minnesota Wild during the team’s annual summer road tour, visiting towns around the state and meeting with fans.

Kassian’s appearance on the road tour was a curious one. The 6-foot-4, 232-pound forward broke through for his first extended run in the NHL for Minnesota, which selected Kassian in the second round of the 2005 draft. But he was also scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent on Sunday.

Kassian, 25, still went on the road tour, and now he will be staying with the Wild as well. Kassian and Minnesota agreed to a two-year contract Thursday for a reported $1.55 million. The deal was announced as Kassian signed autographs for fans during the annual summer bash at the John Rose Oval in Roseville at the final stop of the summer road tour.

With a franchise that has so many young prospects and salary cap room to maneuver, Kassian wanted to stay with Minnesota and now he has the chance.

“The organization is going in the right direction, I believe,” Kassian said. “I really want to be a part of it.”

Kassian’s contract is a one-way deal, meaning he won’t be going back to minor-league Houston again after playing parts of the past five seasons with the Aeros. He played 26 games with Houston last season and had two goals, two assists and 34 penalty minutes. Kassian found his way into the Wild lineup for 24 games last season and had two goals and 55 penalty minutes, growing into the team’s enforcer role and becoming a fan-favorite for his fighting ability.

Getting two more years and the one-way deal was rewarding to Kassian, who has played just 28 career games.

“Obviously to have something like that, it’s very encouraging,” Kassian said. “Just very exciting. I’ve said it before, this is where I want to be. I want to be involved in this organization. It’s the organization that drafted me. Anytime someone shows faith in you, it just makes you want to go out and work harder for them. And to have a positive impact in any way you can in the dressing room and one the ice.”

Kassian is the second unrestricted free agent to re-sign with Minnesota prior to Sunday’s start of free agency. Forward Stephane Veilleux signed a one-year, two-way contract Sunday. Forward Chad Rau, a restricted free agent, signed a two-year, two-way contract the same day.

The Wild are still more than $19 million under the salary cap, which was announced at $70.2 million this week. Minnesota is expected to make a run at top prospective free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to go along with a team that led the NHL in December last year and has its top point scorers returning and several young prospects ready to break into the NHL. With his deal in place, Kassian is excited to be a part of the future for the Wild and interested to see what happens in free agency this offseason.

“Just like anything, time will tell with that kind of stuff, and you want to have the best possible team around you,” Kassian said. “I’m excited. It will be a really exciting time. I know (general manager Chuck Fletcher) is going to be working really hard on a lot of things.”

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