Ryan Hartman hasn’t had a sense of stability since he signed his entry-level contract with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2014. He has bounced around the NHL on one- and two-year contracts ever since, making stops with the Nashville Predators and Philadelphia Flyers before finally finding a home with the Wild a couple of years ago.
That explains why Hartman signed a three-year, $5.1 million contract extension on Thursday. It’s a team-friendly deal that will keep him with the Wild through the 2023-24 season.
Why did Hartman sign so early in the process? For the first time in his career, the 26-year-old center feels like he’s home, and he didn’t want to risk losing that.
“I pictured myself playing in one place my whole career, and obviously, in the beginning of my career, that wasn’t the case,” Hartman said. “For me, I think I want to build a base with a team and become a part of a core group.”
Most importantly, Hartman wants to chase a Stanley Cup, and he sees the potential to do that with the Wild. He has been a part of the building process since coming to Minnesota in 2019 and he wanted to make sure he was around to see it through.
“All I want to do really in this league is win,” Hartman said. “That’s everyone’s goal. To be honest, money doesn’t really matter. It’s about winning. You can make as much money as you want in your career, and if you don’t have anything to show for it, what’s the point?”
That type of mentality is a big reason why general manager Bill Guerin made extending Hartman such a focus. He said Hartman’s agent reached out a couple of months ago, and he jumped at the opportunity to negotiate.
“We really like Ryan,” Guerin said. “He’s shown this year that he can be a guy that is a big part of what we can build here. He’s shown the ability to play center, play wing, kill penalties, play the power play. He can score. He can fight. He can do a lot of things.
“I don’t even think Ryan’s reached his full potential yet,” Guerin added. “I think what we saw this year when we moved him to center, there’s just more. I think we can help him become a better player, and he’s been a big contributor so far, and I think there’s more. I believe in him.”
Asked about Hartman, coach Dean Evason lauded how he brings the same tenacity regardless of where he is in the lineup.
“He plays a gritty, determined, hard game that we love,” Evason said. “We’re happy he’s going to be around for awhile.”
That’s something Hartman has learned over the course of his career. A first-round draft pick by the Blackhawks in 2013, Hartman was seen for a time as the next big thing. When that didn’t happen, he has learned to swallow his pride over the past few years and be OK playing in various roles.
“There are a lot of young players that fail to make it in the league because they’re not willing to be a guy like Ryan is,” Guerin said. ” He’s accepted what he is in this league. There are a lot of players who don’t, and that’s why they don’t play.”
Though his journey in the NHL hasn’t always been easy, Hartman said he is grateful the Wild have put him in a position to succeed.
“This is the first team that’s given me the opportunity to kill penalties, which I think is a big part of my game,” he said. “It’s opened up opportunities for me elsewhere. I wouldn’t have signed here if I wasn’t happy with my role here.”
He also wouldn’t have signed if he wasn’t happy with his life in the Twin Cities.
“It does feel like home,” Hartman said. “We’re renting a house in the suburbs with a yard, which is a lot different from where I live in the summer in downtown Chicago in a condo with no yard. My girlfriend is from Lakeville. Her family is from here, so I get to see them a lot. Obviously, I haven’t had that in the past being all around.”
“The winters are a little bit cold,” said Hartman, who was born in Hilton Head Island, S.C. “Not something I’m not used to with Chicago weather. I’ve haven’t really been around here in the summer. Maybe that’ll change moving forward.”