Wes Walz came to the Wild as a free agent signing in the summer before their inaugural 2000-2001 season. Until that point, Walz had been a journeyman, playing with the Bruins (’90-’92), Flyers (’92), Flames (’93-’95), and Red Wings (’95) before spending four seasons playing in Switzerland. Upon signing with the Wild, Walz shed his journeyman label and has been a constant presence in Minnesota. He currently holds the franchise record for games played (427), has played in all 23 of the playoff games in Wild history, and is one of two players remaining from the Wild’s first season (Marian Gaborik being the other). It appeared the 37-year old center’s time in Minnesota may have ended when he opted to file for free agency this offseason, but the Wild have brought him back for a seventh season in a Minnesota jersey, signing him on Tuesday to a one-year contract worth $900,000.
In the last six seasons, Walz has played many roles. He lead the team in goals in their first season with 18 goals. However, his main role for some time has been a checking line and penalty kill expert. The one-time Selke award finalist for best defensive forward has always been a solid defender. He ranked third last season among Wild forwards in short-handed ice time. Walz has also shown a proclivity for the shorthanded goal, scoring a quarter of the Wild’s shorthanded goals throughout their history (16 of 63, 25%).
Walz has seen his role diminish recently as he has slowed a bit. Last season, the Wild’s goals against per 60 minutes with him on the ice was 2.22 which was a bit higher than the 2.09 goals against when he wasn’t on the ice. Combine that with the more expected drop in offense (2.14 on-ice goals for, 2.37 off-ice goals for). The lack of offense isn’t surprising. That’s not the role expected of Walz, and even the defense could be more the result of him playing against the opponents top line. So don’t expect his role to change too much from what it was last year.
In this deal the Wild locked up one of their longest tenured players for a reasonable price. In Walz, they continue to get a reasonably good defensive center, who is a recognized leader in the locker room. Walz should continue to be a solid third/fourth line center and penalty killer through this season.
Wes Walz career Wild statistics: