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Marcus Foligno isn't one of the Wild's go-to scorers.

His minutes aren't off the charts, and he doesn't have a letter of leadership sewn on his jersey.

But there's no denying Foligno is essential to the Wild — a reality the team made crystal-clear when it locked up the two-way forward with a three-year, $9.3 million contract extension Tuesday on the brink of its season opener.

"We're going to rely on him to be part of the change that's going on here, to make sure that things are going well in the locker room and on the ice," General Manager Bill Guerin said during a virtual interview after the signing. "He's a guy that looks after everybody, too, on and off the ice. [He's a] very valuable person for our organization."

When he arrived in 2017, Foligno wasn't woven into the inner workings of the Wild.

Traded from Buffalo who drafted him in the fourth round in 2009, Foligno was initially on the fringe as he adapted to a new team. But in Year 2, he settled into a role as a penalty killer.

He took another step forward last season, scoring 11 goals, recording a career-high 25 points and shining as a defensive specialist who can shut down top players. But Foligno embedded himself in the Wild's identity because of his style.

The 6-3, 224-pound winger is the Wild's most rugged player, a physical agitator who protects his teammates, holds other teams accountable and swings momentum with his work ethic. His 184 hits last season led the team. Overall, he has 75 goals and 108 assists in 565 career games.

In the locker room, the 29-year-old has a happy-go-lucky personality and is a spokesman for the team's conscience, a vocal leader who conveys the Wild's situation without sugarcoating it. And Foligno would know what's going on. He doesn't just have his finger on the pulse; he's become part of the heartbeat.

"You can talk all you want, but you have to back it up, and I feel like I took the next step in my career — my game — last season, for sure," said Foligno, who followed in the footsteps of his dad Mike (a longtime NHLer) and brother Nick (the captain of Columbus). "It's just something that you want to be organic. You want it to be natural. You don't want guys to follow you because you're making them. You want them to do it because they want to and they enjoy your company and being around you at the rink.

"So, that's something I take pride in, showing up every day, working hard, laughing and keeping it light in the room."

Marcus Foligno career statistics

The Wild appreciates Foligno because of his hard-hitting approach and the support scoring he supplies that bolsters the team's depth. But he's "different' in Guerin's eyes because of the intangibles.

"He has the ability to hold guys' hands to the fire," Guerin said. "I've been clear with Marcus — that's a big reason we value him."

Although his responsibilities aren't changing, Foligno hopes to expand his impact — contributing more offensively and helping the Wild establish a culture where it succeeds consistently.

He also isn't done proving his worth to the team.

Seattle's expansion draft is on deck next offseason, and Foligno plans to "put up a fight" to show why the Wild should protect him — which Guerin identified as a priority for the team.

"We didn't sign Marcus to this [contract] to lose him," said Guerin, who had been negotiating the deal for quite some time.

The extension doesn't include any no-trade or no-movement clauses, and it runs through the 2023-24 season. Foligno has one more season left on a four-year, $11.5 million contract and was set to become a free agent when it expired.

If he remains with the Wild for all seven years, Minnesota will be his longest address in the NHL — a place where he's put roots down with his wife, Natascia, and their two daughters, Olivia and Camila.

That's also plenty of time for Foligno to work on his goal of transforming the team, a push for progress that begins Thursday in Los Angeles.

"I believe that we are headed in that direction where we're going to be a contending team," Foligno said. "I'm excited about the players we have and just the group that we have. So that's the biggest thing is that I want to win. I don't just want to be comfortable and just sit back and play out my career. I want to win a Stanley Cup, and it's exciting knowing that we're headed in a direction of being a Stanley Cup contending team. And it really all starts Thursday for us."