The Minnesota Wild have sort of made a tradition out of making a splash on draft day. From the Wild making its first 'splash' by dealing a 1st round draft pick (16th Overall Trevor Lewis) and Patrick O'Sullivan to the Los Angeles Kings for Pavol Demitra, and then a few years later dealing Brent Burns for Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle and the 28th Overall pick in 2011 (Zack Phillips). So why should we be surprised took the opportunity of the draft to make some more deals. With a mild deal of trading the rights to defenseman Justin Falk to the New York Rangers for forward Benn Ferriero as well as a 6th round pick in 2014. Yet the next deal was a little sweeter when the Wild dealt Cal Clutterbuck and their 70th Overall pick in this year's draft (3rd round) to the New York Islanders for big winger Nino Niederreiter who was once the 5th Overall pick in 2010. Losing Clutterbuck was likely going to happen anyways because of its restrictions with the salary cap but he clearly was a fan favorite.
So the price was steep, but that's to be expected when you are able to add a player with Niederreiter's potential. Niederreiter is a 6'2", 205lbs left winger who was a bit unhappy with the fact he did not make the Islanders' roster and more or less asked to be traded. The Islanders responded by dispatching the unhappy Swiss-born player to their AHL affiliate in Bridgeport and he answered back with a strong season with the Sound Tigers, burying 28 goals to go along with 50 points in 74 games. Niederreiter is a big, skilled winger with good speed who has decent scoring ability but doesn't mind physical play either. I actually hoped the team was going to be able to draft Niederreiter back in 2010, the same year we ended up with Mikael Granlund. Wild General manager Chuck Fletcher had hinted that he was still looking to deal Clutterbuck but that he wasn't just going to "give him away" and on the Twitterverse most fans are pleased by the return they got for their favorite hitting machine. So what else should Wild fans expect from Niederreiter?
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What the Wild get in Niederreiter
The Wild get faster, bigger and perhaps a little more skilled up front. Niederreiter has good wheels and a goal scorers touch. He does not mind to put his shoulder down and use his frame to protect the puck as he barrels his way towards the crease for a scoring chance. The Wild are also getting a player who has done some growing up. After initially being unhappy over his treatment by the Islanders he could've played the Nikita Filatov card and just asked to return back to his native-Switzerland. But he instead honored his contract and returned to Bridgeport where he said he didn't want to be but played well there. While some may not like the attitude about feeling owed a better shot with the Islanders, he at least went down to the minors and played well instead of just pouting and not helping either club win. Perhaps being dealt will not only give him a fresh start but perhaps focus him enough to make him concentrate on making another NHL roster.
What the Wild lose by dealing Clutterbuck
The Wild loss a nice dose of sandpaper by dealing Clutterbuck. Clutterbuck, usually near the top of the league in hits will join this year's hit leader in Matt Martin with the Islanders. He also rejoins his favorite linemate from his junior days with the Oshawa Generals in John Tavares and its perhaps likely the team considered that pre-existing chemistry when they made the deal. The Wild will lose a player who was really the only player since Derek Boogaard that made teams feel a little less safe as he was on the prowl looking to light someone up with a big hit. Clutterbuck had the speed and the mentality to be a natural agitator by his in your face style, and then become even more annoying with a timely goal. Yet, the truth is Clutterbuck did not have a good season last year and he didn't seem to be dishing out the hits the way he used to earlier in his career perhaps as a sign of a body paying the price for inflicting such punishment not only on opponents but himself as well. However, he was still very much in demand according to Wild management who said lots of teams inquired about Clutterbuck the last few days which is another reason why the Wild got such a fairly decent return on their former 3rd round (72nd Overall) pick from 2006. Clutterbuck also was one of the more active (trash talk-wise) players on the team and someone will have to step into that role of agitator and an already soft team just got a bit softer.
From my initial reaction to the deal, I'm ok with it. Nino Niederreiter is a forward with good offensive potential and I think his assertiveness will work well with what the Wild want to be. However, losing Clutterbuck will create a physical void that really helped round out the team. When Clutterbuck is out of the lineup, there were few if any Wild players (save slower guys like Mike Rupp, Clayton Stoner and Zenon Konopka) that would step up and go after opponents who tried to take a few liberties with our better players. Teams knew Clutterbuck was going to be looking to deliver a big hit if they tried to start something foolish with our skilled guys. Now that's gone.
The other deal that no one is spending much time talking about is the trade of the rights of Justin Falk for speedy forward Benn Ferriero. Ferriero might have Clutterbuck's speed but he certainly doesn't dish out hits in the same way the Welland, Ontario-native did. The former Boston College star could very well be a role player more than likely to have a place with the Iowa Wild rather than the Minnesota Wild. Ferriero played just 4 games with the Rangers last year and spent most of his time split between Wilkes/Barre Baby Penguins and the Connecticut Whale. Someone had to be lost in the numbers game and the inconsistent play, as well as a one-way contract held by Nate Prosser probably what prompted that deal to happen. The right winger will be also another depth player if injuries become a factor (knock on wood). The Wild effectively tried to ease some of its potential salary commitments with some of its restricted free agents. Niederreiter and Ferriero will no doubt be cheaper than Cal Clutterbuck and Justin Falk and the fact Fletcher was able to get some promise is encouraging and you can't doubt this man's willingness to make deals to help the club.