By Chip Scoggins
Hello everyone again. As Russo wrote earlier, Cal Clutterbuck signed a three-year contract extension Thursday. Clutterbuck was obviously very happy and appreciative when he talked to reporters after practice this morning at St. Thomas Arena.
"I think the best part for me is just being able to stay here and spend another three years here," he said. "It’s exciting for me because I got my start here and I love it here. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
"It obviously makes you feel good. It makes you feel like you’re valued, like you’re an integral part of the team. At the same time I really appreciate that they feel that way about me. I think hopefully it’s going to be a great three years for both sides."
Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher, who stopped by practice Thursday, said it was an easy decision to sign Clutterbuck to an extension.
"He’s an intense competitor, plays a highly physical brand of hockey," Fletcher said. "His offensive game continues to improve. We’re excited that he was willing to commit to us for the next three seasons."
Said Clutterbuck: "It’s always good to impress people. I think my first impression with the old regime was a favorable one. Sometimes you kind of wonder if the new people are going to think the same way. With this coming to fruition I think obviously it’s a reassurance that they feel the same way.
"I guess the only thing I can say is to keep working at it and good things will happen. I think it’s just a product of me being in a great place and being in a good organization last year and this year. It’s easy to come to work and work hard every day when you love what you’re doing and where you’re at."
Clutterbuck has made a name for himself with his energy and willingness to hit and be physical, but Wild coach Todd Richards thinks Clutterbuck's game will expand as he gains more experience.
"He’s still young," Richards said. "He’s still learning the game. He’s still establishing himself in the NHL. But I think this year his role has probably expanded a little bit. Maybe not as much as he wants, but he’s going to get opportunities down the road. He shoots the puck extremely well. I think there is room for him to become more of a threat offensively. But it’s that physical edge that he brings that needs to be part of his game no matter how old he is."
More extensions to come?
Fletcher indicated the organization is working to lock up a few more players to long-term contracts. As Russo has written, it sounds like they're close on defenseman Marek Zidlicky and Guillaume Latendresse, a restricted free agent at season's end, could be another candidate for an extension.
"Ideally we would like to continue to add to our core group of players and lock up some of the players that are currently here to multi-year deals and keep building our group," Fletcher said.
On Zidlicky, Fletcher said: "We continue to talk to his agent and we’ll see what transpires in the next few days. … Re-signing Zidlicky is a high priority for us. At this stage it’s probably early to say which way it will go. But we’re certainly going to hard work to try and keep him here."
On the trade deadline next Wednesday, Fletcher said he's had a lot of conversations but that it's "hard to handicap" whether the Wild will make a move.
"We’re certainly working at improving our club; whether that’s re-signing some of our players or making moves, we’ll continue to be active on both fronts," Fletcher said. "Our goal is to just get better and to continue to add young players that can be part of our team for the foreseeable future. It’s not that we’re looking to trade players, we’re just looking to add to our group."
On Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who remains sidelined because of a concussion, Fletcher had no new update, saying everything is "status quo."
"At this point it’s getting to be highly likely that he won’t be back this season," he said. "But there’s still a chance and we’ll continue to hope for the best."
Richards said he had not talked to Zidlicky or Martin Havlat after their Czech Republic team was eliminated from the Olympic tournament by Finland on Wednesday. But it doesn't sound like they will return to practice with the Wild before Sunday.
"They’re going to need some days off just to decompress, physically, mentally," Richards said. "I think the Olympics and everything they’ve gone through, it’s just that emotional roller-coaster that is very draining. I’m sure today they are feeling pretty tired."
Asked for his thoughts on the Olympic tournament overall, Richards said: "So far all my picks have been wrong. I’m excited just to see the finish, the final four teams. I think U.S.-Finland is going to be a great game. … I was real impressed with Canada last night [7-3 victory against Russia]. I was expecting more out of that game. But after you watch it and you see how Canada came out, I think the result fits the way that they played the game. They dominated from start to finish in every aspect of the game. They look like a gold medal favorite after last night’s game."