It’s clear there’s still work to be done, but Nino Niederreiter’s agent, Andre Rufener, said Tuesday morning that he’s “very positive” his client will sign a new contract with the Wild by the time players report for training camp next Thursday.
The agent said Niederreiter is such a “Wild at heart,” the 22-year-old winger wanted no part of a giant contract offer from a “very good” Kontinental Hockey League team all summer long.
“We are close [to a contract with the Wild] and I really hope and I truly believe that we can get it done,” Rufener said by phone from Switzerland earlier this morning. “It’s in our best interest to get it done before camp, so that’s what we’re trying to do.
“I’m very positive about it [getting done]. I will be disappointed if we could not get it done. We’re very close and we cannot let that slide through our fingers from both sides.”
Rufener and the Wild have exchanged a plethora of ideas on contracts ranging from two to six years, the agent said, with General Manager Chuck Fletcher coming up with another “new, interesting idea” on a long-term contract Monday.
“We have to take a look into this,” Rufener said. “It’s interesting and it’s a possibility. At this point, it’s not clear yet. Terms are not clear yet. There’s still several options. We’re working on it and Chuck tells me, too, that it’s in our best interest to get this done in the next week, by next Wednesday. That’s what we want to do.”
Niederreiter, who scored 14 goals last season after coming to the Wild from the Islanders in the Cal Clutterbuck trade in June 2013, came up large in Game 7 of the first round of last year’s playoffs against Colorado. He scored two goals and one assist, including setting up Jared Spurgeon for a late tying goal and scoring the series-clinching goal in overtime.
“He is in great shape. He had a great summer,” said Rufener. “He practiced really hard. He’s really motivated.”
Fletcher, who declined to comment on negotiations with unsigned Darcy Kuemper and Niederreiter on Monday, has previously said it is important to get the Niederreiter deal correct with so many contracts to young players expiring next summer (most notably Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin, Erik Haula and Marco Scandella).
“The negotiations have gone a little longer than we all expect,” Rufener said. “That didn’t bother us at all because we have a good relationship with the Wild. Of course, it’s a tough negotiation. I understand Chuck’s side with all the contracts coming up in the next year, but of course on the other side I have to protect my player. We are negotiating Nino Niederreiter’s contract and I’m going to make sure he gets what I think he deserves in my opinion. This contract will not affect any other contract or any future contract. Where we’re at right now, it’s going to be a fair deal.
“But I understand Chuck’s point. He understands my point. It’s just a normal, in my opinion, good negotiation where everybody is negotiating in good faith.”
In fact, Rufener said he has had an “unbelievable offer” from a KHL team in his fingertips for two months and Niederreiter will be “leaving over a million and a quarter bucks net after taxes on the table playing in Minnesota and not Russia. That’s a lot of money. This guy is a Wild at heart. A Wild at heart.
“I told Nino up front, ‘this [KHL offer] might be the only leverage we have,’ but it’s not really leverage because Nino made clear he wants to play in the NHL and for Minnesota.”
Niederreiter is scheduled to arrive in Minnesota on Wednesday and even without a new contract yet is expected to skate in the Wild’s informal practices until camp begins next week.