Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Posts about Wild trade news

Clutterbuck dealt to Islanders, reunited with Tavares; Wild acquires El Nino

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: June 30, 2013 - 5:53 PM


Early look at the trade...Clutterbuck and Garth Snow quotes are below
Chuck Fletcher didn’t trade into the first round of Sunday’s NHL draft, but in the mind of the Wild general manager, he did the next best thing.
Fletcher traded hard-hitting fan favorite Cal Clutterbuck and one of its two 2013 third-round picks to the New York Islanders for the Swiss kid known as “El Nino” -- Nino Niederreiter, a 20-year-old projected power forward who was drafted fifth overall in the 2010 draft.
“Two years from now it’ll be interesting to see how many of the kids that were selected today are at the level that Nino is right now,” Fletcher said. “This is a guy that’s knocking on the door. All the hype around the top picks today, and deservedly so, were on this guy two years ago and we’re just two years further down the road.”
The highest-drafted Swiss player in NHL history, Niederreiter finished 10th in goal scoring in the American Hockey League last season, scoring 28 goals and 50 points in 74 games for Bridgeport. He’s a European who decided to play Canadian juniors early, scoring 130 points in 120 games for the Portland Winterhawks.
"I’ll try to bring my size, my physical play as a power forward, and would like to bring the game I played in junior. I’m capable of scoring goals," Niederreiter said.
Clutterbuck, 25, a third-round pick in 2006, scored 62 goals and 110 points in 346 games for the Wild. He gained a reputation as one of the NHL’s most physical forwards, leading the league in hits (1,010) his first three full seasons.
But Clutterbuck was in the last year of his deal, coming off a tough year and the Wild, which is also strapped for salary-cap space, felt it was time it could parlay him into a player it hopes can contribute offensively.
“We’re acquiring a 20-year-old guy who’s been a proven goal scorer at every level short of the NHL so far,” Fletcher said.
Clutterbuck’s will be reunited with John Tavares, the No. 1 pick in the 2009, draft. The two were linemates in Oshawa, where Tavares was a superstar.
Fletcher said there was a lineup of teams in the East that sought Clutterbuck. He told teams from the West not to bother.
The trade gives the Wild three of the 30 first-round picks in 2010 (Mikael Granlund, 9th overall and Charlie Coyle, 28th overall). In fact, two hours before that 2010 draft, Niederreiter said the Wild, which was undoubtedly taking a forward with its first pick, called Niederreiter for one final meeting.
There, he said, the Wild told him how much it was interested in selecting him. The Islanders chose him four picks earlier.
But the relationship between Niederreiter and the Islanders became strained last year when he was called up from Bridgeport and played a handful of minutes a night on the fourth line. He was in and out of the lineup.
The summation by many in New York and Niederreiter’s camp was that the Islanders only had Niederreiter on the team so they could stay above the cap floor.
Niederreiter asked to be traded. That upset the Islanders. Niederreiter wasn’t invited to training camp, nor put on the playoff roster despite the fact he had a strong year in the minors.
“I didn’t have a strong year [in 2011-12], I didn’t get the chance I was hoping for, and then I didn’t get invited to camp, but I knew I had to work as hard as I can,” Niederreiter said. “I never really heard anything from the team, so I was just a little bit of disappointed about that. I wanted to see if they still wanted me and stuff.
“Now I got a new opportunity and I’m very excited about it.”
He has a $2.795 million cap hit, but that's including performance bonuses. You can go 7.5 percent over the cap, and his bonuses are major award-laden. So it may not be an issue. If it is, that's a good thing.
Fletcher said it's good to have four guys on two-ways like Niederreiter, Coyle, Granlund and Jason Zucker and nothing will be promised to them.
Islanders GM Garth Snow

We got a good young player that’s established in the NHL. We love the element of grit and he obviously has had success putting the puck in the net and creating offense. He brings immediate help and we’re happy about the trade.

Whenever you have a good, young player it’s tough to make a deal. But if we didn’t get Cal in return, it’s not something we would have considered. We got a quality player that’ll be inserted into our lineup to help our team win.

(Problems with Nino?) I’m not going to speak from (Niederreiter’s) perspective, but for us, no.

You’ve got to give up something to get something, and that’s what we did.


I had some foresight that I might be traded ahead of the draft, so it wasn’t a total shock. It’s a good situation for me and I’m excited.

I’ve known John (Tavares) since he came into the OHL as a fresh-faced, 14-year-old. We go back a ways. And he’s obviously a great player. It bodes well for the franchise going forward.

It’s tough to leave (Minnesota) for sure. It would have been a whole lot tougher if it were a midseason thing -- the summer is a little different, you have a little more time to let it sink in.

More later
Here's a Clutterbuck-Tavares story from a few years ago
If you want to witness a trash-talking extravaganza tonight, keep an eye on Cal Clutterbuck during warmups.
Just for fun, the Wild’s king of smack is planning to hurl a bunch of one-liners at the direction of Islanders prized rookie John Tavares, the No. 1 overall pick in last June’s draft.
“Just to get him thinking, I’ll be in his ear,” Clutterbuck said, laughing. “I know too many things about him, so it’ll be easy. Some of them I probably won’t even use because I’d probably break his heart if I did. I’ll make sure to tell him I still run his show.
“I’m excited to know what it’s like to play against him.”
Clutterbuck sure loved playing with Tavares, who scored the most goals in Ontario Hockey League history (215).
“He definitely helped my career, which I’m appreciative of,” said Clutterbuck, 22, who’s three years older than Tavares.
At the 2005 OHL trade deadline, Clutterbuck was dealt to the Oshawa Generals. The Generals were awful and were able to draft Tavares, then a 14-year-old phenom, first overall after the league created an “exceptional player” clause so Tavares could enter a year sooner than rules permitted.
“I used to make fun of him being so young. I called him, ‘My little pigeon, my little puppet,’” Clutterbuck said.
For two years, Clutterbuck and Tavares were linemates. In 2006-07, Tavares scored 72 goals to break Wayne Gretzky’s OHL record for goals by a 16-year-old and registered 134 points. That same year, Clutterbuck scored 35 goals and 89 points.
When Clutterbuck, the Wild’s third-round pick in 2006, left for Houston the following season, Tavares’ production “slipped” to 40 goals and 118 points.
“I realized last year how much I missed Cal’s presence,” Tavares said earlier this year. “He always had guys looking over their shoulders. He made guys second guess things and turn pucks over, and that created a lot of opportunities for myself.”
Clutterbuck said the most infamous hit was on superpest Patrick Kaleta, the former Peterborough Pete who now plays for the Buffalo Sabres. Kaleta used to take runs at Tavares every game until …
“I hit him with a football block,” Clutterbuck said, laughing. “He was going into kill Johnny and I came out of nowhere and just hammered him. Just laid him out. He never hit Johnny again. Johnny was the franchise guy and my job was to make sure nothing too crazy happened to him.”
Tavares said Clutterbuck “wasn’t always the most-liked guy in the league. I think he probably was the least.”
After several false rumors minutes before the NHL draft that the Islanders were going to select Matt Duchene, Snow snatched up Tavares. He hasn’t disappointed, leading all NHL rookies with nine goals and 19 points.
“He’s exactly as good as everybody said he was,” Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford said.
Like the debate currently going on now between 2010 draft-eligible OHL stars Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin, every facet of Tavares’ game was picked apart last season.
“Go back and look what he did in junior hockey and just go look at his numbers. They’re ridiculous,” NHL analyst and former North Stars Director of Player Personnel Craig Button said. “I go back to [1984] with Mario Lemieux and Kirk Muller. There were public arguments that maybe Kirk should be No. 1.
“Mario Lemieux had more goals than Kirk Muller had total points. But people watched them so much, they were picked apart. It’s like in [2005]. People were saying if Phil Kessel was in that draft that Sidney Crosby might not go No. 1. That’s laughable.
“Last year, it was one thing if you were going to debate taking a 6-6 unique defenseman like Victor Hedman over Tavares. You can make that argument. But when people were trying to make the argument between Brayden Schenn and John Tavares, or Matt Duchene and John Tavares, I mean, come on.”
Clutterbuck found all the second-guessing of Tavares hysterical.
“There’s always been a question about his skating. Well, look at any level he’s played at, his skating has never hindered his ability to do anything,” Clutterbuck said. “He just manages to score. He’s 19 and he’s already a dangerous offensive weapon in the NHL. He’s going to score a lot of goals in this league.”


Wild trades Justin Falk to the Rangers; Wild needs defensemen

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: June 30, 2013 - 12:45 PM

On a day where there is expected to be a flurry of activity, the Wild started things off  with a minor move -- dealing defenseman Justin Falk to the New York Rangers for a 2014 sixth-round pick and the rights to pesky right wing Benn Ferriero.

The Rangers had to trade an expiring contract, so we will see what the future holds for Ferriero. The Wild could be just doing the Rangers a favor.

Ferriero, a decent depth player the past few years for the Rangers and Sharks, is a restricted free agent. The Wild hasn't talked to his representatives, so we'll see if he ends up being a depth player for the Wild.

Ferriero, 26, has one assist in four games for the Rangers last year. He had 30 points in 57 games for AHL Connecticut and Wilkes-Barre.

In 96 career games for San Jose and the Rangers, Ferriero has scored 14 goals and 23 points. Two of those goals have come against Minnesota.

Falk was a restricted free agent that the Wild had yet to tender a qualifying offer. But he's an NHL defenseman, so the Wild knew it could at least get a pick for him. This also gives Falk new scenery and a chance to become an everyday player.

The 6-foot-5 2007 fourth-rounder had 15 points in 108 games for the Wild. He was in and out of the lineup this past season and Falk said his agent and the Wild kept him up to date the last few days that a trade may be on the horizon.

“I’m excited about the new opportunity here,” Falk said. “It’s a new chapter that I’m looking forward to. I’m thankful of the opportunity Minnesota gave me to get into the league. This is a new opportunity to continue to develop. That’s my main concern. I felt I didn’t quite develop the way that I would have liked this last year. I want to continue to build my career, and this is a new start in New York.”

The Wild's blue line now looks like this:

Ryan Suter-Jonas Brodin

Marco Scandella-Jared Spurgeon (unsigned)

Clayton Stoner-Tom Gilbert

Nate Prosser

Scandella spent most of last season in the minors. Gilbert may be traded or bought out. Prosser couldn't get much playing time.

So one thing we know: The Wild will be in the market for a defenseman or two this summer.

I've been reporting that the asking price for Cal Clutterbuck today has been a second and a prospect. I hear one concept the Wild has explored the past few days is getting a defenseman back in a trade for Clutterbuck.

One team that has shown a lot of interest the past few days is Pittsburgh. The Wild has had interest in the past in Simon Despres, but the one guy I keep hearing is Virginia, Minn., native Matt Niskanan.

The draft starts at 2. As of now, the Wild has eight picks -- the first coming at No. 46. The Wild continues to try to trade into the first round.

Wild GM Chuck Fletcher: "We’re no longer a seller"

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: April 3, 2013 - 6:36 PM
The Wild tried hard on Tuesday to trade for San Jose’s Ryane Clowe, but he wanted to go East.
In fact, this morning, from people I talked to, it was clear the Wild felt it offered a better package to the Sharks than they wound up receiving from the Rangers. But Clowe had the hammer with a no-trade clause and chose New York.
From seeing what the Wild was willing to give up to get Buffalo Sabres captain Jason Pominville, you can bet what I was hearing is accurate.
As you know by now, the Wild traded Johan Larsson, Matt Hackett, a 2013 first-round pick and a 2014 second-round pick to the Sabres for Pominville, who has scored 20-or-more goals the past six seasons and twice 30, and a 2014 fourth-round pick. Pominville, when he arrives hopefully tomorrow, will be slotted on the right side of Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu for an all-Captain line.
Pominville is just an all-situation guy. PK, point on the power play, does all the little things, versatile, booming shot, etc.
I just talked on the phone to his linemate, Thomas Vanek, who said, "We all heard Darcy's (GM Regier) comments that he could be gone, but when it happens, I was shocked. It's part of the business, but we're losing, myself also, I'm losing a great teammate in the locker room, somebody I was with for eight years, and a good friend. He's such a great player and linemate. The Wild, they're lucky. Just a smart, good hockey player who can adapt to any situation and make his linemates better. He's going to really help them. We're going to miss him a lot. Jason is as good a guy as there is."
But big, big price from the Wild. Chuck Fletcher explains why below.
First of all, “We’re really excited. Our players have played hard and played well this year. I believe we’re improving as an organization. We’re starting to take some positive steps. It was important if we could find the right fit at the right piece, I think it was important for us to try to continue to upgrade our talent and improve our team.
“You never know what can happen, but today was an important today. We’re no longer a seller. We want to keep pushing forward and want to compete for talent. It’s just a good day for our franchise.”
On Pominville: “He’s scored 30 goals in the league, he’s had 70 points, he’s a team captain. He’s a hard-working, 200-foot player, and I think like some of our other top players, like Parise and Koivu and Backstrom and Suter and you can go right down the list, not only is he talented, he’s got a hard-working mentality and a high level of character.
“He plays the point on the power play, he kills penalties. He’s just a guy that brings a lot of dimensions and versatility and a player that could fit into a lot of different roles.”
You paid a huge price: “There’s no question, we paid a price. Jason’s a talented player, he’s not a rental, he has term left on his deal (one year), he’s the captain of his team and he’s a guy that we wanted. Anytime you want a good player who’s not a rental, you’re going to pay a price.
“(Assistant GM) Brent Flahr and his staff have done a great job for us. They’ve drafted very well. We’ve been able to apply a lot of young assets over the last few years, and the fact that we have really good depth in terms of talented young players, it allowed us the opportunity to pursue a player like Pominville. We have plenty of assets in the cupboard and plenty of talented, young players at evev position. The last few years, our focus have been to gather prospects and picks, but our team is growing and showing some positive signs, at times you’ve got to dip into that pool of talent that you’ve accumulated and pay some assets to get in this case an All-Star NHL player.”
Basically, the price was obviously high, but the way the Wild sees it, the foundation of the franchise for years is in place with top-liners Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu and No. 1 defenseman Ryan Suter. Then, there future cornerstone forwards Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker and Mikael Granlund and blue-chip defensemen Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba.
From there, the Wild is developing defenseman Marco Scandella, forwards Brett Bulmer, Zack Phillips, Tyler Graovac, Raphael Bussieres, is loaded with other college-level players from Mario Lucia and Erik Haula to Adam Gilmour and John Draeger.
It still has two hotshot goalie prospects with Darcy Kuemper and Johan Gustafsson, who plans to come to North America next year.
So since there’s only so many positions on a hockey team and so many contracts permitted to be handed out, the Wild felt it could afford to give up the hefty price and potentially lose a couple top draft picks.
“Hey, we recognize that we paid a price,” Fletcher said. “Johan Larsson and Matt Hackett are good, young hockey players. And anytime you trade a first-round pick, you’re obviously paying a significant price. But as a franchise we’ve spent a lot of time accumulating assets and trading for draft picks, and I think it’s a positive sign that as a franchise we’re now trading prospects and picks to acquire players. Typically that means you’re moving in the right direction. There’s always a balance. You can’t make these moves all the time. But if you never make them, how do you get better?”
Does this mean win now or bust though? “Again, he’s not a rental. He has term on his contract. And again, we still have a lot of really good young players. Brent and his staff have shown the ability to draft well and I have no doubt they will continue to. Our goal is to win as many games as we can. We feel we’re a competitive team, we have work to do, but we’re trending in the right direction. We want to keep pushing that. We’re not shy about our desire to get better. We’re going to be a competitive team for a long time.”
I asked Fletcher what this means going forward for guys like Backstrom and Matt Cullen and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who are in the last year of their deals, and Dany Heatley, who is an amnesty buyout candidate this summer. The Wild is only $9 million from next year’s $64.3 million cap without buying out Heatley or maybe re-upping Backstrom or Cullen and before re-signing restricted free agents like Cal Clutterbuck and Jared Spurgeon.
“At the end of the year we’ll sort it all out. There’s a lot of hockey left to play. We have flexibility to do the things we need to do, but that’s a conversation for another day.”
By the way, the Wild still has two thirds this summer (one extra for Sheppard) and two sevenths and then all their picks from Rounds 2-7.
Right now, the hope is Pominville can meet the team in L.A. and debut tomorrow, but that is not set in stone yet. I have left messages for Pominville, known as one of the most accomodating athletes in the NHL by the way, but haven't talked to him yet. I'm sure he's swamped with his life being uprooted.
The Wild also acquired goalie Jeff Deslauriers from Anaheim for future considerations (nothing). He’ll take Darcy Kuemper’s spot in Houston until hopefully Josh Harding is ready to return.
Lastly, and I’ll leave you with this, Fletcher is always looking and thinking ahead. Pominville was Thomas Vanek’s linemate. They are very close. Vanek has been quoted in the past saying he wasn’t too keen being a part of a rebuild in Buffalo. He’s a free agent in the summer of 2014.
Is acquiring Pominville the precursor to pursuing Vanek, the former Gopher, in two summers? Just something to keep in your head from somebody who, if you’ve read me for awhile, guessed for three years that the Wild had its eyes set on the summer of 2012 to go after Parise.
It just makes sense. Regardless, the Wild keeps making bold moves, from the Brent Burns-Devin Setoguchi one, to the Dany Heatley for Marty Havlat one to signing Parise and Suter to this.
Its eventual goal, besides winning, of course, is to show all players in the NHL that Minnesota wants to win and should be considered a destination the way markets like Pittsburgh, the Rangers, Philly, Detroit always have been.
A lot more in tomorrow’s paper and the coming days. Oh, and there’s a game tonight, so more later. I’ll be on Fox Sports North during the second intermission tonight.

Wild has acquired Buffalo Sabres captain Jason Pominville

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: April 3, 2013 - 3:32 PM
The Wild has acquired Buffalo Sabres captain Jason Pominville and a 2014 fourth-round pick for Matt Hackett, Johan Larsson, a 2013 first-round pick and a 2014 second-round pick.
Clearly a huge price, but one from a team that has missed the playoffs for four straight years, is looking to win now and is full of young prospects right now and core pieces that are going to be mainstays on the team for a long time.
The 30-year-old Pominville, a right winger, was asked to submit a list of eight teams to the Sabres that he would not accept a trade to.
Minnesota was not on that list.
Pominville, Thomas Vanek's linemate and 2001 second-round pick has played full 82-game seasons in five of his six full years. He has scored 185 goals and 456 points in 578 games. He’s a two-time 30-goal scorer who has also topped 20 goals four other times.

He has scored 10 goals and 25 points in 37 games this year.
"Heck of a player," Zach Parise said as he left the ice. "Heck of a player."
Later, outside the locker room, Parise said he played on a line with Pominville at the 2008 world championships in Halifax.
“He works hard. You just look at the way he’s been used, he plays power play, penalty kill, reliable, but he puts pucks in the net, he makes plays, he gets point. He plays a really all-around game. That’s what we’re going to see.”
On the acquisition, Parise said, “It’s really exciting for us. It just gives you the sense that they believe in the way we’ve been playing and they believe in our team. Now it’s up to us to elevate our game even more. But just that addition, it really gives us a good look and a lot of good, offensive players.”
Pominville has one more year left on a five-year, $26.5 million deal. That’s a $5.3 million cap hit with $5.5 million in real salary next year.
Hackett, 23, was a third-round pick in 2009. In two years with the Wild, he went 3-7 with a 2.64 goals against average.
Larsson, 20, a 2010 second-rounder who captained Sweden to gold at the world juniors in January 2012, made his NHL debut earlier this season.
Coach Mike Yeo said he couldn’t speak until the trade was official.
“What I will say is I know that management has a lot of faith in this group and right from Day One has always been very committed to doing whatever we can to put a great product on the ice.”
On pulling Hackett and Larsson from the ice, Yeo said, “That is always a tough part of it. It’s not an easy thing, for sure.
“Especially for young kids, you just don’t quite know what’s going on. I’m able to say very little. Obviously we know it sure sounds like something is going on.”
Darcy Kuemper has been recalled by the Wild and is on his way to San Jose. Nate Prosser will likely have to play wing tonight.
The lines will be mix and match tonight. Charlie Coyle may begin to see shifts at center because Pominville, whom I assume will debut tomorrow night in Los Angeles, would skate with Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu.
Tonight, Kyle Brodziak will center Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley. Pierre-Marc Bouchard will skate with Cal Clutterbuck. That was the line Larsson was supposed to center tonight.
More to come.

Johan Larsson and Matt Hackett pulled from Wild ice

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: April 3, 2013 - 1:30 PM

UPDATE: Johan Larsson and Matt Hackett were just pulled from the ice here in San Jose. Trade coming

I am hearing through reliable sources that there could be a big pending trade coming down with the Wild.

Houston Aeros goalie Darcy Kuemper has been sent to the Houston airport with his equipment bag packed, sources tell me. The kicker though is he has not yet been told where he is going or if he is going anywhere.

My gut tells me he may be coming here to San Jose. If that were the case,  the Wild could be on the verge of trading Matt Hackett. That would obviously be part of a bigger trade.

More to come as this evolves, but I do still know the Wild is heavily going after Buffalo's Jason Pominville.




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