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

Posted by: Michael Russo under Rookies, Wild off-season news, Wild trade news 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.

Clutterbuck

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
 
By MICHAEL RUSSO
 
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.”

 

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