Last week, Chuck Fletcher said he would wait until after the season to talk to potential unrestricted free agents Niklas Backstrom and Matt Cullen about contract extensions.
On Monday, the Wild general manager said he similarly doesn’t feel pressure to necessarily extend the contracts of potential restricted free agents Cal Clutterbuck and Jared Spurgeon before the April 3 trade deadline.
“We’ve had conversations with their agents, but nothing’s really a sprint right now,” Fletcher said. “We’ll just wait and see how things finish up. The deadline will have nothing to do with it.”
With potential Group II free agents, GMs typically talk to agents prior to the trade deadline in order to gauge their eventual contract demands. If they’re out of whack, sometimes GMs will trade the players.
Fletcher said that won’t happen with Clutterbuck or Spurgeon.
Clutterbuck has arbitration rights, meaning “there is a marketplace,” Fletcher said. “I don’t anticipate any major problems with Clutter.”
Spurgeon, 23, continues to be quite a find. Coming off his entry-level deal, the former Islanders draft pick who never was signed by New York, gets top-four minutes and plays in every situation for Minnesota.
“There are lots of D [in the NHL] coming out of entry level, and [their second contracts] are all over the map,” Fletcher said when asked what type of comparables there are to Spurgeon. “Some guys get one-year deals, some get six.
“We’ll have to sit down and see what makes sense. We just have to be careful and sign players at the right number. Next year, the [salary] cap goes down to $64.3 million [from $70.2 million], and after that, who knows?
“It looks like revenues are coming back [since the lockout]. But we just have to be patient.”
Clutterbuck is a top penalty killer who coach Mike Yeo relies on in a checking-line role as well. He proved his mettle again in the Wild’s 7-4 victory at Dallas on Monday by brushing off a painful first-period leg injury to help set up two third-period goals, including Kyle Brodziak’s short-handed winner.
Yeo said he feels one reason for the Wild’s success lately is its physical play.
“We take straight lines, we’re playing the body,” Yeo said. “It’s tough for other teams to execute. Watch how many times guys are quick to rush a play [when Clutterbuck’s coming].”
Spurgeon, coming off a career-best plus-5 and two assists vs. the Stars, has 10 points in the past 13 games after a rough return from missing nine games because of a leg injury.
“He’s jumped back on the horse,” Yeo said. “He’s been very good for us, and we need him to be.”
Quite a line
Almost every shift Monday, the Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Charlie Coyle line attacked the net. Parise and Koivu combined for three goals and five points, and the line had 13 shots.
“It’s coming for [Koivu and I], and Charlie, too,” Parise said. “We’re almost getting to the point where we know where the other guy’s going to be without looking. You saw a couple blind passes that Mikko made in front of the net and right on the tape.”
Four of the Wild’s seven goals Monday came by crashing the net. The Wild has 27 goals during the six-game winning streak (4.5 per game) and has scored four or more goals seven times in the past 13 games after doing so twice in the first 18.
Once 30th in the NHL in scoring, the Wild is now 15th (2.68 goals per game).
“I love the way that we’re scoring goals,” Yeo said. “Obviously there’s skill involved. But it’s matching our identity that we’re a hard team. We’re physical. We defend hard. Offensively we’re going to be hard the way we get to the net and wear on teams.”
The Wild’s penalty kill ranks fourth in the NHL at 85.6 percent, and Monday, it won the Wild a game.
Not only did Brodziak score the team’s first short-handed goal after Mike Rupp’s double minor in a tie game with 7:42 left, the Wild — led by Backstrom — followed up by killing the four minutes.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who are smart hockey players out there who are also very hard workers, and that’s what you need on the PK,” Brodziak said.