SHERWOOD PARK, ALBERTA - Erik Reitz's gut started churning the moment he spotted communications manager Aaron Sickman walking his way on the Wild's plane Thursday morning before it left Minnesota.
"I was just about to watch my fishing show on my little DVD player when Sicky came up to me and said, 'Erik, get your bag. Doug wants to talk to you in the lobby [of Signature Aviation],'" Reitz said, referring to Wild General Manager Doug Risebrough. "I thought, 'Uh-oh, that isn't normal.'"
No, it wasn't.
Reitz, taken in the sixth round of the Wild's first NHL draft 8 1/2 years ago, was dealt to the New York Rangers for forward Dan Fritsche in a swap of players in dire need of new beginnings.
Reitz, a defenseman, had been scratched in nine of the past 10 games, while Fritsche, who will make his Wild debut tonight against the Edmonton Oilers, has been scratched in every Rangers game but one since Nov. 30.
"I've been hoping and waiting -- no, praying -- for this day to come," said Fritsche, 23. "I don't think excited really even describes it. I can think of a million different things [as to why I didn't play] in New York. Coaches have their guys. It's been a long year for me up to this point."
Fritsche, a native of the Cleveland suburb of Parma, Ohio, and drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the second round in 2003, has scored 67 points in 222 NHL games.
He won a gold medal with the United States in the 2004 world junior championships and a Memorial Cup with the Ontario Hockey League's London Knights in 2005. Traded to the Rangers from Columbus along with star Nikolai Zherdev, Fritsche quickly fell out of favor with coach Tom Renney and got squeezed behind a deep forward corps.
Fritsche was placed on waivers Tuesday but cleared Wednesday.
"I was very bummed out," Fritsche said.
Risebrough could have plucked Fritsche off waivers, but he wanted to retain salary-cap flexibility by trading a salary for him. He called his old pal, Rangers GM Glen Sather, for the first time Thursday morning.
Fritsche, who will be a restricted free agent after this season, has a cap hit of about $344,000 (the prorated portion of $875,000), while Reitz has a cap hit of about $197,000 left on his $500,000 salary.
"I'm sure [Fritsche's] confidence isn't real high right now," Risebrough said. "That's part of our job to build it back. ... At his age, with his experience level -- 200-plus games in the league -- it's a chance for him to find a home with a team that's looking to get younger."
Fritsche can play both wing and center, but his value to the Wild will be as a third- or fourth-line center after Benoit Pouliot and Krys Kolanos didn't pan out.
"I play with a lot of energy and a lot of emotion," Fritsche said. "I take pride in winning every little battle. I think my biggest asset is my speed. I'm a really fast player. I get the puck, and I like to go with it."
Former Blue Jackets GM Doug MacLean drafted Fritsche. He received a number of calls from GM's on Tuesday when Fritsche was on waivers.
"I recommended him to every team. He's just a heart-and-soul kid," MacLean said. "Danny can fit in with that group real well in Minny. He's a guy who will compete hard, and I think he suits their style a little more [than the Rangers].
"He battles. Some people question his hockey sense. I don't."
Risebrough said callup Peter Olvecky will remain with the team on the road trip. Coach Jacques Lemaire hadn't decided yet whether Olvecky will make his NHL debut tonight as a winger.
Lemaire liked Olvecky in Thursday's practice after Olvecky showed "nothing" in training camp.
As for Reitz, 26, who played 37 career games with the Wild, Risebrough said the trade was a reward for being "patient with us. But I needed to find something else. He'll have a chance to play there a lot more than here, especially with the potential of [injured defenseman Kurtis] Foster coming back."