Nick Bjugstad is headed home.
The Wild acquired the former Gophers and Blaine High School standout Friday from the Pittsburgh Penguins for a conditional seventh-round draft pick in 2021.
If Bjugstad plays in 70 games or scores 35 points, Pittsburgh will receive the pick from the Wild, an NHL source confirmed. The Penguins are also retaining half of Bjugstad’s salary.
The 28-year-old center has one season remaining on a six-year, $24.6 million contract before he will become an unrestricted free agent.
Not only does the move address one of the positions under Wild General Manager Bill Guerin’s microscope this offseason, but Bjugstad could benefit from a fresh start.
He missed most of last season due to injury, first getting sidelined in November with a core muscle injury that required surgery and a lengthy recovery. Then, in March after returning for just three games, he was out again and eventually underwent spinal surgery in May to fix a herniated disc.
He appeared in just 13 games, finishing with a goal and assist.
After getting drafted 19th overall in 2010 by Florida, the 6-foot-6, 215-pounder scored a career-high 24 goals in 2014-15 and had a career-best 49 points in 2017-18, his last full season with the Panthers. In 2019, he was traded to the Penguins.
Bjugstad played three seasons for the Gophers and was an all-WCHA player and second-team All-America. He was Mr. Hockey for the state of Minnesota in 2010 after a 69-point season for Blaine, and played in the 2011 and 2012 World Junior Championships.
Bjugstad gives the Wild depth at center. Mikko Koivu, whose contract expired, is not expected to be re-signed. Eric Staal, Joel Eriksson Ek and Victor Rask are the incumbent centers under contract for next season, while Nico Sturm is a restricted free agent. □