With one phone call Sunday at NHL Draft, Islanders management finalized a deal that embodied the club’s commitment to playing Head Coach Jack Capuano’s brand of “Islanders Hockey.”
The organization acquired veteran right wing Cal Clutterbuck and a third-round pick (later used to select Eamon McAdam) from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for 20-year-old prospect Nino Niederreiter.
“The addition of Cal to our lineup reinforces our identity, and that’s a hard-nosed team and a tough team to play against every night,” Capuano said. “I really like how hard he plays. That’ll rub off on other guys for sure. I think there’s a lot of things that are contagious when you get players like that. Other guys see it and their physical game picks up.”
Clutterbuck is a gritty player who has drawn comparisons to Islanders left wing Matt Martin for his willingness to throw the body. Before Martin broke Clutterbuck’s then-NHL record for hits in 2011-12, the newest Islander paced the league with 356 hits in his 2008-09 rookie season, and followed up with 318 in 2009-10 and 336 in 2010-11.
The Islanders anticipate Clutterbuck fitting in naturally with a group that made its mark this spring with punishing, physical play on its path to the postseason.
“I’m just trying to reinforce the team’s strength in that area,” Clutterbuck said of his physical play. “Obviously, it’s a huge part of my game – something that I try to bring every day. What I think people will come to realize about me is that I try to be as consistent as possible every game. Hopefully I can be another piece of the puzzle and help this organization get to where we all want to get to.”
Clutterbuck already has five full NHL seasons and more than 350 regular and postseason games under his belt. In his first four campaigns, he registered double-digit goal totals, including a banner year in 2010-11 with career-highs in goals (19), assists (15) and points (34). This spring with the Wild, he lit the lamp in his first career playoff game and added an assist later in the series.
Clutterbuck’s skill on the penalty kill may be put to use on the Island as well. He ranked second among Wild forwards in shorthanded ice time in 2013, and tied for the league lead with four shorthanded goals in 2011-12.
It’s these more polished, complete elements of the 25-year-old’s game that made him an attractive entity to Islanders management at the Draft.
“We got a good young player, who is established in the NHL,” Islanders General Manager Garth Snow said. “We love the element of grit and obviously he’s had success with putting the puck in the net and creating offense. For us, it’s immediate help.”
Martin, who led the league with 234 hits in 2013 (Clutterbuck was tied for ninth with 155), is excited to have another heavy hitter in orange and blue next season.
“When you have physical and gritty players up and down the lineup, those are the teams that seem to be successful. If you look at Boston – they’re full of gritty guys, and they’re a tough team. I think it’s going to help us. He’s a guy that’s been in the league for four, five years. I played against him in junior, and he likes to bang and crash. He had a couple good offensive seasons as well, so I think it’ll be good for the team.”
Eager to see the new forward work in the trenches next season, Capuano believes Clutterbuck’s integrity will mesh seamlessly in a room short on egos and long on character.
“Hockey is about brotherhood,” Capuano said. “Cal’s going to battle. He’s one of those guys that, when you’re lacing your skates up before a game, you look at him and you know that he’s got your back.”
ISLANDERS ACQUIRE CLUTTERBUCK | VIDEO: CLUTTERBUCK HIGHLIGHTS