NEWARK, N.J. -- Minnesota Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher didn't make a pick in the first round Sunday in the 2013 NHL Draft at Prudential Center, but he said he may have acquired the equivalent of one in a trade with the New York Islanders.
The Wild traded forward Cal Clutterbuck and a third-round pick (No. 70) to the Islanders for forward Nino Niederreiter, a 20-year-old prospect who was the No. 5 pick in the 2010 NHL Draft.
"We're talking about a guy who was selected in the top five. That's a pretty high level of prospect," Fletcher said. "Two years from now, it'll be interesting to see how many of the kids that were selected [Sunday] are at the level he's at now. This is a guy that is knocking on the door. All the hype around the top kids [Sunday], and deservedly so, was around this guy two years ago. We're just two years further down the road, and from our standpoint, that's attractive."
In Clutterbuck, who will become a restricted free agent if he isn't signed by July 5, the Islanders acquired a gritty right wing who played 346 games over the past six seasons with the Wild. He has 110 points and 337 penalty minutes, with 10 points and 27 penalty minutes in 42 games in 2012-13.
Fletcher said he was not going to trade Clutterbuck to a Western Conference team, but he had a long list of teams lining up to try to acquire the 25-year-old.
"For us, it's immediate help and we're happy about the trade," Islanders general manager Garth Snow said. "Whenever you have a good young player it's always tough to make a deal, but for us if we didn't get Cal in return it's something we wouldn't have considered. We got a quality player who's going to be inserted into our lineup and help our team win."
Niederreiter spent the 2012-13 season in the American Hockey League after playing 55 games with the Islanders in 2011-12. He had what appeared to be a falling out with the club after the work stoppage, when he was not invited to training camp. Niederreiter reportedly asked for a trade and was never called up during the 2012-13 season. He had 28 goals and 50 points in 74 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
Fletcher said he was aware of what happened with Niederreiter and the Islanders, but it didn't send up any warnings to prevent him from making the trade. He said the Wild were hoping to draft Niederreiter in 2010, but they didn't have a chance because he was gone before they picked Mikael Granlund at No. 9.
"We did a ton of homework on him leading up to the 2010 draft, and certainly our scouts have watched him every way," Fletcher said. "The hockey world is pretty small. It's not hard to get information on people. There are no red flags from our perspective. At the end of the day, he's a 20-year-old player, and I'm sure like any 20-year-old kids, maybe he made a couple of decisions that five, 10 years later you look back and say, 'Why did I do that?' He'll certainly have a clean slate with us. His size and scoring ability are two ingredients that we could certainly use."
The Islanders are happy to get Clutterbuck's toughness and two-way ability. Snow said Clutterbuck is the exact type of player they were looking for in order to build on their run to the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Clutterbuck is friendly with John Tavares; the two played junior hockey together with the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League.
"It was obviously an opportunity to get a quality player and one that fills a need that we have and we gave up a former first-round pick," Snow said. "You have to give up something to get something and we did that."
Fletcher is particularly happy Niederreiter is under a two-way contract. The GM now has four prospects, including Granlund, Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker, on two-way contracts for 2013-14.
Coyle, like Niederreiter and Granlund, was picked in the first round of the 2010 draft. The San Jose Sharks chose Coyle with the No. 28 pick but traded him a year later in the deal that sent Brent Burns to Northern California.
"Nothing will be promised to any of them and hopefully it provides healthy competition in training camp," Fletcher said of the four prospects. "They can sort it out with their play. We have that ability to have four young guys that will be a big part of our future and have some flexibility with them next year."