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Inside the Game: Why Fritsche fits

by Staff Writer / Minnesota Wild
By Chris Snow

Director of Hockey Operations
This morning we completed a swap with the Rangers of defenseman Erik Reitz for center/winger Dan Fritsche.

When analyzing why so few deals are made in the NHL these days, our general manager, Doug Risebrough, often uses the word "fit," as in: "Fits are hard to find." This deal is a clear “fit” for both teams.

News: Wild acquires Fritsche
PONDcast: Intro to Dan Fritsche
Video: Fritsche's Highlight File
With our defense healthy we could not find a way to get Reitz into the lineup. The Rangers, through 112 days of the season, had carried the minimum six defensemen (Marc Staal, Wade Redden, Michal Rozsival, Daniel Girardi, Paul Mara and Dmitri Kalinin) for all but 16 days. That's quite a statement, given the number of injuries across the league. Reitz fit for the Rangers because he competes hard, has an expiring contract and is a low-cost option (about $200,000 for the balance of the season) for a team with little cap space.

Fritsche, a valued center/winger in Columbus the past few years, was dealt to New York in July along with high-scoring winger Nikolai Zherdev for defensemen Fedor Tyutin and Christian Backman, and he was not a fit in the Rangers' lineup. The Rangers already were full down the middle (Scott Gomez, Chris Drury, Brandon Dubinsky, Blair Betts) and rather full at wing, as they signed Markus Naslund, Aaron Voros and Patrick Rissmiller about the same time as they acquired Fritsche. He played in just 16 games.

We think Fritsche fits in our lineup because we've been playing with just one spare winger and no spare centerman. Fritsche can play center or wing, is a determined player who is hard to play against, has won (he won two championships as an amateur), and is experienced for a young player. Consider the whirlwind year that followed his selection, 46th overall by Columbus, in June 2003.

That fall, as an 18-year-old, he played 19 games in the NHL with Columbus before being released to Team USA for the World Junior Championship, where he won gold. Columbus then assigned him back to his junior team in Sarnia, Ontario. Following Sarnia's playoff loss, he joined Columbus' AHL team in Syracuse, N.Y., for four playoff games. The next year, as a 19-year-old, Fritsche began with Sarnia, played for Team USA again at the World Juniors, and was traded to the London Knights of the OHL, where he won a Memorial Cup. The next year he became a full-time NHL player. At age 23, he's already appeared in 222 games.

Fritsche's contract also is a fit. He makes $875,000. The NHL cap is calculated by taking a full-year cap number, dividing the number by 186 (the number of days in the season), and multiplying by the number of days remaining in the season. By this equation, Fritsche's cap number for our team will be approximately $350,000. This leaves us about $2.5 million under the cap, which is where we strategically want to be this time of year in the run-up to the March 4 trade deadline.

Previous editions ...

Jan. 26, 2009: The Outliers: Three teams win at historic rate
Jan. 21, 2009: Thoughts about our team at the All-Star break
Jan. 2, 2009: On ... Marian Gaborik's surgery

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