In the years when the New York Islanders consistently finished at the bottom of the standings, then-general manager Garth Snow made one of the most talked-about trades among Islanders fans. It was a simple swap of Nino Niederreiter for Cal Clutterbuck, but the deal will always be debated. Let’s take a look back at the trade that was made on July 1, 2013, between the Islanders and the Minnesota Wild.
In every season that Clutterbuck played in at least 70 games for the Wild, he scored at least ten goals. When he came to the Islanders, he had only one year when he reached double figures, which was in 2015-16. As his goal-scoring went down, he turned himself into a two-way player.
Now playing alongside Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin on the fourth line, the trio matches up against the opposition’s top offensive line and occasionally scores big-time goals. Their defensive style of play was on display when the Islanders held Sidney Crosby to one point in their first-round sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2019 Playoffs.
Clutterbuck is also an excellent penalty killer. He continues to be an agitator and gets underneath his opponent’s skin. He is also a leader in the dressing room and is an alternate captain under Anders Lee.
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Unfortunately, he has had a hard time staying healthy. Clutterbuck missed roughly two months after Patrice Bergeron’s skate accidentally cut his wrist earlier this season. He has missed at least six games every season in New York.
Some players are most remembered for one moment with a team. For Niederreiter, that came in the Stanley Cup Playoffs nine months after he was traded to the Wild. He scored the series-winning goal in overtime in Game 7 to help the Wild beat the Colorado Avalanche in the first round in 2014.
That season, Niederreiter only scored 14 regular-season goals in 81 games but followed that up with three consecutive 20-goal seasons. He scored 18 in 2017-18 and was then dealt to the Carolina Hurricanes for Victor Rask, who has scored only seven goals in over a season and a half in Minnesota.
Result of Trade
Clutterbuck has had more of an impact on the Islanders playing one of the best fourth lines in the NHL. Niederreiter, however, had the better run of big goals. The common theme is that neither of them has lived up to their contracts of lat, including Rask now.
All three players are making over $3.5 million a season but did not have a great 2019-20. Niederreiter had the most goals of the three with 11. That can all change with the new playoff format if any team can make a run for the Stanley Cup. Sill, for the Islanders, who don’t have much cap room, it is hard to pay $3.5 million to Clutterbuck, who is so susceptible to an injury. The Islanders were clearly not impressed with Niederreiter when they traded him. He received less ice time and was demoted to the fourth line to play alongside Marty Reasoner and Jay Pandolfo.
In the end, Snow missed out on a handful of future all-stars in the draft with Niederreiter where this all could have been avoided. The best player from that draft is Vladimir Tarasenko, who went 16th overall. Still, there were also available players in Evgeny Kuznetsov, Cam Fowler, Jaden Schwartz and Jeff Skinner that the Islanders missed out on.
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The struggle with drafting and developing prospects is one of the reasons the Islanders went 23 years without a playoff series win. The hope would have been the Islanders could have acquired someone with a bit more potential for a top-five pick than a fourth-line winger Even though Ryan Strome failed to develop with the Islanders as a top-five pick, they still were able to acquire Jordan Eberle in a deal for their 2011 first-round pick.
However, they seemed to have gotten over the tough times with back-to-back playoff appearances in 2019 and 2020. They will look to make for a long run this season with Clutterbuck, as the Islanders are getting ready to face the Florida Panthers in the play-in games this summer.