NEWARK - The Islanders did not have a top-five draft pick Sunday, but they still made a move at the beginning of the draft, trading disgruntled prospect Nino Niederreiter to the Minnesota Wild for agitating forward Cal Clutterbuck.
Clutterbuck, 25, a junior teammate of John Tavares, led the NHL in hits from 2008-11. He was a fan favorite in five seasons with the Wild and hopes to bring the same edge to his new team.
"I just try to bring an element that not many other people can bring," said Clutterbuck, who is a restricted free agent and knew he was likely to be dealt Sunday. "I'm going to help [the Islanders] succeed any way I can."
Niederreiter was the No. 5 pick in the 2010 draft and came to the club in 2011-12 with loads of promise, but things soured in his rookie season. Niederreiter had only one point in 56 games and grew disenchanted with his role. When Niederreiter wasn't called up from Bridgeport for the abbreviated 2013 season training camp in January, his agent publicly demanded a trade. That left general manager Garth Snow working this offseason to unload the big wing.
Snow offered Niederreiter to the Kings for goaltender Jonathan Bernier and ultimately settled on a smaller return, also receiving Minnesota's third-round pick Sunday.
"We got a good young player that's established in the NHL," Snow said. "We love the element of grit and he obviously has had success putting the puck in the net and creating offense. He brings immediate help and we're happy about the trade."
So was Niederreiter, who was looking for a fresh start.
"I didn't have a strong year [in 2011-12]," he said. "I didn't get the chance I was hoping for and then I didn't get invited to camp, but I knew I had to work as hard as I can. I never really heard anything from the team, so I was just a little bit disappointed about that. I wanted to see if they still wanted me and stuff. Now I got a new opportunity and I'm very excited about it."
The Islanders soon may rid themselves of a much longer- standing issue, too. After failing to deal away Rick DiPietro's contract on draft day, Snow may have a decision on whether to buy him out in the next day or two.
If the Isles decide to buy out the remaining eight years of DiPietro's deal, Newsday has learned it would be a compliance buyout, meaning the $1.5 million the Isles will owe DiPietro per year over the next 16 years would not count against the team's salary cap.
The Isles still are in the market for a goaltender, with the team letting Evgeni Nabokov hit the open market Friday.
"We're obviously going to have to make an addition at that position," Snow said. "We'll see how the next few weeks play out."