Cal Clutterbuck #15 of the New York Islanders skates against...

Cal Clutterbuck #15 of the New York Islanders skates against the San Jose Sharks at UBS Arena on October 18, 2022 in Elmont. Credit: Getty Images

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Cal Clutterbuck and Nino Niederreiter’s hockey paths have crossed many times on the ice since their career arcs changed with a trade, though the two have never met socially to chat about it.

They faced each other again on Thursday night as Clutterbuck’s Islanders continued a four-game road trip against the Niederreiter’s Predators at Bridgestone Arena. And they both had a similar reaction when asked about the trade on June 30, 2013 that sent Clutterbuck and a third-round pick from the Wild to the Islanders for Niederreiter.

“It was a long time ago, it feels like,” said Clutterbuck, now 34.

“It does definitely feels like a lifetime ago,” said the 30-year-old Niederreiter, who joined the Predators this offseason on a two-year, $8 million deal after three-plus seasons with the Hurricanes and five-plus with the Wild.

The Clutterbuck-for-Niederreiter swap was one of necessity for both sides. Clutterbuck was a restricted free agent and the Wild were pressed tight against the salary cap after signing Zach Parise — now in his second season with the Islanders — and defenseman Ryan Suter to twin 13-year, $98 million deals.

Niederreiter, selected fifth overall by the Islanders in 2010, had two goals and one assist in 64 games for the Islanders between 2010-12. But his agent publicly requested a trade after the Islanders did not recall Niederreiter from their AHL affiliate in Bridgeport for the start of the 2013 season, which had been shortened by an owner’s lockout. Neiderreiter scored the Predators' third goal Thursday night. 

“I think at the time I knew I was getting traded,” said Clutterbuck, a right wing in the first season of a two-year, $3.5 million extension. “I didn’t know where I was getting traded. I didn’t know I was getting traded here. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly disappointed originally, just my initial reaction. But right from the first time I came down to visit and got in the room with the guys, it’s been home for me ever since.

“Sometimes you think you know what you want at the time but sometimes you’re presented with what’s better for you long term and I think this is a better situation for me long term.”

Clutterbuck played in his 949th NHL regular-season game on Thursday. He could reach the 1,000-game milestone this season if he stays healthy, always a concern given the physical nature of his play. Clutterbuck entered Thursday’s game needing 12 hits to pass Dustin Brown (3,632) for the most all-time in the NHL, though the statistic has only been kept since 2005-06.

“He’s perhaps one of the smartest players that I’ve coached,” Islanders coach Lane Lambert said. “His positioning, his ability to read situations, it’s a very valuable asset not only for him but for our hockey team. He has an impeccable timing in terms of hitting and that’s a skill and talent.”

Niederreiter entered Thursday leading the Predators with seven goals skating on second-line center Ryan Johansen’s left wing along with Matt Duchene. The Hurricanes primarily used Niederreiter on their checking line, though he was one shy of setting a career high last season with 24 goals to go along with 20 assists.

“We brought him in here to play in our top six and to be a guy that can play on the power play,” Predators coach John Hynes said. “He’s certainly done that so his production is what we expected.”

“There were a lot of great opportunities for myself coming here,” Niederreiter said. “You always want to stay where you were, especially in Carolina. But some things were just changing and I felt like this is a great position to be here.”

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