The Carolina Hurricanes sent shockwaves through the NHL yesterday when they acquired winger Nino Niederreiter from the Minnesota Wild for center Victor Rask. The trade was one-for-one and no salary was retained on behalf of the Hurricanes and no draft picks were sent to Minnesota.
Initial reaction from talking heads and social media deemed the trade a win for the Hurricanes. Niederreiter is still relatively young at 26 years old and is just two years removed from his most productive season yet. In 2016-17, the forward had a career-high 57 points in a full 82-game season. He played just 63 games last season and recorded 32 points. By comparison, Rask never reached the 50-point plateau in his career in Carolina.
It was inevitable that Rask was soon to be on his way out. Over the summer, TSN reported rumors that Rask would likely be moved to the Montreal Canadiens for two second round picks. In this move, the Hurricanes secured a proven asset instead of rolling the dice on a pair of second round picks, even though the Hurricanes have drafted well in the round in the past.
Niederreiter was previously traded from the New York Islanders to the Minnesota Wild at the 2013 NHL Draft for Cal Clutterback and a third round pick. He’s currently in the second season of a 5-year, $26.25 million contract that will run through the 2021-22 season. His name has been floated in rumors before for his versatility and reasonable contract.
The all-time leading Swiss scorer in NHL history is a speedy winger that can fill into different roles within the line-up. He will likely slotted within the Hurricanes top-six and remain there even with center Jordan Staal returns to the line-up.
Analytics site Evolving Wild showed the advanced statistics of the two forwards side by side and it doesn’t look great for Minnesota.
Niederreiter is a positive possession player, which shows Carolina’s VP of Hockey Management and Strategy Eric Tulsky has his fingers on this trade. He comes in to Raleigh with a 52.2% CF this season and an average of around 14:37 TOI per nice. He averages starts in the offensive zone more often than not.
We spoke to writers Aaron Holm and Chris Boyd from SB Nation’s Hockey Wilderness about the trade. Here’s what he had to say:
Niederreiter’s name has been floated around for what seems like forever in the trade rumor mill. Why were the Wild seemingly so anxious to move him to another team?
I’m not sure the Wild were so much anxious to get Nino Niederreiter out the door. Niederreiter was acquired in the summer of 2013 when the Wild sent fan-favorite Cal Clutterbuck along with a third-round pick to the New York Islanders. The trade drew mixed reviews in Minnesota. Clutterbuck really threw his body around and people liked the big hits. On the other hand, Nino was a 5th overall selection by the Islanders in 2010. He would essentially be the Wild’s highest draft selection since taking Beniot Pouliot 4th overall in 2005 who never really got a chance here in Minnesota. Nino’s failure to launch in New York would be the Wild’s gain.
On top of that, former Wild GM Chuck Fletcher (now heading the ship in Philly) just extended Nino in the summer of 2017 with a 5-year deal. Now, there is a new sheriff in town with GM Paul Fenton. I think really the catalyst for the Wild trading Nino right now was the fact that one Wednesday the Wild picked up Pontus Aberg from the Anaheim Ducks and their fire-sale going on this week. Aberg doesn’t have the same size and Nino, but the Wild are not short on big body forwards with Mikko Koivu, Eric Staal, Charlie Coyle, and an emerging Jordan Greenway among others. Someone was expendable and the Wild aren’t going to deal their captain Koivu, their young gun in Greenway, or Staal who is one season removed from scoring 42 goals. That leaves Coyle and Nino, I’m not sure the decision was much more than which one drew the best offer.
Ignoring for a second that he hasn’t played up to it this year, is Niederreiter’s contract fair in your mind for the production he (in theory) provides and the game he plays?
Nino’s contract is absolutely fair. At $5.25 Million AAV, Nino is locked up for the entirety of his prime and some extra. He’s led the Wild or been near the top in most possession metrics, and his WOWY’s show that he consistently makes his line mates better, no matter who they are. He doesn’t always produce the most points on the planet, but he’s a water carrier that has served the team incredibly well.
As for his underperformance this year, his shooting percentage has taken a nosedive this season; something which will correct as the season goes on and shouldn’t be expected to repeat. His shot rate is roughly on par with the rest of his career, which is a good sign.
Nino’s game isn’t flashy, but by just about any measurable statistic and in watching him play, he’s worth the money. he’s got good hands and vision, good speed, and he uses his size effectively. Nino has been at or above 40 points in 2 of the last 3 seasons, and only missed the mark last year due to injury. He’s sturdy and last year was the first season he missed more than 2 games since he was a full-time NHL player. What you get in Nino is a consistent forward who quietly does his job, and does it well.
What type of line (possession, grinding, shoot from everywhere, etc.) did Niederreiter most excel on while with the Wild? Is there a style of play that he isn’t a good match for?
On the whole, Nino can play with just about anyone. Back when WOWY’s were accessible, he clearly improved the play of everyone he was on the ice with. Nino will likely never be the star of his own line, he will be a vital cog wherever he plays. Nino himself is a possession-driver. He gets the puck, keeps the puck, and distributes the puck. He has a good shot and good hands, but his strength is in being an all around good player rather than a specialist.
Niederreiter is best used in the top 6; he makes everyone better, so why not improve your top players? He can succeed in a bottom 6 role, but he is not most effective there. When Nino was paired with a few other big bodies they were one of the best lines in the league for a time- Nino doesn’t need any certain quality to succeed; put him on the ice and watch the magic happen.
The only negative thing you can say is that Nino doesn’t put up points like you would like him to. Still; he’s a solid player. Carolina is getting a real gem here.