Wild have big decision to make on Niederreiter


Hopefully Chuck Fletcher has a good phone plan.

The Wild GM, like his counterparts across the league, has a very busy few weeks ahead with the expansion draft, entry draft and free agency. But Fletcher’s job might be more difficult than most, given two of his best offensive weapons — Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiterare restricted free agents, and need new deals.

The Niederreiter situation is especially compelling.

His agent, Andre Rufener, told the Star-Tribune they want to avoid arbitration, and hope to get a long-term deal done Minnesota. Rufener also addressed trade reports involving his client, explaining that — while he doesn’t envision a deal happening — he is aware that Niederreiter’s in demand across the NHL.

More: Wild GM ‘all ears’ for trade offers ahead of expansion draft

“We’re just taking this as a positive thing,” Rufener said. “There’s interest in him across the league.”

It’s easy to see why. Niederreiter is only 24 and has cracked the 20-goal plateau in each of his last three seasons, scoring a career-high 25 last year.

As such, one would expect him to get a significant raise from the three-year, $8 million deal he just wrapped. That one carried a $2.67M average annual cap hit. Assuming Granlund will also get a hefty pay bump, Fletcher might need to seek some sort of financial relief — which is why there are rumblings of the Wild asking Jason Pominville, he of the $5.6M cap hit, to waive his no-movement clause for the expansion draft.

(Fletcher also needs to figure out his logjam on defense, and reports suggest Boston has discussed acquiring Jonas Brodin.)

The interesting thing about Minnesota’s forward situation is the boatload of talent in reserve. Prospects Luke Kunin, Jordan Greenway, Kirill Kaprizov and Joel Eriksson-Ek are all on the horizon. Kunin, the 15th overall pick in 2016, already turned pro and played 12 games with AHL Iowa. Eriksson-Ek made his NHL debut last year, and saw time in the playoffs as well.

So yeah, Fletcher has calls to make. Lots of them.