Cal Clutterbuck Central To Minnesota Wild's Future

Austin LindbergCorrespondent INovember 8, 2009

ANAHEIM, CA - DECEMBER 14:  Cal Clutterbuck #22 of the Minnesota Wild leans in during a face off against the Anaheim Ducks during the NHL game at Honda Center on December 14, 2008 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Cal Clutterbuck is one in a handful of names that should be around when the transformation of the Minnesota Wild under Chuck Fletcher and Todd Richards is complete.

Clutterbuck is not the savior of the franchise, nor is he going to be the player that the Wild build around.  However, Clutterbuck possesses many qualities in his play and demeanor that make him a cornerstone to Fletcher's overhaul.

Clutterbuck has one of the best shots on the current Wild roster, according to both goaltenders Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding.  He scored 11 goals in his rookie year and already has three in eleven games this season.  

At almost 22 years-old, Clutterbuck has lots of potential.  Chances are, he's not going to replace the 40-goal production of Marian Gaborik, but Clutterbuck has the potential to become a consistent 20 to 25 goal guy.

Clutterbuck earned his place with the Wild and his status as a fan-favorite by being aggressive, physical and by antagonizing his opponents.  Those characteristics are not that difficult to come by in the NHL, but every team needs a player like that.

Arguably the league's top agitator, Sean Avery has made a career of antagonizing his opponents into taking stupid penalties.  Avery, though, has offensive skills and routinely finds himself on New York's power play unit.  

To put his value in terms of dollars, Avery's contract is worth $4 million annually, nearly what the Wild just gave Martin Havlat.  The demand for a player like this is out there, and although the Rangers willingly overpay for near everyone, the market says that a player of his abilities is worth nearly that of a franchise type player like Havlat.

Clutterbuck has the same style of play as Avery, although Minnesota fans will say that he has more class than Avery, but Clutterbuck has the most offensive potential of any agitator in the league.  

Having an agitator on the ice who can handle regular shifts is a plus, having an agitator who can chip in offensively is an ideal situation.  Based on the value of Avery, Clutterbuck should be worth near that amount in the next few years.

When you consider that Clutterbuck is well-liked in the locker room, works hard and consistently shows leadership qualities at such a young age, Clutterbuck should be a player that Fletcher has earmarked to be a long-term part of this franchise.

The Wild are not as bad as their record and performances suggest.  This is a team struggling to gel and acclimate to a new system, they will improve.  

However, this is not a playoff team and with a handful of unrestricted free agents on considerable contracts, it is a team that will look considerably different in April than it does now.

Clutterbuck shouldn't be involved in any fire sale, but he will be a restricted free agent in the summer.  Fletcher should be working hard to sign Clutterbuck to an extension before an offer-sheet is made to him.

Clutterbuck isn't going to solve all the problems for Fletcher's new look Wild.  But he is going to be a leader of this team and be a source of energy for years to come.