Canes newcomer Niederreiter ready to play
In the National Hockey League, things can happen fast.
One minute you’re a member of the Minnesota Wild, preparing for a game against the Anaheim Ducks and about to take an afternoon nap. Your cell phone rings and your life changes in a matter of seconds.
So it was for Nino Niederreiter on Thursday, when the forward was called by Minnesota general manager Paul Fenton and told he had been traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for center Victor Rask in a one-for-one deal.
“It was one of those things where you never see it coming but you also have a feeling that you could be a candidate to be traded,” he said in a conference call. “It’s definitely going to be a new beginning, a fresh start, and I’m looking forward to being a part of the Hurricanes.
“But at the moment I have some mixed feelings. I had some nice years here at Minnesota and have some great memories. Now it’s definitely a new chapter in my life and I’m looking forward to it. Everything happens for a reason.”
Niederreiter, 26, was at the Canes’ morning skate Friday and will be in the lineup for the game against the Ottawa Senators at PNC Arena. He was on a line with center Greg McKegg and team captain Justin WIlliams, and wearing No. 21.
“It’s always special when you put on a new jersey and you’re part of a new organization,” he said Friday.
Niederreiter, a former first-round pick by the New York Islanders, should bring some added scoring to a team that can use it. He has nine goals and 14 assists in 46 games this season. He has scored 20 or more goals three times in his career, with a high of 25 in the 2016-17 season with the Wild.
Niederreiter has played 498 NHL games with the Islanders and then the Wild, with 112 career goals and 119 assists. He ranks first in NHL history in goals among Swiss-born players and fourth in points, assists and games played. Niederreiter was the fifth overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft.
While in the Islanders organization, Niederreiter said he played with Canes defenseman Calvin de Haan in the NHL and AHL. De Haan, he said, quickly texted him after the trade.
A native of Chur, Switzerland, Niederreiter also is friends with Martin Gerber, a Swiss-born goalie and a member of the Canes’ 2006 Stanley Cup champions.
“He always told me how much he loved Carolina,” he said. “I’m excited to experience what he had a chance to experience there.”
A Wild teammate, former Canes captain Eric Staal, also talked fondly about his days in Raleigh and winning the Cup in 2006, Niederreiter said.
Rask, 25, was a second-round pick by Carolina in the 2011 draft, has played 339 games for the Canes and has 63 goals and 100 assists.
Rask had career highs in goals (21) and points (48) in 2016-17. The Swede underwent shoulder surgery after that season and again last season. He was prepared for training camp in September when he cut his fingers with a knife while slicing sweet potatoes.
Rask did not play until the Nov. 21 game against Toronto and has one goal and five assists -- three of the assists in the past five games.
“We’re excited to welcome a proven goal-scorer and veteran presence in Nino Niederreiter,” Canes general manager Don Waddell said in a statement. “We wish Victor the best moving forward and thank him for his efforts on the ice and in the community during his time in Raleigh.”