8:00pm CT: The terms of this trade have now been revealed and certainly seem to tilt the favor even more toward Minnesota. First, the Penguins will retain half of Bjugstad’s salary this year, the final season of a six-year, $24.6MM deal. As a result, Pittsburgh will only dump $2.05MM in cap salary while the Wild get a full year of Bjugstad at a bargain price. Second, the Penguins will only receive the conditional seventh-round pick if Bjugstad plays in at least 70 games or scores at least 35 points this season. Otherwise, the team doe not receive any return. If this trade is indication, shedding salary this off-season is going to be easier said than done.
7:00pm CT: Nick Bjugstad, one of the most well-regarded prospects to come out of the Minnesota high school ranks this century, is headed home. The Minnesota Wild announced that they have acquired the 28-year-old center from the Pittsburgh Penguins. In what is all but a salary cap dump, the Penguins only received a conditional 2021 seventh-round draft pick.
Bjugstad is a polarizing player, but certainly one worth risking a late pick and one year of term on. Named Mr. Hockey in 2010 as the best player in Minnesota high school, Bjugstad went on to be drafted in the first round by the Florida Panthers later that year. After starring for the of Minnesota for three years, Bjugstad joined Florida and immediately became a contributor. He recorded 38 points as a rookie, even garnering Calder Trophy votes, and totaled 191 points in 394 games with the Panthers over parts of seven seasons. While these were solid numbers, they weren’t exactly what Florida was hoping for from one of their core players. In 2018-19, Bjugtad was traded alongside Jared McCann to the Penguins for Derick Brassard, Riley Sheahan, and three draft picks. His time in Pittsburgh has been forgettable, marred by injury and inconsistency that left him with just 16 points in 45 games to show for a season and a half.
Yet, Bjugstad is healed and expected to be fully healthy for the start of the 2020-21 season for Minnesota. No one will blame Pittsburgh for dumping Bjugstad’s $4.1MM cap hit (and $5.25MM salary) as they face a stiff cap crunch, but the Wild could easily wind up with the better side of this deal if Bjugstad can return to form back at home in the Twin Cities and produce 40-50 points as he has several times before. As the Wild look to replace the experience and two-way ability of Mikko Koivu down the middle this season – and quite possibly Eric Staal next season – Bjugstad is a prime candidate. At 6’6″ and 215 lbs., Bjugstad is a menacing presence on the ice and has the proven ability to take the puck with both brute force and finesse. After a pair of down seasons, Bjugstad may not be the most exciting name, but he could be primed for a major comeback this year with the Wild and could potentially earn himself a long-term extension with his hometown team in the process.