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Center-seeking Wild acquire Nick Bjugstad from Penguins

September 12, 2020 GMT
FILE - In this Feb. 8, 2020, file photo, Pittsburgh Penguins center Zach Aston-Reese waits for play to resume during the second period of the team's NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, Fla. The Minnesota Wild have acquired center Bjugstad from the Penguins for a conditional 2021 draft pick. Bjugstad is a native of Minnesota and an eight-year NHL veteran. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)
FILE - In this Feb. 8, 2020, file photo, Pittsburgh Penguins center Zach Aston-Reese waits for play to resume during the second period of the team's NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, Fla. The Minnesota Wild have acquired center Bjugstad from the Penguins for a conditional 2021 draft pick. Bjugstad is a native of Minnesota and an eight-year NHL veteran. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Wild acquired center Nick Bjugstad on Friday from the Pittsburgh Penguins for a conditional selection in the 2021 draft, a swap that includes the Penguins covering an unspecified portion of Bjugstad’s $5.25 million salary next season.

The 28-year-old Minnesota native played in only 13 games for the Penguins in the virus-shortened 2019-20 season. Most of his absence was due to a core muscle injury that required surgery. Then he suffered a different lower-body injury and did not return to action when the NHL initiated postseason play in the COVID-19 bubbles last month.

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The 6-foot-6, 215-pound Bjugstad will enter the final year of the six-year, $24.6 million contract extension he signed with the Florida Panthers, who drafted him with the 19th overall pick in 2010. Bjugstad had a career-best 49 points in 82 games with the Panthers in 2017-18, the only NHL season in which he has not missed any time. He was traded to the Penguins in a four-player, three-pick exchange on Feb. 1, 2019.

Bjugstad, who has 97 goals, 110 assists and 681 hits in 439 career NHL games, will be asked to fill the role of a checking center with the Wild that will presumably be vacated by the retirement of longtime captain Mikko Koivu. The 37-year-old’s contract is expiring. He’s not expected to return.

Bjugstad starred at Blaine High School and the University of Minnesota.

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