The Minnesota Wild are facing a huge issue right now when it comes to goaltending going into to training camp (which starts on September 18). Both Josh Harding and Niklas Backstrom are still on the roster and both missed have significant time last season. Darcy Kuemper is a restricted free agent, who still hasn’t re-signed with the Wild. (The Wild have re-signed goalie John Curry to a one year, two-way deal last month).
Niklas Backstrom is entering training camp after having surgery for the second year in a row (he had surgery for a sports hernia after the 2013 season, along with season-ending abdominal surgery last season). He is also coming off a miserable year statistically—a 3.02 GAA and .899 save percentage on a record of 5-11-2 in the 21 games he appeared in.
Backstrom is entering his ninth season with the Wild, with a career 2.44 GAA, .916 save percentage and a career record of 189-135-47. He will be turning 37 during this upcoming season.
The Wild did sign Backstrom to a deal last summer for 3 years and $10.25 million. Was that a good move? It does make some sense because of Josh Harding’s health issues, but Backstrom has had his own problems with injuries. For 3 years and $10.25 million, that can be questionable. At the end of this contract, he’s going to be 38. There have been reports that the Wild could be looking at moving him, while they can still get something in return.
Backstrom has been somewhat unpredictable this past season. It’s been like watching a hockey “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” you don’t know which Backstrom was going to show up in the net. Backstrom can be amazing in one game and a sieve in the next. He could have a shut-out in one game, and the next game he could let up 4 goals.
A former co-worker of mine said this about Backstrom (and he’s right):
“In watching Backstrom, he has a routine and he’s comfortable in that game routine. He gets rattled easy when the opposing team crashes the net because that will ‘break his routine” and it takes some time for him to get back into that routine. Backstrom will make a good save, but he will not go out of his way to make a spectacular save. The other thing people may not notice is that his reaction time has gotten somewhat slower. He’s not a kid, anymore.”
Backstrom is going to have to prove that he belongs with the Wild. As I stated earlier, there have been reports that the Wild may be looking at moving him. The Wild do have goalies in their farm system, such as Johan Gustaffson and John Curry (both have made appearances in a Wild sweater last season).
The goaltending situation for the Wild is going to be watched heading into and throughout this upcoming season That is going to make for some interesting hockey this upcoming season.
(Stat information courtesy of msn.foxsports.com/nhl)