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‘Realistic chance’ Wild will carry three goalies next year

May 21, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT

Darcy Kuemper AP

Following a season in which they had four different starting goalies, the Minnesota Wild are thinking they can trim that number for next year — by one.

“I wish I could sit here and tell you we had the answer right now,” GM Chuck Fletcher said, per the Pioneer Press. “That’ll be part of the process we go through right now and in June at our organizational meetings.

“Certainly, some of the doctors will play a part in this, the salary cap will play a part in this, and we’ll sit down and try to make the best decisions we can. But certainly there’s a realistic chance that we need to have three goaltenders next year.”

Here’s how the situation looks as of today…

Josh Harding: Under contract ’til 2015, at $1.9 million per. Unclear if he’ll be healthy enough to return, as complications from a change in multiple sclerosis treatment forced him to miss the second half of the season and playoffs.

Niklas Backstrom: Under contract ’til 2016, at $3.4 million per. The 36-year-old suffered through an injury-riddled campaign this year, playing in just 21 games while posting a .899 save percentage and 3.02 GAA.

Darcy Kuemper: Pending RFA, will definitely be back as he’s viewed as the club’s goalie of the future. Will be interesting to see what price he’s signed for, though, as the Wild have $5.3 million committed to goaltending next season already in Harding and Backstrom.

Ilya Bryzgalov: Pending UFA, unlikely to be back.

All in all, it’s a pretty muddled situation. Carrying three goalies is rarely a popular option for NHL clubs — it ties up a roster spot, you can only dress two each game and practice becomes a jugging act trying to get guys equal time — but it might be a necessity for Minnesota given Harding and Backstrom’s health concerns, and the fact Kuemper has never played more than 26 games in a single NHL campaign.

It’ll be interesting to see what Fletcher does here, and how Mike Yeo plays into it. It sounds as though a contract extension is coming for the head coach, and one would think he’d like some assurance he won’t be playing the goalie carousel game all of next year (especially since many praised Yeo’s coaching job this year in spite of all the uncertainty the Wild had in net.)


  1. BlackandGoldMNBruinsFan - May 21, 2014 at 11:46 AM

    Do you think that there’s a chance that, if his offseason recovery doesn’t go well, the Wild could place Harding on the long-term IR, a la Marc Savard for the Bruins? Does that free up salary cap room and they could sign/trade for another goalie to be their 3rd?

    I think that Keumper could definitely start next year with Backstrom as his back-up, but who knows how Backs will do with his health and “old” age next year. Maybe make sense to get a journeyman, like a Chad Johnson-type level? I don’t think signing Ryan Miller would make sense, with Backs carrying so much towards the salary cap, and both Backs and Miller wouldn’t play…Keumper is the guy!

    • c9castine - May 21, 2014 at 12:16 PM

      well, from my understanding, i think harding is now “healthy” and has been for a couple months…

      i think he started skating and practicing on a regular regimen some time in march?

      question obviously is how consistent will his health be going forward?

      • JB (the original) - May 21, 2014 at 4:25 PM

        MS is a degenerative disease. You never “get better”, you just attempt to find ways to alleviate the symptoms as they progress, but the underlying damage is done. I’d love to see Josh make it back, but realistically, medications adjustments are going to be on ongoing occurence for the rest of his life. Keep in mind that he is being treated at one of the most highly regarded Neurology clinics in the US and as such is getting the cutting edge ‘newest of the newest’ drugs and protocols available; so if he can’t get on the ice with them treating him….?

      • c9castine - May 21, 2014 at 11:04 PM

        well i know thats why i put healthy in quotation marks.

        and yeah, that should be an accepted part of his reality. but he was on the ice and performing at a really high level until he adjusted his meds. and it took a while, but he did get back on the ice.

        i look at things differently i suppose. if it can be done once it can be done twice. also, id do everything to get that guy onto the ice if he can play at an NHL level. just because…because you cant play hockey forever and for him that has many meanings and hes worked his whole life to get here. yes, i would eat a roster spot for the question mark that is josh harding. because some things are just more important.

    • JB (the original) - May 21, 2014 at 4:28 PM

      I like Kuemps starting too, but you’re going to want a pretty solid back-up due to this year’s concussion/s.

  2. ehmcw - May 21, 2014 at 11:53 AM

    My $.02

    1) Drop Harding to the long term injured list and let him ride next season out, no cap hit
    2) buy Backstrom out
    3) Give Kuemper a good contract
    4) sign Ryan Miller
    5) watch Bryszalov enjoy his Philly cash in retirement.

    • BlackandGoldMNBruinsFan - May 21, 2014 at 11:57 AM

      If they can get long-term IR for Harding AND get rid of Backs…definitely get Miller.

      Next question…what does Breezy do to “enjoy” the money? Build a backyard rocket ship for him and his bear to fly into space?

      • c9castine - May 21, 2014 at 12:17 PM

        im pretty sure if they feel they need to he can go on IR

        if sissy boy Savard is on it for having a headache im pretty sure Harding can go on it for having multiple sclerosis.

    • fightingwild - May 21, 2014 at 4:08 PM

      Can’t buy out Backs as he is deemed injured, don’t you read Russo @russostrib? Also stated by Russo, Fletcher does not plan on using his last compliance buyout. Please god do not sign Ryan Miller. He is a good goalie but will command to much cash & term.

  3. Mike Halford - May 21, 2014 at 12:04 PM

    Can’t buy Backstrom out — only contracts signed prior to the CBA are eligible. He inked his extension in July ’13.

    Harding could certainly go on LTIR, but that wouldn’t save them much money given he’s only got one year left at $1.9M.

    • c9castine - May 21, 2014 at 12:18 PM

      You can still buy guys out, but you retain most of their cap hit is that right?

      I thought there was still a buyout process just not nearly as forgiving as for contracts signed before new CBA

      • Mike Halford - May 21, 2014 at 12:53 PM

        right, sorry, he can still be bought out under the standard buyout method…just not eligible for the cap-clearing compliance variety.

      • c9castine - May 21, 2014 at 12:59 PM

        so basically, you have to want the guy off your roster so bad youll eat the cap hit just to put another body there.

        ahem, rob scuderi.


      • lbeezyse - May 21, 2014 at 1:43 PM

        We’d be eating Backstrom’s entire cap hit through FA per the bargaining agreement. It does however free up a roster spot. I see us going into next year with either three goalies or Harding put on LTR with a Backs/Kuemps tandem. 2 yrs down the road we with have a great young tandem tandem in Keumper/Gustuvson.

    • ehmcw - May 21, 2014 at 12:22 PM

      True it won’t save them much, but $1.9m could go towards signing Vanek or any of their FAs. Miller probably won’t come cheep, but the appealing thing for him the Wild are a stable playoff team; they don’t have any coaching changes this off season, their success isn’t an out of the blue fluke, and since they are on the rise they aren’t a team that makes the playoffs every year and gets bounced in the 1st or 2nd round (Anaheim, SJ).

      Good point on Backstrom. I’m sure they could move him, they might have to eat some of the cost. They can ship him to Long Island, 1) they love to stock up on goalies 2) they love players they can get a bargain on while racking up their salary cap

      • c9castine - May 21, 2014 at 12:28 PM

        why are people so intent on signing tomas vanek? i dont get it? guy has done nothing in his career yet. if you asked me to make a list of reasons why Montreal is in the ECF, hed be the last thing.

        sure hes scores some goals, i just dont see his value outside of that. in this league, you need more to contribute to a succesful team.

      • clarke16 - May 21, 2014 at 2:44 PM

        “Sure he scores some goals?” Yeah–goals are a pretty important thing that the Wild’s season ENDED because of a LACK of, eh? Too many goalies seem to coincidentially get hot when their team is playing the Wild. Not enough shots–not enough goals…

        Vanek–Granny–Pommer is your new top line. Trade the declining Koivu for a physical top 4 D-man while he can still bring something in trade.

      • ehmcw - May 21, 2014 at 4:24 PM

        It just seem Minn is where he will go. I think they’ll get a home town discount for him. I base that off his rejection of two good contracts. And while I don’t blame him for not resigning in Buffalo, because they are rebuilding, I don’t see why he wouldn’t hang around Long Island for a couple years to see if they are truly on the right path. There are clubs with cap space that could have gotten him at the deadline and he could have resigned with them, but Minn didn’t have the space.

      • lordfletcher - May 21, 2014 at 4:52 PM

        I agree with trading Koivu for a top 4, cough hopefully top 2, big right handed D man but you don’t sign Vanek for the contract he will be seeking.

      • tved12 - May 21, 2014 at 5:09 PM

        I agree with Clarke about the goal scoring issue. Wild are a great team but they were lacking finishers this year. Look at the game they were eliminated for example. All the chances in the world but they just couldn’t find the back of the net.

        Even the playoff run, how many times were us Wild fans saying they outplayed a team but didn’t win? That’s a product of not finishing. You can play the best game in the world, if you don’t score it doesn’t matter.

  4. c9castine - May 21, 2014 at 12:25 PM

    this is tough one. when healthy and feeling good, Harding proved he can be a number 1.

    Kuemper, im not sold on him at all. I dont see why anybody thinks he can be the number 1 of the future.

    Backstrom seems like hes done.

    it really all depends on wether they think Harding can play a season of hockey. so many parts to this equation.

  5. esracerx46 - May 21, 2014 at 12:26 PM

    What’s with all the Bryzgalov bashing? He played pretty admirably in the playoffs. And let me get this straight. Wild fans want Vanek and Miller and also need to resign Niederreiter and Kuemper….with 22 million. Not to mention having to resign Haula, Granlund, Coyle and Brodin in 2015.

    2014 wont be a cap issue, but 2015 could.

    • c9castine - May 21, 2014 at 1:09 PM

      i agree. bryzgalov is a big reason they competed as long as they did with one of the best in the league.

      ryan miller folded with a much better team in front of him.

      and yeah, signing vanek is pointless and silly.

      i dont think keumper is the next thing, but id certainly sign him to a two year contract to find out. Neiderreiter made a bit of a name for himself this year. big body who plays hard and has some legit skill and shooting capability. Granlund made huge leaps this year.

  6. homegrowntalentmn - May 21, 2014 at 1:12 PM

    Backs can’t be bought out. He’s injured

  7. twinwildflyer - May 21, 2014 at 1:34 PM

    Zucker is a RFA too, they’ll be resigning him as well.

  8. lbeezyse - May 21, 2014 at 1:52 PM

    The Wild’s off-season will be shaped by the goalie situation outcome. I don’t think Vanek will be on the Wild next year. I don’t see us going after any top end offensive players this year. A top notch defenseman that can move the puck is the top priority right now. Re-sign Nino, Zucker, Fontaine, Kuemper, and Blum. Also, bring back McCormick for 4th line depth. Barring something happening to Koivu, we will not be bringing in a center. Koivu,Granny,Haula,Brodz down the middle works for me. We need to find minutes for Parise, Nino, Coyle, Cooke, Fontaine, Zucker, & Pommer. Adding Vanek to that mix just muddies the water further. On the defensive end we have Suter, Brodin, Folin, Spurgeon, Scandella, and Stoner(whom we need to resign). That’s 6 quality D-man right there. Toss Blum in for depth as I thought he did very well this season when given time to play.

    I’d like Fletcher to stand pat and re-sign our young core. Let them all grow together the way the Hawks did in the late 2000’s. We just really need health in the nets and we’re good to go I think.

    • clarke16 - May 21, 2014 at 2:31 PM

      Kuemper and Bryz (at a reasonable 2 yr deal) should be the tandem next season with a decision on Harding pending his health over the summer…

      Backstrom should be traded for any offering just to unload his roster spot/$$$. A stick bag and a box of water bottles you say? DONE!

      Backstrom’s body is telling anyone who cares to listen that his career in the NFL, for all intents and purposes, is over…

      As far as Vanek goes–he may or may not be the answer. However, one thing is clear–this team absolutely needs to acquire another piece to the puzzle this off season in the form of a legit 30+ goal scorer if they hope to continue their ascent… Their current model only works with a vezina-caliber netminder if they hope to be a legit cup contender with the less than prolific goal scoring this team produces…

      • clarke16 - May 21, 2014 at 2:38 PM

        …not only NFL, but NHL, too… 😉

      • tved12 - May 21, 2014 at 5:10 PM

        I agree with Clarke about the goal scoring issue. Wild are a great team but they were lacking finishers this year. Look at the game they were eliminated for example. All the chances in the world but they just couldn’t find the back of the net.

        Even the playoff run, how many times were us Wild fans saying they outplayed a team but didn’t win? That’s a product of not finishing. You can play the best game in the world, if you don’t score it doesn’t matter.

    • strictlythedanks - May 21, 2014 at 3:05 PM

      Agreed, ibeez, Stoner needs to be resigned he is a physical force the wild need. I am excited to see what Folin can do once he gets settled into the league. But I definitely think a big puck moving defenseman would be a great asset for the team instead of another scorer to take minutes away from our youngins’.

  9. bhinrichs9 - May 21, 2014 at 2:55 PM

    Please no Vanek, he is Heatley 2.0. Anyone who watched the series vs the Avalanche should be wanting Fletcher to go out and grab Ryan O’Reilly, and then we could also afford to grab Niskanen.

  10. strictlythedanks - May 21, 2014 at 3:01 PM

    I’ve got faith that Kuemper can be the guy, he has had flashes brilliance at times and is a big atheletic goalie. Tis a predicament nonetheless with the backstroms contract situation, and Josh the boss Harding’s status still up in the air whether he can pay or not.

  11. muckleflugga - May 21, 2014 at 3:57 PM

    do insured earnings for injured players count against a cap hit while they are unable to play, and do they count at the same percentage long term injury pay is covered

    if so, the practice would appear to encourage medical diagnosis supporting extended leave and coverage accordingly, this to benefit player movement outside of competencies normally used in evaluation

    and if costs for injured players in natural decline otherwise are effectively spread-out over the underwriter’s general accident fund, those costs would be shared by the accident experience group including all insured teams, this to the benefit of individual team bottom lines

    if the percentage of insured pay counts against a cap hit, cap space is opened in proportion to the percentage of player pay insurance does not cover, unless a second insurer is used to provide top-up

    if insured earnings for injured players does not count against the cap, teams would appear to have license to keep players on injury leave as player development and movement dictates among healthy players

    players beyond useable service life placed on long term injury leave are then likely handed the golden shovel with which to dig their own graves career-wise: in industry generally, injured workers rarely come back to full employment after a mere six months on injury leave and after a year, they never come back

    in the real world, people speaking to lost time insurance tend to overlook ways usage of long term injury pay is exploited to dispose of workers, rather than bear cost toward rehabilitation …

    the concussion lawsuits in hockey speak to the issue specifically

    it is noted a recent nfl injury lawsuit contends physicians were party to manipulation of player health, using medication to mask and treat injuries so players could play … if provable, such practice would leave one to wonder if the inverse could be true, overstating injury diagnosis to benefit player movement and balance sheets while exploiting insurers

    i can’t see hockey being any different than the nfl with money being the common denominator, particularly when cap room is at stake on teams crowding the margin

    it would be interesting to map long term injury insurance usage by teams like pittsburgh who have so much cap room eaten by two players, compelling manipulation of injured and insured players accordingly when making player moves

    this to benefit player movement outside of competencies normally used in evaluation

  12. cheggy1731 - May 21, 2014 at 4:36 PM

    After watching the Wild push the Hawks like no other team, I would suggest that any decent goalie would thrive in the Wild’s system. They do an outstanding job of limiting scoring chances and allowing less shots on goal than most teams

  13. vstar1us - May 22, 2014 at 10:36 AM

    I agree with trading Koivu and this will not be popular but I think maybe seeing if you can ship out the turn over king of slow skating Sutter! We have a Captain with Captain America! We can get some very , very, very good D men for what we are paying Sutter….
    I am not. Sutter hater, just a realist………
    Go Wild

    • bhinrichs9 - May 22, 2014 at 1:01 PM

      You are not very smart vstar1us. Suter gives us 29 minutes a game, and his a lockdown defender. His +/- will never be good playing that many minutes on the ice against the best players of everyteam but he still manages to be plus. He should have been a very high Norris Candidate. He is a rare #1 lockdown defenseman that most teams would gladly pay 98 million. Unless you are actuallying talking about a guy named Sutter, in that case I dont know who he is unless hes a Penguins Forward.

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