Minnesota Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom made some news this week with his reported signing with a KHL team, and now there is a report he is dealing with an ankle injury that he aggravated while skating with teammates and other NHL players earlier this week. The injury has delayed his signing with Dynamo Minsk, and he will stay in Minnesota for now.
Backstrom reportedly originally suffered the injury a few weeks back while training in Finland, and aggravated it this week. The injury is considered minor at this point, and is not to the ankle he had surgically repaired in April. Regardless, if the current injury lingers it may jeopardize his spot with Dynamo Minsk if they are unwilling to wait for him to be 100 percent.
Backstrom was the subject of some trade rumors this summer, but ultimately nothing came to fruition and Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher has maintained publicly he has no plans to trade him. The 2012-2013 season, whenever it starts, is the final season of Backstrom’s contract and he is slated to make $6 million.
Injuries have started to become an issue for Backstrom, and he missed a fair amount of time with a groin issue last season. He will turn 35 next February, so it’s fair to say his best days are behind him and he will not suddenly become more durable this season. If they have concerns over Backstrom’s durability, the Wild may look to split playing time in goal fairly equally between he and backup Josh Harding in order to keep both guys healthy and effective. It’s worth mentioning the Wild signed Harding, despite his own injury history, to a three-year contract this offseason. So the team may be ready and willing to move forward with him as their starting goalie and Matt Hackett as the primary backup.
Fletcher’s commitment to not trading Backstrom is unlikely to change soon, and even if it did other teams would likely be hesitant to enter trade talks due to the uncertainty in the league right now. So Backstrom is likely to stay put and may play out the final year of his contract, but if the NHL gets back on the ice soon he could up his trade value as next February’s trade deadline nears.
Of course the Wild are expected to be a contender this season and may be unwilling to deal Backstrom at all, but it would still be a prudent move for them to at least try to make the most of a potential asset no matter where they are in the standings this year.