Will Niklas Backstrom Return To Minnesota Next Season?

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Briefly taking your attention away from the brilliance that Niklas Backstrom displayed for the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night, this is a friendly reminder that he is, in fact, a free agent at season’s end.

In a thin free agent class, Backstrom is sure to be a hot commodity, especially when it’s likely that two of the top three goaltenders on the market (Jimmy Howard and Mike Smith) will be locked up some time before free agency actually opens up. But what will become of Backstrom?

He flies under the radar as one of the better goaltenders in the league. He’s not extremely flashy, but he’s very solid. His numbers have been consistent over the course of his career. However, the Wild are lucky enough to have a wealth of goaltending depth in the system.

Does that spell the end of Backstrom in Minnesota? Potentially, but not definitely.

The team has Josh Harding behind Backstrom. Despite his getting pulled on Wednesday night, he’s a capable starter for most teams. But his future health-wise is a gigantic wild card. If you remember, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last summer, but he’s toughing it out and playing right now.

There is also Matt Hackett down in the minors right now. He projects as a starter at some point, and a very good one at that. He could very well be the future between the pipes for the Wild. Or it could be Darcy Kuemper, who also has a bright future somewhere.

Hackett could be the no. 1 guy, or at the very least a backup to Harding next year, if his health checks out. Point is, Backstrom is 34 going on 35 this year. He could end up signing a one or two-year deal, or a bigger market contender in need of some stability in the crease could pay top dollar for a couple years of him.

It’s tough to see Backstrom returning to Minny next year. The depth is just too great to think they’ll want to pay to keep him, though Harding’s health does make things quite interesting on that front. His situation will be an intriguing one to watch once free agency rolls around.

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