The Minnesota Wild have made no secret of their plans this summer as to the situation between the pipes. They’ve started up contract negotiations with Niklas Backstrom, in hopes of retaining him as their starting goaltender. Despite coming off of one of the worst seasons of his career, he’s still a capable starter and one the Wild want to keep around.
But while contract negotiations have begun, we have no idea where the two sides are in relation to a deal. If they end up failing to get a deal done before July 5th, they may be forced to part ways, as they’re a bit strained for cap space and there could be a team out there starved for a goaltender that will overpay.
Which raises the question of whether or not the Wild have a real plan in the event that Backstrom does leave as a free agent. While they do have the personnel to step into the role, it remains to be seen if one of their pair of other goaltenders is capable of shouldering a full load.
Should Backstrom leave, the two goaltenders that the Wild could roll with would be Josh Harding and Darcy Kuemper. Based off of what we saw in the postseason when Backstrom was out, it’s not a bad duo by any stretch. But it’s a pair that is definitely clouded in uncertainty.
With Harding, you have his questionable health with the multiple sclerosis. He’s already coming back, there’s no doubt about that. But he’s probably not capable of shouldering a load full time. And if the Wild want to make a real run next year, they may want to hold off on handing the reigns to a youngster like Kuemper.
Does that mean they could look to an outside source? Do they pursue a trade for a guy like Brian Elliot? Perhaps look at a younger goaltender that’s out on the market, like Jonathan Bernier? They’d certainly want to bring someone in, be it for competition or veteran depth. But at this point, it remains to be seen how they’d replace Backstrom in the event he walks.
Luckily, that doesn’t appear to be the case just yet.