After some speculation they may look to the trade market for a starting goaltender, the Minnesota Wild have re-signed Niklas Backstrom. Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune has reported it is a three-year deal worth $10.25 million (an average of just under $3.42 million per year).
Backstrom has spent all seven of his NHL seasons with the Wild, and he had expressed a desire to stay with the team that general manager Chuck Fletcher echoed. The 35-year old had a solid season this past season, as he tied for the league lead in wins during the regular season (24) along with a .909 save percentage, a 2.48 goals-against-average and two shutouts. But a sports hernia injury kept him out of the Wild’s first round playoff series against the Chicago Blackhawks and, despite a solid effort from backup Josh Harding, Minnesota lost in five games to the eventual Western Conference champions.
The decision to bring back Backstrom was not suprising, since the Wild lack obvious options to replace him. Harding has questions about his long-term health after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis nearly a year ago, and three younger players in the pipeline (Darcy Kuemper, Jeff Deslauriers and Johan Gustafsson) have played a combined 70 NHL games (Deslauriers 62; Kuemper eight-counting playoffs).
The Wild are clearly in win-now mode after the signings of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter last July, so letting an unproven goaltender potentially take some lumps at the NHL level does not fit that model. From a purely financial perspective, bringing Backstrom back will not prohibit Fletcher from making more moves this summer, which is a good thing for a team that has some specific need areas to address. But Backstrom will turn 38 during the final season of his new deal, and I think his durability is a big concern going forward.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.