Update as of 11:45 a.m.: Wild goaltender Niklas backstron says he is close to a deal with Dynamo Minsk of Russia's Kontinental Hockey League, but nothing yet is final.
Backstrom says he's "still up in the air" with Minsk and hasn't signed anything. Among the issues that need to be worked out as insurance and his visa situation.
But the discussions are pretty far along, backstrom said, and it makes sense for him to go there because his former coach from Finland is with the club.
"if you wait til Christmas," he said, "you never know if there's going to be a spot for you.
It appears as if goalie Niklas Backstrom has become the first Wild player to go play elsewhere until the NHL lockout is settled.
HC Dynamo Minsk of the Kontinental Hockey League has announced that they have signed Backstrom for the lockout.
According to this report, Dynamo Minsk's goalie coach, Ari Hilly, is Backstrom's former goalie coach. Backstrom hasn't confirmed via text or email yet, but it was announced by the team.
It was clear yesterday that Backstrom had something cooking and said he'd make a decision in a few days. It was clear it wouldn't be in Finland for his former club, Karpat Oulu, or the team he owns a piece of, HIFK, because of tax implications.
From yesterday's blog:
Some NHLers are already heading to play in Europe. None of the guys at St. Louis Park today have decided to leave to play elsewhere. Yet.
Backstrom might make that decision in a few days. Koivu can play for Turku, but they have some more investigating to do. NHLers returning to Finland do have major tax implications and insurance issues.
On Europe, Backstrom said, “That’s a really good option. I want to play hockey. But it’s what you think is the best thing for you because you’re still under NHL contract. You have to be ready when the season starts. Maybe it’s best to stay here and practice or maybe it’s best to go to Europe and play some really good hockey. There’s some good players, good teams, and they take really good care of you.”
TSN contributor Dmitry Chesnokov tweeted that he will head to Belarus from Minnesota in a couple days after his visa and work permits can be finalized.
Yes, to answer the most tweeted question to me, Backstrom can come back when the lockout it over. Frankly, I think Backstrom wanted to secure a job quickly to ensure he wasn't shut out of one. There's only so many goalie jobs out there, and trust me, if you're a Wild fan, whenever this lockout ends, you don't want your No. 1 goalie taking weeks or months off.
Also trust me, if this lockout shows no sign of ending in a few weeks, more Wild players will sign. As of now, it sounded yesterday that Koivu was the only one who may be close to returning overseas. Others like Zach Parise and Dany Heatley say they haven't yet made that decision but would if it looks like the lockout will go awhile.
Remember, I will be hosting a live chat on www.startribune.com/wild at 2 p.m. today. Please join in.