Mike Yeo has hinted many times in the past few weeks that he hasn’t been happy with his goaltending. After a recent loss in Columbus, the Wild coach said it’s impossible to win in the NHL without good goaltending.
Tuesday night after Darcy Kuemper gave up a handful of questionable goals in a 4-3 overtime loss to San Jose, Yeo was more specific, calling it “below average” and saying success starts and end with goaltending.
Whether that’s fair or not, Yeo said that’s what you sign up for when you play the position.
The Wild’s goaltending hasn’t been good enough this season. Despite allowing the second-fewest shots per game in the NHL, the Wild has the second-lowest save percentage only to lowly Edmonton.
Kuemper ranks 53rd, Niklas Backstrom 60th.
It’s why the Wild is looking for a goalie, sources say. What General Manager Chuck Fletcher is gauging is this: Do you give up significant assets now to get a short-term fix when there’s no guarantee a goalie can save the season or do you stay patient, continue to ride out the instability and wait for the right move to come along that will address the long-term need?
Fletcher declined to comment Wednesday.
Some names potentially on the market? Carolina’s Cam Ward, the 2006 Conn Smythe Trophy winner and Stanley Cup champ, San Jose’s Antti Niemi, Buffalo’s Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth, Edmonton’s Viktor Fasth and St. Louis’ Martin Brodeur.
Niemi, who also has won a Stanley Cup with Chicago, Enroth, Neuvirth, Fasth and Brodeur, who has won three Cups and is on the severe downslope of his Hall of Fame career, all can become free agents next season.
Ward is an intriguing name and undoubtedly could be had. Coming off some injury-riddled seasons, Ward, 30, has played well this season. He has a 2.37 goals-against average and .915 save percentage on a bad Hurricanes team.
His salary cap hit this season and next is $6.3 million, so he would be a hefty investment, but the speculation is the Hurricanes, who have ownership issues, might be willing to dump his contract for limited assets.
The Wild has inquired, sources say.
In the meantime, Kuemper, who has not talked to reporters the past two days, left Wednesday’s practice because of an apparent injury. Yeo called it minor “as far as I’m concerned.”
Backstrom likely will start Thursday against the Blackhawks.
“For me, it’s just about worrying about making sure I can play at the level I know I can play at,” Backstrom said.
• Defenseman Marco Scandella sustained an upper-body injury in Tuesday’s game and won’t play against the Blackhawks. Yeo didn’t supply a more specific update as to how long Scandella might be out.
• Center Mikko Koivu, who has been playing through a lower-body injury, was hurt in Wednesday’s practice, but he’s expected to play against the Blackhawks.
• Forward Brett Sutter was reassigned to AHL Iowa after practice. With left winger Zach Parise questionable because his father, J.P. Parise, is terminally ill, don’t be surprised if the Wild call up forward and former Gopher Jordan Schroeder on Thursday. “I’m just giving him space right now,” Yeo said of Zach Parise.
• The Wild also might need to recall a defenseman if Nate Prosser (illness) can’t play and goalie John Curry if Kuemper can’t dress.