Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.
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The Wild has agreed to terms with its winningest goalie in franchise history.
Niklas Backstrom has agreed to a three-year deal worth $10.25 million ($3.42 million).
Backstrom, the Wild's goalie of seven years, won 24 games last year before sustaining a sports hernia before the playoffs. He has won 184 games.
Backstrom, 35, wanted term -- at least 3 years -- and he got it. The Wild wanted to make certain it came in less than $4 million -- what he probably would have gotten on the open market -- and it got that.
Backstrom loves Minnesota and wanted badly to return. The Wild maintained its priority was to sign Backstrom. The only options for a No. 1 goaltender would have been the trade market.
With limited cap space, the only true potential No. 1 if he gets to free agency is Mike Smith, and he's looking for a big payday.
Veteran winger Stephane Veilleux was re-signed to a two-year, $1.175 million contract this afternoon. The move is designed to add depth, both in Minnesota and perhaps AHL Iowa.
Veilleux, 31, played 33 games for Houston last year and two playoff games for the Wild. The hard-hitting, checking, energy forward has played 382 of his 460 regular-season NHL games for Minnesota. That's eighth in franchise history.
"I am really excited to sign two years with the organization that drafted me," Veilleux said. "I am really proud of the hard work and commitment that I have put into my career. The biggest thing is I get to play where my heart is."
If in the NHL, Veilleux will earn $600,000 in Year 1 and $575,000 in Year 2 for a salary-cap hit of $587,500.
It's a two-way contract, meaning he would earn a lesser salary if he plays in the minors. He would have to clear waivers to get there. Even if he spends time in Iowa, he is still guaranteed a $175,000 salary each year.
For Veilleux's career stats, click here.
With the Wild's season on the brink and facing a potential must-win tonight at Colorado, the Wild is expected to recall former University of Denver star Jason Zucker and energy bug Stephane Veilleux for tonight's game.
It sounds like Jake Dowell and Carson McMillan will be returned to Houston.
Zucker, 21, has scored four goals and one assist in 19 games for the Wild this year. If Veilleux plays, and at this point, why not, it would be his season debut, 461st NHL game and 383rd for the Wild.
Jason Pominville, I don't believe, traveled to Denver.
Basically, it's simple tonight.
Win and the Wild's in.
Lose in regulation AND Columbus gets one point or two in a home finale against Chris Mason and the emotionally and physically beaten-up Nashville Predators and the Wild will have to deal with the painful aftermath following a remarkable April swoon. The Wild led the Northwest Division after beating Los Angeles in a March 30 shootout.
The Avs, 5-4 shootout winners at Phoenix last night, will be pumped and motivated to eliminate a Wild team that usually beats them on home ice (11-2-2 in the Wild's past 15 in Denver).
The Denver Post's Mike Chambers (@MChambersDP) tweeted last night some quotes from P.A. Parenteau and Matt Duchene:
Parenteau: Parenteau: "We're a proud bunch of guys and we're not going to give (MIN) an inch out there . . . That's what it's all about."
Duchene: "Obviously it's a big one for them. Hopefully the building will be full, and we can knock Minnesota out. That will be real nice. I'd be lying if I said it wouldn't. That's a division rival and team that's had our number for a while."
As I said, massive game. Niklas Backstrom, after being yanked with 1:22 left in the first period (three goals on five shots) of last night's 6-1 home embarrassment at the hands of Edmonton, will be back in net.
He is 10-2-1 in his past 13 at Colorado with a 2.10 goals against average and .935 save percentage. Backstrom is 21-3-4 with a 1.84 goals against average and a .933 save percentage in starts after being pulled (non-injury) in his career, including 17-1-2 with a 1.67 goals against average and a .940 save percentage since March 26, 2008.
The Wild needs Backstrom, who has been arguably overused beyond belief by the Wild, to step up bigtime. Otherwise, soak him in because this could be the last you see of Backstrom in a Wild uniform.
If you didn't read last night's postgame blog, please give it a read below.
Here is the notebook, which does have a Dany Heatley update that could soon be irrelevant.
The Wild is not having a morning skate with a 5:30 p.m. MT start. I have to run out of the Delta Sky Club now because I have a flight to catch, but I will be on Fox Sports North during the first intermission tonight.
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