Wild adds goalie depth in Bryzgalov; Backstrom shut down

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 5, 2014 - 2:43 PM

With Backstrom lost for season, veteran likely will back up Kuemper.

On a day when rumors swirled that future first-ballot Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur or Jaroslav Halak could be Minnesota-bound, the Wild pulled the lever on the simplest available option for goaltending insurance.

General Manager Chuck Fletcher, on the day he shut down Niklas Backstrom for the season because of an abdominal injury, sent the fourth-round draft pick the Wild received from Buffalo in last year’s Jason Pominville trade to Edmonton for former Phoenix Coyotes and Philadelphia Flyers starter Ilya Bryzgalov.

The enigmatic Russian goalie, a YouTube sensation for his goofy takes on the “universe” and comedic quarrels with the Flyers media, was bought out of the final seven years of his nine-year, $51 million contract by the Flyers last summer.

But Bryzgalov, 33, wanted to keep playing and even talked to the Wild after Backstrom strained a knee last October. He eventually signed a one-year deal with the Oilers. During the second intermission of Thursday’s game in Edmonton, GM Craig MacTavish was seen bending Fletcher’s ear.

Fletcher said the Wild was looking for a veteran goalie with playoff experience to help rookie Darcy Kuemper and “most importantly had an expiring contract.”

Since assuming the Wild’s No. 1 job Jan. 7, Kuemper is 11-2-2 with a 2.02 goals-against average and .930 save percentage. He has won five in a row, allowing six goals in that span.

Coach Mike Yeo said Tuesday that “we’re going to keep giving [Kuemper] opportunity to get out there and show what he’s done. We’re in large part where we are right now because of the job that he’s done.”

Bryzgalov, who will practice for the first time Thursday (the Wild has Wednesday off), accepts if he’s not the No. 1, saying, “I will do my job as best that I can. Make the decisions on who’s supposed to play, that’s not my job. My job is to go there, practice hard, play hard for the team and that’s it.”

He was a cheaper option than Halak. It’ll cost the Wild roughly $476,000 and still gives Fletcher the flexibility if he wants to add roughly $3 million in players by Wednesday’s 2 p.m. trade deadline. It could be more if the Wild opts to place Backstrom or Josh Harding, whom Fletcher doesn’t expect to play again this season, on long-term injured reserve.

Bryzgalov’s acquisition price also was cheap (the Wild still owns another fourth-round pick and nine selections in June’s seven-round draft) compared with that of Halak, who would have cost a prospect or a second-round pick, sources say.

The pressure to acquire a goalie was exacerbated by Backstrom’s situation. Backstrom, who had offseason sports hernia surgery, likely needs surgery again. He hasn’t been healthy all season, Fletcher said.

“Our goal for Nik is to get him healthy for next year,” said Fletcher, adding that Backstrom, who has two years left on his contract, was “very emotional” Tuesday yet still practiced because “that’s him.”

“Needless to say, he’s disappointed,” Fletcher said.

Bryzgalov went 5-8-5 with a 3.01 GAA in 20 games in Edmonton but played well after the Oilers acquired Ben Scrivens in January.

“He’s played in three Olympics, was a second-team All-Star one year, he’s won over 200 games in the NHL, so to add a goaltender of that caliber for what we felt was a very manageable price made a lot of sense,” Fletcher said.

Over a 12-year NHL career that has spanned four teams, including Anaheim, where he was together with Fletcher, Bryzgalov is 213-157-50 with a 2.57 GAA and .913 save percentage.

Bryzgalov is a big butterfly-style goalie who relies on positioning and athleticism. With structure in front of him, he’s had success in the league, and the Wild gives up the fifth-fewest goals per game (2.36) and the sixth-fewest shots per game (27.9).

Since Kuemper is all but certain to start his 16th consecutive game Saturday in Dallas, Bryzgalov could make his Wild debut Sunday against the St. Louis Blues at Xcel Energy Center.

“I like getting out there and playing, and we’ve been having success lately, but I’m just going to keep focusing on what I can control and the next game on the schedule,” Kuemper said.

Bryzgalov’s acquisition gives the Wild depth in case Kuemper, who has 73 minutes of NHL playoff experience, falters or gets hurt. Also, the Wild plays 20 games in the final 37 days, including five more sets of back-to-backs.

“It’s not possible for one goalie to play all of them, so they’re both going to have to win games,” Fletcher said.

The GM might not be done. Quebec TV reporter Renaud Lavoie reported Tuesday that Torrey Mitchell, saddled on the fourth line for two seasons, has requested to be traded. Mitchell and agent Kent Hughes denied the report, although that was contradicted Tuesday night by sources.

Veterans Dany Heatley and Kyle Brodziak also have been floated out there. If the Wild traded forwards, it would look to acquire some back and Fletcher often has proved to have something up his sleeve. Sources say the Wild has had ongoing conversations with the Sabres about Drew Stafford, Pominville’s former teammate and a former Shattuck- St. Mary’s and North Dakota teammate of Wild forward Zach Parise.

Additional forwards on the market include the New York Islanders’ Thomas Vanek, Buffalo’s Matt Moulson and Calgary’s Mike Cammalleri.

Fletcher spent the entire second intermission Monday with Flames acting GM Brian Burke.

If the Wild, 9-2-2 in its past 13 and winner of five in a row, stands pat, Yeo said Tuesday, “We like our group. We believe we can win with this group.”

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Tennessee 13 FINAL
Jacksonville 21
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
New York 97 FINAL
Chicago 103
New Orleans 99 FINAL
Houston 90
Milwaukee 108 FINAL
Sacramento 107
Oklahoma City 109 FINAL
Golden State 114
Florida 2 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 1
Colorado 0 FINAL(OT)
Pittsburgh 1
Toronto 1 FINAL
Carolina 4
Washington 5 FINAL(OT)
Columbus 4
Anaheim 2 FINAL
Montreal 1
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Los Angeles 6
Edmonton 3 FINAL
San Jose 4
St Thomas (TX) 61 FINAL
Rice 72
Stony Brook 59 FINAL
Canisius 60
Temple 82 FINAL
Delaware 62
FIU 58 FINAL
Long Island 69
Lehigh 65 FINAL
Quinnipiac 80
South Alabama 54 FINAL
Richmond 65
Seton Hall 89 FINAL
South Florida 69
Ga Southern 76 FINAL
Stetson 67
Yale 57 FINAL
Vermont 56
Cleveland State 54 FINAL
Virginia 70
Wright State 69 FINAL
Western Carolina 56
Nicholls 54 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 79
Morgan State 48 FINAL
Rider 62
Idaho State 72 FINAL
South Dakota St 75
Oakland City 52 FINAL
Austin Peay 76
Eureka 38 FINAL
Bradley 80
Appalachian St 65 FINAL
Charlotte 75
Connecticut 56 FINAL
Duke 66
Southern Miss 46 FINAL
Jackson State 66
Coastal Carolina 68 FINAL
Ole Miss 71
Montana State 53 FINAL
South Dakota 55
LSU 79 FINAL
UAB 70
Ohio 69 FINAL
Evansville 81
CS-Dominguez 50 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 72
Walla Walla 39 FINAL
Idaho 86
DePaul 59 FINAL
Oregon State 90
Nevada 65 FINAL
Pacific 69
Portland State 40 FINAL
San Francisco 77
CS-Bakersfield 56 FINAL
Utah State 57
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Niagara 76 FINAL
Cleveland State 58
High Point 59 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 81
Towson 64 FINAL
Wake Forest 74
Presbyterian 50 FINAL
Charlotte 66
Chicago State 62 FINAL
Bradley 59
Northwestern Coll 58 FINAL
Drake 102
Vanderbilt 67 FINAL
Marquette 80
Temple 78 FINAL
Howard 48
Southern Miss 66 FINAL
Ole Miss 68
UMBC 55 FINAL
Rider 67
Miami-Florida 74 FINAL
UCLA 67
St Mary-KS 51 FINAL
South Dakota 115
William & Mary 71 FINAL
Wofford 51
Troy 82 FINAL
Evansville 94
Loyola Marymount 54 FINAL
USC 96
St Francis-PA 52 FINAL
Duquesne 92
Indiana-Southeast 45 FINAL
IUPUI 95
Delaware State 52 FINAL
Detroit 74
Tenn Temple 48 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 68
West Virginia St 58 FINAL
Radford 52
Fairfield 47 FINAL
Seton Hall 79
Dartmouth 44 FINAL
New Hampshire 60
Ball State 47 FINAL
Pittsburgh 59
Jacksonville 61 FINAL
Tennessee St 64
Trine 45 FINAL
Western Mich 81
Tenn Tech 53 FINAL
Lipscomb 72
Samford 56 FINAL
Tulane 57
New Orleans 55 FINAL
Tulsa 78
Incarnate Word 61 FINAL
TX-Pan American 65
Ark-Little Rock 42 FINAL
South Dakota St 67
CS-Northridge 77 FINAL
Northern Ariz 71
Santa Clara 88 FINAL
Oregon 92
(19) Oklahoma St 55 FINAL
Weber State 49
Washington 69 FINAL
San Diego State 48
Cal Poly 68 FINAL
New Mexico 84
(10) Louisville 65 FINAL
Grand Canyon 51
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite pro sports coach in the Twin Cities?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close