Wild unlikely to reach high for a goalie in draft

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 27, 2014 - 4:01 PM

Plan A is status quo — provided Wild threesome stays healthy.

hide

Niklas Backstrom has had surgery twice since he last played for the Wild, but the team expects him to return to the success he had two seasons ago.

Photo: File photo by CARLOS GONZALEZ • cgonzalez@startribune.com,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

– The most remarkable thing about the Wild’s run to the conference semifinals last season was that of the four different No. 1 goalies — and seven on the roster — none played more than 29 games.

The Wild somehow survived signing a 43-year-old beer-leaguer to back up one game and threw John Curry in for another and managed a win despite being outshot 45-15.

To say the goaltending situation was turbulent is an understatement.

First-half MVP Josh Harding missed the second half because of complications with multiple sclerosis. Niklas Backstrom, 36, who has gone under the knife more than a half-dozen times the past five years, was never healthy and eventually was shut down so he could have two more operations. Darcy Kuemper saved the Wild’s hide until concussion issues thrust Ilya Bryzgalov into the spotlight.

Well, guess what? There’s no clear way to stabilize things heading into next season. The NHL draft, which starts Friday night with Round 1, and free agency are opportune times to alter one’s roster, but that could be impossible with the goalie position this summer. The Wild can’t simply sign a free-agent goalie such as Ryan Miller or Jonas Hiller. Backstrom has two years left on his contract, Harding has one, and Kuemper is likely to sign a one-way contract, meaning he could be sent to AHL Iowa without having to clear waivers but would be paid his NHL salary if assigned there.

“When our guys are healthy, they’ve played well,” General Manager Chuck Fletcher said. “We have three of them, and we’ll just have to let it work itself out. It’s not the easiest thing to change. Our goaltending was not a problem. It was a problem in terms of the number of goalies we used, but not by the performance.

“It’s different. We’re not completely locked in, but there’s not a ton of flexibility. So, they’ve all proven they can play at a high level, and the key is how do we keep two of them healthy?”

Health issues

Fletcher expects Backstrom to be ready to go by training camp. His rehab, after season-ending abdominal surgery, followed by hip surgery, is going according to plan, Fletcher says.

“He’s feeling better than he has in a long time, including all of last year,” Fletcher said. “How that translates on the ice, I don’t know, but I know we expect him to be much closer to the Nik Backstrom of two seasons ago when he tied for the league lead in wins than the Nik Backstrom of last year.

“Josh’s situation is more complicated. I think we’re all hopeful, but nobody knows. The one difference this year is Darcy. While it probably wouldn’t hurt him to get more time in Iowa, he’s shown at various times he’s a pretty good goalie up here.”

Many mock drafts have the Wild taking highly touted Boston College goalie Thatcher Demko 18th overall. Even if that happened, Demko couldn’t solve the Wild’s perceived short-term concerns. He likely will return to BC, where he is a rising sophomore, for a couple more years before developing in the minors. And Fletcher and assistant GM Brent Flahr are hesitant to take a goalie that high.

Taking chances

There are examples of first-round goaltending home runs, such as Olympic gold medalist Carey Price going fifth overall to Montreal and recent Vezina Trophy winner Tuukka Rask going 21st overall to Toronto in 2005.

But that’s rare. Take three of the best goalies in the NHL: Henrik Lundqvist, Pekka Rinne and Jonathan Quick. At the 2000 draft, the Islanders traded Roberto Luongo and Kevin Weekes on the same day and drafted Rick DiPietro first overall. Twenty goalies and 204 picks later, Lundqvist, the 2012 Vezina winner and 2014 Stanley Cup finalist, was selected by the Rangers. Rinne, the 2011 Vezina runner-up, was selected 258th overall in 2004 by Nashville. Twenty-nine goalies went ahead of him. Quick, who has won two Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe Trophy, was taken 72nd overall by Los Angeles in 2005. After Rask, five goalies were taken before the Kings took Quick. Seven spots before Quick, the Wild took somebody named Kristofer Westblom, a current Central Hockey Leaguer.

“Just the way goaltending works, there are reasons teams don’t take goalies in the first round,” Flahr said. “A lot of times somebody better comes out later. Goaltending is such a tough thing to project.”

Status quo

Fletcher says he’ll again be relying on the Wild’s strong defensive structure and a stroke of luck to keep Backstrom, Harding and Kuemper healthy.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

San Francisco - LP: J. Peavy 2 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: K. Herrera 7
San Diego 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Houston 90 FINAL
Orlando 89
Brooklyn 86 FINAL
Boston 100
Washington 100 FINAL
New York 103
Cleveland 92 FINAL
Memphis 96
Minnesota 110 FINAL
Milwaukee 91
Atlanta 117 FINAL
San Antonio 107
Portland 86 FINAL
LA Lakers 94
Phoenix 105 FINAL
LA Clippers 108
Toronto 0 Postponed
Ottawa 0
Philadelphia 5 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
Washington 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Buffalo 1 FINAL
Anaheim 4
Arkansas State 40 FINAL
Louisiana 55
Connecticut 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Chivas USA 0 FINAL
Real Salt Lake 2
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 10/24/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
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 Wild player?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close