With Niklas Backstrom sidelined by a concussion and a meaty part of the Wild’s schedule on the horizon, General Manager Chuck Fletcher might be in the market for a goaltender.
“I wouldn’t say Backy’s day-to-day because you never know with concussions, so we’ll have to evaluate how Nik’s doing,” Fletcher said Friday morning. “If it’s going to be longer-term, we’ll have to look at doing something. If it’s shorter-term, we’re confident with the guys we have. But ultimately we need Darcy Kuemper and Johan Gustafsson developing in Iowa and not spending the whole year up here.”
Fletcher is comfortable with Josh Harding continuing to get the majority of starts with Kuemper or Gustafsson making the occasional spot start. But with the Wild at the start of a stretch where it plays 17 games in 30 nights with back-to-back games in each of the next four weeks and five of the next six, the team will need a reliable second goaltender.
If Backstrom is out long-term, Fletcher can either sign a free-agent goaltender or make a trade. The three most established North American free agents are former Islander Rick DiPietro, former Wild Jose Theodore and longtime NHLer Johan Hedberg.
Of the three, DiPietro is the only one currently playing. Bought out by the Islanders last summer, DiPietro is on a tryout with the Carolina Hurricanes’ AHL team, the Charlotte Checkers, and is 0-3 in four games with a robust 5.57 goals-against average.
Theodore, the former Hart Trophy winner with the Montreal Canadiens, went 15-11-3 in 32 games for the Wild in 2010-11. Fletcher is a fan, signing Theodore after Harding tore his ACL and MCL in the preseason. Theodore, who lives in Boca Raton, Fla., said Friday he works out with a trainer four times a week and is skating daily.
Hedberg, released from a tryout with the Rangers this fall, has been doing part-time scouting with the New Jersey Devils and doesn’t seem keen on moving far from family.
“We haven’t gone through the process yet, but you’re always trying to know who’s available,” said Fletcher. “In the short-term, you don’t want to overreact and clearly Kuemper and Gustafsson are quality goalies who can play. We’ll make the right decision based on what we know medically. It’s not like I’ve called 20 teams yet.”
Gustafsson backed up Harding on Friday against the Panthers. The Wild wanted Kuemper to start for Iowa against San Antonio in case it needs him to start at Ottawa on Wednesday.
He’s so innocent
Nazem Kadri, the Toronto Maple Leafs forward suspended three games, said his hit on Backstrom Wednesday was “100 percent unintentional.”
“I’m a pretty honest player,” Kadri said. “Nothing like that has happened before. I was just trying to go to the net hard and just kind of ran out of real estate and accidentally bumped into him.”
Kadri received no discipline for the shot to Mikael Granlund’s head that resulted in a five-minute Wild power play.
“[NHL executive Brendan Shanahan] agreed … the second one was clean,” Kadri said.
• Former Wild center John Madden, who lives in Edina, was promoted from Panthers scout to assistant coach last week when Florida fired its coaching staff.
• The Panthers’ Nick Bjugstad, a Blaine native and former Gopher, centered Jonathan Huberdeau and Tomas Fleischmann in his first pro game at the X.