Now that the calendar has reached Jan. 1, the Wild can extend the contract of Iowa Wild goaltender Alex Stalock or Wild backup Darcy Kuemper if it so chooses.
While the Wild has made it abundantly clear nobody should have one iota of concern, the only reason this is a topic is because as of this moment, the Wild must expose Devan Dubnyk, the best goaltender statistically in the NHL this season, in June’s Las Vegas expansion draft.
Every NHL team must expose a goalie for the Golden Knights to select, but that goalie cannot be a pending unrestricted free agent, as Stalock and Kuemper currently would be. The Wild signed each to one-year contracts last summer, not multiyear deals.
Prospect goalies Steve Michalek, Adam Vay, Kaapo Kahkonen and Ales Stezka wouldn’t satisfy the Wild’s exposure obligation. So technically, as of now, Dubnyk would have to be exposed.
However, the Wild has until June 17 — the date teams must submit its expansion draft protection lists — to acquire another goalie, sign another goalie or extend Stalock or Kuemper. When players are on one-year contracts, they can’t be re-signed until after Jan. 1.
Kuemper wants to be a No. 1, so it’s unlikely he would sign an extension now. So the easiest solution would be to extend Stalock, who is 9-9-2 with Iowa with a 2.75 goals-against average and .905 save percentage.
Other options include acquiring a goalie before the March 1 trade deadline, signing a European free agent or even bringing back 2010 sixth-round pick Johan Gustafsson, whom the Wild still owns the rights to. He backstopped Frolunda to a Swedish Elite League championship last season, so it’s unlikely he’d return to the Wild without a one-way contract.
Kid at play
One of the best renditions of the Wild’s traditional pregame “Let’s Play Hockey” came Dec. 11 from 7-year-old Obadiah Gamble, a former patient of Minnesota Children’s Hospital. Later during the game against St. Louis, Gamble went, as Nino Niederreiter said, “bananas” when Niederreiter scored during an interview with Fox Sports North’s Kevin Gorg.
So Friday, Niederreiter arranged for Gamble to come to practice. Niederreiter gave Gamble an autographed jersey and stick, a locker-room tour and played hockey with Gamble on the dressing-room carpet.
“It’s great to see young fans like him and how passionate they are. It was neat to see,” Niederreiter said. “I was glad to make it happen for him.”
Zach Parise has a theory why linemate Eric Staal is so good defensively.
“I think it’s the reach, and I think it’s that he likes to play wing a lot in the D zone and makes his wingers play center,” Parise said, laughing. “We have to play low a lot, so I think that’s what makes him so good in the D zone.”
Staal got a kick out of Parise’s hypothesis.
“It’s called a fluent line when you have everyone mixing in to help out in different areas,” Staal said, laughing. “I end up low a few times, but it’s good for Zach to play low.”
• It’s not only Dubnyk who has admiration for Montreal’s Carey Price, the Hart and Vezina Trophy winner who has backstopped Canada to gold internationally multiple times. “His journey has been a rough one at times, but you have to respect his resilience and the way he’s carried himself throughout the whole process,” Price said. “You have to tip your hat to a guy like that sticking with it and finding a way to be successful.”
• Wild coach Bruce Boudreau tinkered with the first and third lines to start Saturday’s game. He moved Charlie Coyle to the right of the top line and Jason Pominville to the third.