It appears Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom is off to Belarus.
The 34-year-old is reportedly set to sign a lockout agreement with KHL outfit HC Dynamo Minsk, according to Russian news outlet RIA Novosti.
The move will reunite Backstrom with Finnish goalie guru Ari Hilly, Dynamo’s goaltending coach (Hilly is largely credited with the development of Nashville’s Pekka Rinne.)
It’s possible Backstrom made the jump to Belarus with an eye on Minnesota’s other goalie, Josh Harding.
Expected to test free agent waters and find a team with a No. 1 gig available, Harding instead chose to re-sign with the Wild this summer on a three-year, $5.7 million dollar deal — presumably to challenge for the starting job.
So, easy to understand why Backstrom wants to stay sharp.
As for the club that signed him — Minsk made waves earlier this summer by securing the services of former Jets forward Tim Stapleton. The 30-year-old forward surprised some by jumping to the KHL after an impressive 2011-12 campaign with Winnipeg, one where he posted career highs in goals (11), assists (16) and points (27).
Update: Mike Russo of the Star-Tribune notes that Backstrom still hasn’t officially inked with Minsk because of insurance/visa issues. That said, Backstrom says signing with the team “is pretty far along.”
Following his stunning 41-game suspension, it looks like Raffi Torres has at least one former teammate in his corner.
We haven’t yet seen how the San Jose Sharks or the NHLPA are reacting to the league’s hammer-dropping decision to punish Torres for his Torres-like hit on Jakob Silfverberg, but Jason Demers decided to put in a good word for Torres tonight.
It was a simple message: “#FreeTorres.”
Demers, now of the Dallas Stars, was once with Torres and the Sharks. (In case this post’s main image didn’t make that clear enough already.)
Perhaps this will become “a thing” at some point.
So far, it seems like it’s instead “a thing (that people are making fun of).”
… You get the idea.
The bottom line is that there are some who either a) blindly support Torres because they’re Sharks fans or b) simply think that the punishment was excessive.
The most important statement came from the Department of Player Safety, though.
Those who feel as though the Boston Bruins may rebound – John Tortorella, maybe? – likely rest some of their optimism on the back of a healthy Zdeno Chara.
It’s possible that he’s merely limping into what may otherwise be a healthy 2015-16 season, but it’s definitely looking like a slow start thanks to a lower-body injury.
The latest sign of a bumpy beginning came on Monday, as several onlookers (including CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty) pointed out that Chara was listed on injured reserve.
As Haggerty notes, that move is retroactive to Sept. 24, so his status really just opens up options for the Bruins.
Still … it’s a little unsettling, isn’t it?
The Bruins likely realize that they need to transition away from their generational behemoth, but last season provided a stark suggestion that may not be ready yet. Trading Dougie Hamilton and losing Dennis Seidenberg to injury only make them more dependent on the towering 38-year-old.
This isn’t really something to panic about, yet it might leave a few extra seats open on the Bruins’ bandwagon.