On Thursday, Minnesota announced that goalie Niklas Backstrom underwent successful sports hernia surgery, and is expected to be recovered for the start of the 2013-14 season.
But will he be back with the Wild?
The 36-year-old is in the final season of a four-year, $24 million deal signed back in 2009. While still highly-effective — he tied for the NHL lead in wins this year, with 24 — it remains to be seen if Minnesota will bring him back.
(In a recent column, Mike Russo of the Star Tribune wondered if Backstrom had played his last game for the Wild.)
Minnesota has Josh Harding under contract ’til 2015 and, after missing a large chunk of the season due to complications with multiple sclerosis, Harding rebounded to play in all five of Minnesota’s opening-round playoff games against Chicago after Backstrom got hurt during warmups prior to Game 1.
(Harding finished with a .911 save percentage and 2.94 GAA, earning a Masterton Trophy nomination earlier this week.)
The Wild also have 22-year-old Darcy Kuemper in the mix.
The 2009 draftee was outstanding for AHL Houston this season (13-8-0, 1.88 GAA, .934 save percentage) and looked good in limited minutes at the NHL level this season.
That said, it’s tough to envision the Wild going with just Harding and Kuemper next season, so Backstrom could be brought back.
The x-factor will be the UFA goalie market — Backstom could be the best guy available depending what happens with Mike Smith in Phoenix and Evgeni Nabokov on Long Island.