Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold thinks quite highly of goalie Niklas Backstrom.
But as for bringing back the 36-year-old pending UFA?
Well, you be the judge.
In an interview with the Minnesota Star-Tribune, Leipold explained his thoughts on retaining Backstrom, who’s been with the Wild since 2006.
“Last year was not one of his best years and we think we may have overplayed him,” Leipold explained. “But he’s a good goalie. There’s a lot of teams in this league and a lot of teams in these playoffs that would like to have him.
“We know Niklas is available and we know exactly what kind of player he can be and we know what he can do. He keeps himself in incredible shape. We are not uncomfortable with Niklas Backstrom as our No. 1 goalie.”
Okay, so not exactly a ringing endorsement.
But also not writing off Backstrom entirely.
The issue, it would seem, is money. The Finnish netminder has been well compensated over the last four years — $24 million, an annual cap hit of $6 million — and, despite 2013 being “not one of his best years,” Backstrom still tied for the NHL lead in wins, with 24.
While he probably won’t get a $6-million-per-season payday this summer, he could score a nice-sized deal from a team looking for veteran goaltending, a potential No. 1 or someone to platoon in goal.
Minnesota, meanwhile, has some cap issues.
The Wild are roughly $6.7 million under the ceiling with 19 players signed, but still have decisions to make on RFAs Cal Clutterbuck, Justin Falk and Jared Spurgeon, and UFAs Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Matt Cullen.
Further complicating things is the health status of compliance buyout candidate Dany Heatley. His shoulder ailment could prevent Minnesota from buying him out, as injured players are not eligible.
Leipold admitted it’ll be tough for the Wild to do much when free agency opens on July 5.
“The cap situation certainly does limit us,” he explained. “The moves that we made last summer were strategic and long-term. No one can make those kind of splashes unless they just like to make splashes.”