Were the Wild wise in keeping Backstrom?

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The Minnesota Wild received an opportunity to make a change in net this summer. Instead, they opted to stick with Niklas Backstrom, signing the 35-year-old to a three-year, $10.25 million deal.

Was it the right move? Let’s look at some of the pros and cons.

35+

The biggest problem with signing the Finnish netminder is that he’s 35, so that contract is a lot tougher to move if things go south. There are plenty of faulty goalie contracts in the NHL, yet most of them aren’t locked in to that restriction.

Fair market value

While the 35+ factor is a worry, the changing goalie market makes his $3.42 million cap hit fairly manageable.

His annual average salary falls in line with other netminders like Devan Dubnyk, Evgeni Nabokov, Craig Anderson, Jaroslav Halak and Antti Niemi. Backstrom isn’t a particularly sexy name, yet his contract seems more reasonable when you put into context.

Mixed results

Backstrom’s stock dipped a bit in 2013, even though he won more games in an abbreviated season that he did in 2011-12 and 2010-11.* Really, a bad contract year might just benefit the Wild in the long run.

In the bigger picture, Backstrom has quietly put together the kind of resume that makes him a respectable franchise netminder. While he hasn’t played as many games, his career .917 save percentage edges Ryan Miller’s, for instance.

Sign of the times

Again, Backstrom is hardly an exciting name, at least right now. It’s feasible that the Wild could have gambled on free agents such as Tim Thomas and Ilya Bryzgalov, particularly if the market backed those two risky names into a corner.

Still, they obviously know what they’re getting in Backstrom, and the outlook really isn’t all that bad (even if it’s not exhilarating).

* – Granted, injuries and other factors made it so the 42 games he played barely trailed those campaigns.

More from Wild day at PHT

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Could Charlie Coyle be a star?

Avalanche reportedly settle with Nieto, avoiding arbitration

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Matt Nieto won’t need his arbitration hearing on Monday.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Nieto has agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract with the Colorado Avalanche.

Nieto split last season between San Jose and Colorado, which claimed him off waivers in January.

In 43 games for the Avalanche, the 24-year-old forward scored seven goals with four assists.

Nieto was the only Colorado player on this summer’s arbitration list. However, the Avs still have a restricted free agent in Nikita Zadorov, who could be off to the KHL next season.

3 KHL players suspended after testing positive for banned substances

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The International Ice Hockey Federation has announced that three KHL players have been suspended after testing positive for banned substances.

Here’s an excerpt from the KHL’s website:

The IIHF has informed the KHL that three players – forward Danis Zaripov (then with Metallurg Magnitogorsk), defenseman Andrei Konev (Admiral Vladivostok) and defenseman Derek Smith (Medvescak Zagreb) – have tested positive for banned substances.

Derek Smith tested positive for a category S6.а stimulant.

Andrei Konev tested positive for a category S6.b stimulant.

Danis Zaripov tested positive for a category S6.b stimulant plus category S5 diuretics and masking agents.

Zapirov, who was part of Team Russia at the 2010 Olympic Games, has been banned from suiting up in “competitive hockey” until May 22, 2019. Konev will be unable to play until Nov. 19, 2017, while Smith, who is Canadian, will be suspended until Sep. 2, 2018.

Smith, 32, played in 94 NHL games with the Ottawa Senators and Calgary Flames between 2009-10 and 2013-14.

Report: John MacLean could join Tocchet’s coaching staff in Arizona

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The Arizona Coyotes have a new head coach, but Rick Tocchet still has to fill out the rest of his staff.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the ‘Yotes might be looking to add John MacLean to their coaching staff.

MacLean, 52, spent six years as an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils (2002-2009) before becoming the head coach of their AHL affiliate. After one year of coaching in the minors, MacLean was promoted to head coach of the Devils. His tenure didn’t last very long, as he was fired after just 33 games (they were 9-22-2 under his watch).

He spent the following three seasons as an assistant in Carolina, but he was let go after the 2014 season.

MacLean hasn’t been back behind an NHL bench since being let go by the ‘Canes. Instead, he’s served as a hockey analyst on various television networks.

Related:

Tocchet wants Coyotes’ young players to be ‘creative’ and ‘calculated’

Tocchet brings lessons from past mistakes (and successes) to Coyotes

Sabres re-sign Robin Lehner to one-year, $4 million deal

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The Buffalo Sabres avoided salary arbitration with goalie Robin Lehner, as they inked him to a one-year, $4 million contract on Tuesday morning.

Lehner and the Sabres were scheduled to have their hearing on July 27, but that obviously won’t be necessary anymore.

The 26-year-old played a career-high 59 games in 2016-17. He finished the year with a 23-26-8 record, a 2.68 goals-against-average and a .920 save percentage.

There’s no doubt that he’s a talented netminder, but he’s had his share of struggles when it comes to staying healthy and being consistent. Of course, the team in front of him hasn’t been very good either.

Both of Buffalo’s goalies (Lehner and Chad Johnson) will have something to prove this season because they’re both on one-year contracts. When their deals expire next summer, Lehner will be a restricted free agent again, while Johnson will be free to test the market on July 1st.

The Sabres now have just over $10.9 million in cap space with RFAs Zemgus Girgensons, Nathan Beaulieu and Evan Rodrigues still needing new contracts.

A huge extension for Jack Eichel is also on the horizon, but his new salary won’t count on the cap until 2018-19.