Were the Wild wise in keeping Backstrom?


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.


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

Is Mike Yeo on the hot seat?

Could Charlie Coyle be a star?

Oilers get Kronwall’d – in more ways than one

Niklas Kronwall
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When someone gets clobbered by Niklas Kronwall, they get Kronwall’d.

(His detractors may insist that the definition require the words “dirty” or “illegal,” but that’s a debate for another day.)

It’s easy to get lost in those thunderous hits and forget that the  Swedish defenseman also brings some skill to the table.

He made a big impact – literally and figuratively – in Detroit’s 4-3 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday.

First, the Kronwalling:

Next, Kronwall’s overtime-winner:

It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Red Wings are leaning on guys like Kronwall and Dylan Larkin to stick with it.

Tonight’s win extends their point streak to six games (4-0-2), with five of those contests going to overtime.

Dubinsky – Crosby’s nemesis – gets the last laugh on Friday

Sidney Crosby, Brandon Dubinsky
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Brandon Dubinsky isn’t a household name like Sidney Crosby is, yet for all the hype that Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin gets, Dubinsky is the sort of guy who truly rankles No. 87.

It’s been getting that spotlight since the Columbus Blue Jackets faced off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a brisk playoff series, though it wouldn’t be surprising if the bad blood stemmed to Dubinsky’s days with New York.

To some, Dubinsky’s cross-check on Crosby will resonate far more than the end result of this game:

The bottom line is that he’ll get the last laugh, at least for now. (In-game, that moment merely drew a minor penalty.)

That’s because Dubinsky set up the overtime game-winner, and the cherry on the top of that spite sundae came with Crosby being on the ice when it happened:

They’re not just rubbing the Penguins the wrong way.

Even Dubinsky kind of sort of admits that he may have been in the wrong.


More and more, the Blue Jackets are looking like a nuisance … possibly one that will grind their way to an unlikely playoff berth. They improved to 8-4-0 in November after a disastrous 2-10-0 October.

In other words, there’s at least a chance that we may see these increasingly bitter rivals butt heads in another playoff series.

Eichel’s sweet snipe helps Sabres snap six-game skid

Jack Eichel
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The Buffalo Sabres probably deserved better during at least some chunks of their six-game skid, yet Jack Eichel swooped in on Friday to remind fans that there’s a light shining at the end of the tunnel.

You can watch his goal from tonight’s eventual 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in the video above.

That’s not necessarily the absolute height of his on-ice magic, yet it clearly gave his team a lift:

Call this a healthy reminder that Eichel has the ability to change games, something Buffalo fans hope to get used to.

Report: Likely no suspension for Matt Beleskey’s hit on Derek Stepan

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Alain Vigneault went there in comparing Matt Beleskey‘s hit on Derek Stepan to the notorious check Aaron Rome delivered on Nathan Horton many moons ago, but the league seems to disagree.

While Rome sat through that memorable Stanley Cup Final between Boston and Vancouver, it sounds like Beleskey won’t face any further discipline, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.

In the unlikely event that anything changes, PHT will make note.

The next game between the Rangers and Bruins takes place at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 11. Will these bad feelings linger?