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.
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.
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