Darcy Kuemper

‘Realistic chance’ Wild will carry three goalies next year


Following a season in which they had four different starting goalies, the Minnesota Wild are thinking they can trim that number for next year — by one.

“I wish I could sit here and tell you we had the answer right now,” GM Chuck Fletcher said, per the Pioneer Press. “That’ll be part of the process we go through right now and in June at our organizational meetings.

“Certainly, some of the doctors will play a part in this, the salary cap will play a part in this, and we’ll sit down and try to make the best decisions we can. But certainly there’s a realistic chance that we need to have three goaltenders next year.”

Here’s how the situation looks as of today…

Josh Harding: Under contract ’til 2015, at $1.9 million per. Unclear if he’ll be healthy enough to return, as complications from a change in multiple sclerosis treatment forced him to miss the second half of the season and playoffs.

Niklas Backstrom: Under contract ’til 2016, at $3.4 million per. The 36-year-old suffered through an injury-riddled campaign this year, playing in just 21 games while posting a .899 save percentage and 3.02 GAA.

Darcy Kuemper: Pending RFA, will definitely be back as he’s viewed as the club’s goalie of the future. Will be interesting to see what price he’s signed for, though, as the Wild have $5.3 million committed to goaltending next season already in Harding and Backstrom.

Ilya Bryzgalov: Pending UFA, unlikely to be back.

All in all, it’s a pretty muddled situation. Carrying three goalies is rarely a popular option for NHL clubs — it ties up a roster spot, you can only dress two each game and practice becomes a jugging act trying to get guys equal time — but it might be a necessity for Minnesota given Harding and Backstrom’s health concerns, and the fact Kuemper has never played more than 26 games in a single NHL campaign.

It’ll be interesting to see what Fletcher does here, and how Mike Yeo plays into it. It sounds as though a contract extension is coming for the head coach, and one would think he’d like some assurance he won’t be playing the goalie carousel game all of next year (especially since many praised Yeo’s coaching job this year in spite of all the uncertainty the Wild had in net.)


Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist
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DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.