Five goalies started games for the Minnesota Wild in 2013-14. Only one of them, Ilya Bryzgalov, is no longer with the organization. And as it stands, there’s no clear consensus on who will be the No. 1 in 2014-15.
The top three candidates?
Josh Harding: Was excellent through December until complications from multiple sclerosis forced him from the net.
Niklas Backstrom: Struggled in 21 appearances, finishing with an .899 save percentage. Now 36 years old, he’s had trouble staying healthy. In March, he had season-ending core muscle surgery.
Darcy Kuemper: Played well (12-8-4, .915 SV%) last season, but the 24-year-old still lacks NHL experience, with only 28 career starts on his résumé. (Also a restricted free agent and still needs to be signed.)
Add minor-leaguer John Curry and prospect Johan Gustafsson to the mix and, not surprisingly, Wild coach Mike Yeo is “expecting some good competition in camp.”
The question is, can one of the above candidates give Minnesota good enough goaltending to make a deep run in the playoffs? Because, make no mistake, a deep run is the goal now for a Wild team that made it to the second round this past spring, then added Thomas Vanek in free agency.
“We’re definitely comfortable. When healthy, our guys have performed well,” general manager Chuck Fletcher said of his goaltending situation, per the StarTribune.
“We’re fortunate we have three NHL-capable goaltenders that are able to play. We really only need one of them to be healthy, I guess, would be the cynical way of looking at it. We’re going to go with what we have. Right now there’s no reason to think that any one of them won’t be ready for training camp. Backstrom feels good and Harding feels good and we’ll see how things play out come camp. You always have the ability to make adjustments in the season if necessary.”