After a campaign where the Minnesota Wild had to compete for long stretches of time without their top two goaltenders, the team might have three viable starting options going into training camp. That’s created a good problem for Wild coach Mike Yeo to have.
The first step will be for Yeo to determine who will serve as the opening game starter between Niklas Backstrom, Josh Harding, and Darcy Kuemper. He’ll have to start leaning towards one of them by the middle of the preseason.
“The easy thing to say is just give them two games each (out of Minnesota’s six exhibition contests), but whoever’s playing game one, we have to make sure (he’s) ready to go too,” Yeo said at the Minnesota State Fair, per the Star Tribune. He later added, “I think everyone in those first three games has to get basically equal playing time (between Backstrom, Harding, and Kuemper). After that, we’re kind of open right now … but we’re going to have to quickly have to determine who we want to give a greater workload to.”
Regardless of who starts in the Wild’s first game though, the battle for the number one spot is likely to carry on into the regular season. Yeo doesn’t believe in the “win and you’re in” philosophy, but each netminder’s play will obviously dictate their ice time.
Of course, the elephant in the room is that Kuemper is a restricted free agent. There’s still time for the Wild to work something out, but with every passing day, the impasse slowly becomes more ominous.