After undergoing arthroscopic hip surgery in late May, Washington forward Niklas Backstrom says he’s targeting a return in time for the club’s season-opener on Oct. 10 versus New Jersey.
“I hope, of course, to be ready to start the season,” Backstrom said this week in an interview with Swedish radio station Sverigesradio.
In mid-June, a report from Swedish news outlet Gefle Dagblad suggested Backstrom would miss up to five months recovering from surgery, a procedure he required after playing most of the season in pain.
A five-month recovery period would, of course, be at odds with what the Capitals said following surgery:
“Based on the nature of this procedure we are confident that Nick will be completely healthy prior to the start of the 2015-16 regular season.”
Should rehab go five months, Backstrom would be on target for a late-October return, and could miss as many as 10 games. Washington opens the season with a four-game homestand, then goes on the road for a three-game Western swing through Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton before closing out October with dates against the Penguins, Blue Jackets and Panthers.
Related: Trotz: ‘Up in the air’ if Backstrom (hip) will be ready for opener
Now that goaltender Devan Dubnyk has inked a six-year, $26 million contract with the Minnesota Wild, where does that leave Darcy Kuemper?
Kuemper had an opportunity to establish himself as Minnesota’s starter last season, but he barely played at all after the Wild acquired Dubnyk last season. Still, it sounds like there’s an opening for the workload to be far less one-sided in 2015-16.
“Well we’re still very excited about Darcy Kuemper,” Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said, per the Star Tribune. “He’s a young man, and two seasons ago he had a tremendous year. Last year he was certainly more erratic. He started well and had a tough stretch in the middle of the year.”
Kuemper is just 25 years old and has enjoyed some good stretches. Overall he has a 2.48 GAA and .910 save percentage in 63 career starts.
Meanwhile, Niklas Backstrom is set to begin the season as the team’s third-string goaltender as the 37-year-old plays out the final campaign of his three-year, $10.25 million deal. He played in just 40 games over the first two seasons of that contract.
Keeping three goalies on a team’s roster is typically not seen as ideal, but in Minnesota it’s fast becoming the norm.
“For a lot of the last two years, we’ve had to carry three goalies, and it looks like that’s how we’re going to have it to start this season as well,” Fletcher said.
Minnesota has agreed to a three-year, entry-level contract with Swedish forward Joel Eriksson Ek, the 20th overall pick at this year’s draft.\
“We’re excited to officially have Joel under contract,” Wild assistant GM Brent Flahr said in a release. “He’s a top young player with an exciting package of size, skill, hockey sense and character. We are committed to working with him in the development process and look forward to seeing him in a Wild uniform in the near future.”
Per the Star-Tribune, Eriksson Ek will return to Sweden next year and play with SHL Farjestad (he’s under contract for the next two years). That he’s headed back home isn’t much of a surprise; Eriksson Ek split last season between Farjestad’s senior and junior teams and only turned 18 in January.
What’s more, there aren’t a ton of roster spots available at forward in Minnesota.
An overage of bodies saw the team cut ties with the likes of Matt Cooke, Kyle Brodziak and Chris Stewart this summer, and it’s expected GM Chuck Fletcher will use the organization’s internal options (Jordan Schroeder, Ryan Carter, Erik Haula, etc.) to fill the few spaces available.