It appears Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom is off to Belarus.
The 34-year-old is reportedly set to sign a lockout agreement with KHL outfit HC Dynamo Minsk, according to Russian news outlet RIA Novosti.
The move will reunite Backstrom with Finnish goalie guru Ari Hilly, Dynamo’s goaltending coach (Hilly is largely credited with the development of Nashville’s Pekka Rinne.)
It’s possible Backstrom made the jump to Belarus with an eye on Minnesota’s other goalie, Josh Harding.
Expected to test free agent waters and find a team with a No. 1 gig available, Harding instead chose to re-sign with the Wild this summer on a three-year, $5.7 million dollar deal — presumably to challenge for the starting job.
So, easy to understand why Backstrom wants to stay sharp.
As for the club that signed him — Minsk made waves earlier this summer by securing the services of former Jets forward Tim Stapleton. The 30-year-old forward surprised some by jumping to the KHL after an impressive 2011-12 campaign with Winnipeg, one where he posted career highs in goals (11), assists (16) and points (27).
Update: Mike Russo of the Star-Tribune notes that Backstrom still hasn’t officially inked with Minsk because of insurance/visa issues. That said, Backstrom says signing with the team “is pretty far along.”