Wild GM says goaltending is ‘No. 1 priority’


For the Minnesota Wild, goaltending is the “No. 1 priority to address” this summer, general manager Chuck Fletcher told ESPN’s Craig Custance recently.

It’s not hard to see why. Niklas Backstrom is a 35-year-old pending unrestricted free agent that just had sports-hernia surgery. Josh Harding, 28, has two years left on his deal; however, he’s yet to prove he can be a full-time starter in the NHL, and his MS can’t be ignored either, as unfortunate as that may be. Darcy Kuemper and Johan Gustafsson are two young prospects, but for now that’s all they are.

Custance reports that “serious contract talks” have yet to start between Backstrom and the Wild.

“Right now, we’re just waiting for Minnesota to finish their meetings and go from there,” Backstrom’s agent, Jeff Kowall, told ESPN. “Our first step is to see what Minnesota’s plans are, and hopefully there’s something to be worked out.”

The Wild could also go the trade or free-agent route to find a new starter, though with the salary cap falling from $70.2 million or $64.3 million, they may have to look in the bargain bin. That, or first shed a hit like Dany Heatley’s $7.5 million, whether via trade or buyout.