Were the Wild wise in keeping Backstrom?

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The Minnesota Wild received an opportunity to make a change in net this summer. Instead, they opted to stick with Niklas Backstrom, signing the 35-year-old to a three-year, $10.25 million deal.

Was it the right move? Let’s look at some of the pros and cons.

35+

The biggest problem with signing the Finnish netminder is that he’s 35, so that contract is a lot tougher to move if things go south. There are plenty of faulty goalie contracts in the NHL, yet most of them aren’t locked in to that restriction.

Fair market value

While the 35+ factor is a worry, the changing goalie market makes his $3.42 million cap hit fairly manageable.

His annual average salary falls in line with other netminders like Devan Dubnyk, Evgeni Nabokov, Craig Anderson, Jaroslav Halak and Antti Niemi. Backstrom isn’t a particularly sexy name, yet his contract seems more reasonable when you put into context.

Mixed results

Backstrom’s stock dipped a bit in 2013, even though he won more games in an abbreviated season that he did in 2011-12 and 2010-11.* Really, a bad contract year might just benefit the Wild in the long run.

In the bigger picture, Backstrom has quietly put together the kind of resume that makes him a respectable franchise netminder. While he hasn’t played as many games, his career .917 save percentage edges Ryan Miller’s, for instance.

Sign of the times

Again, Backstrom is hardly an exciting name, at least right now. It’s feasible that the Wild could have gambled on free agents such as Tim Thomas and Ilya Bryzgalov, particularly if the market backed those two risky names into a corner.

Still, they obviously know what they’re getting in Backstrom, and the outlook really isn’t all that bad (even if it’s not exhilarating).

* – Granted, injuries and other factors made it so the 42 games he played barely trailed those campaigns.

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Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

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Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

“We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

“I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

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OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.