Wild to Use Top Goalie Prospect Johan Gustafsson as Trade Bait? Don’t Count on it.


Darcy Kuemper made his NHL debut in the 2012-13 season; Johan Gustafsson may make his NHL debut at some point next season. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

According to an article on Bleacher Report, top goalie prospect Johan Gustafsson could be a huge piece of trade bait for the Minnesota Wild this offseason. That’s highly doubtful.

Per Nicholas Goss’ article:

"The Minnesota Wild could be in a position to make a deep run in the Western Conference playoffs next season if they acquire another impact player on the blue line.One position of strength in the organization that may be used to add another star via trade is goaltending. With Niklas Backstrom, Josh Harding and 23-year-old Darcy Kuemper giving Minnesota a solid trio of netminders at the NHL level, top prospect Johan Gustafsson could be used as trade bait to add a top-six forward or top-four defenseman.Gustafsson went 20-13 with a .932 save percentage for Lulea HF of the Swedish Elite League last season, which are very impressive numbers for a young goaltender in one of the world’s top professional leagues.If the Wild decided to ever trade Gustafsson, the return would have to include an established NHLer with more than one year of term on his contract (not a rental)."

I’ve got news for you, Wild fans–the team’s goaltending isn’t nearly as strong as we’re led to believe. While franchise No. 1 netminder Niklas Backstrom has been re-signed by the Wild, there are still major concerns about the team’s future in net. Backstrom is getting old, is injury prone and just can’t handle playing 65+ games in a full 82-game schedule. Masterton Trophy winner Josh Harding has made it clear it’s Wild No. 1 goalie or bust for him, saying he’d like to play all 82 games next season after a short but inspirational first round series against the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. However, there’s no telling what his NHL future might be with all the uncertainty surrounding his multiple sclerosis.

Behind Harding is hulking 6’5″ 207-pound former Western Hockey League Top Goaltender Darcy Kuemper. “Kuemps” has succeeded at every level of play so far in his career, and certainly didn’t look out of place in Iron Range Red in his limited playing time this past season. After the Wild shipped Matt Hackett off to the Sabres, it appeared the title of future franchise No. 1 netminder was Darcy’s for the taking. Gustafsson is the only thing standing in his way.

Drafted in the sixth round of Minnesota’s fabled 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Gustafsson plays more like a first or second round selection. Along with fellow top Wild prospects Johan Larsson and Jonas Brodin, Gustafsson helped lead Team Sweden to the gold in the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championships. Gustafsson’s play was especially key in the gold medal game, as he backstopped Sweden to a 1-0 overtime victory over Russia.

In 62 regular season games in parts of two seasons with Lulea of the Swedish Elite League, Gustafsson has been among the very elite with a 1.69 goals against average and .933 save percentage. As anyone can see, he’s more than ready to make the jump to North American professional hockey in Des Moines this fall. There’s no way Wild GM Chuck Fletcher trades his No. 4 goalie away, especially considering there’s essentially nothing behind Gustafsson in the pipe line in terms of elite talent. Don’t worry, Wild fans; Gustafsson likely isn’t going anywhere for a long time.