Minnesota Wild Offseason: The Top Five Wild Stories of the Summer

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2) Nick Backstrom’s Injury

Jan 13, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom (32) takes the ice before playing the Pittsburgh Penguins at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret that goaltender Niklas Backstrom has had his share of injuries over the last two seasons, but I think it was a surprise by all that this off-season it was so bad.

The injury to his right elbow which occurred in the pre-season in Winnipeg and was made worse early in the season caused him to have issues with his hand in everyday activities like driving a car or holding a cell phone. He had surgery in May to repair the damage.

The reason this injury was so key to shaping the off-season was not because the Wild need him in net, it’s actually because they don’t need him in net. The NHL rules on contract buyouts prohibit a club from buying out the contract of a player while they are injured.

A buyout of his final year of his contract would have saved the Wild $1.3 million against the cap. This would have been huge to a team with only $1.9 million left in cap space after only re-signing players and not making a huge splash in the free agent market. This would have meant that the Wild could bring in another fresh free agent to bolster the line-up.

Additionally, this causes a big circus as the plan going forward is to have Dubynk start with Kuemper as the back-up. Will Backstrom take any practice or game time from either goalie? The answer is no, so you’re left with the question of what to do with him. He can be traded, which is not likely, due to his contract and declining play. He can be sent to the AHL or to a club in Europe, but only with his permission.

It’s a mess and one the Wild will need to be creative with, but on the bright side, his cap hit of $3.4 million will be freed up next season regardless of his health.