The Minnesota Wild are considering keeping three goaltenders on the roster during the 2014-15 season. Two netminders are already under contract – Niklas Backstrom Josh Harding – and it’s believed that the team will give Darcy Kuemper a new deal. That leaves Ilya Bryzgalov as the odd man out in this three-headed goaltending picture.
A team carrying three goalies in the NHL isn’t a common occurrence. Some may have three men for a short amount of time, but few ever maintain that practice over the course of a season. The Wild have a unique situation. Backstrom has dealt with a variety of injuries and still has two years (2014-15 and 2015-16) on his current contract. Harding has been dealing with multiple sclerosis and is owed $1.9 million in 2014-15. Kuemper played well in the playoffs, which should earn him a new deal.
At least one reporter believes Kuemper’s new deal will be of the one-way variety, meaning the Wild will have three netminders with one-way deals.
It’s way too early to be assessing Minnesota’s goaltending. A lot could change between now and the start of the new season. Both Backstrom and Harding have a colorful history with injuries and miss time on a regular basis. It’s possible at least one of them, if not both, may be sidelined and the Wild will have to rely on Kuemper and someone else.
One man who will not be in this crowded picture is Ilya Bryzgalov. Bryzgalov is set to be an unrestricted free agent and the Wild have no current intention of offering him a contract. The emergence of Kuemper probably has a lot to do with that decision.
If the Wild start with three goaltenders on their roster, will they maintain that strategy all season long? Probably not. Though all three would be on one-way deals, the odds of at least one netminder suffering an injury (this is Backstrom and Harding we’re talking about) are high. There will also be needs across the roster which could be addresses with only two active netminders, which may force the Wild to abandon the three goaltender idea.