The MInnesota Wild have some difficult decisions to make with respect to their goaltending situation in 2013-14.
Franchise wins leader Niklas Backstrom is an unrestricted free agent, but the 35-year-old may be seeking a lucrative long-term deal after a great regular season and at the age of 35, Minnesota may not be willing to meet his demands. With Josh Harding's health status a question mark and little else in the system in terms of NHL-ready options, the Wild could find themselves searching for an alternative.
Goaltender Josh Harding allowed three goals on 18 shots before being replaced by backup Darcy Kuemper in the Minnesota Wild's series-ending, 5-1 loss to the Blackhawks in Chicago Thursday night.
Harding told the Wild that he was fine to play after leaving Tuesday's game with a leg injury. Darcy Kuemper, who replaced Harding in Tuesday's 3-0 loss, came in for Harding again Thursday and gave up two goals on 11 shots. Look for Minnesota management to spend a great deal of time in the off-season trying to improve its goaltending.
Wild coach Mike Yeo wouldn't directly address questions that his job could be in trouble.
"I don't know. I can't answer that," Yeo said. "If you want to look at it objectively, statistically ' properly, there's been a lot of improvement in our organization, and I feel that we're going in the right direction." Expectations were raised for Minnesota after acquiring Zach Parise and Ryan Suter over the summer, but getting to the first round was still an accomplishment for a club that fell well short of that mark in 2011-12. The Wild might decide to replace Yeo, but it would be unfair to paint his second campaign with the club as a disaster.
Matt Cullen is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Cullen, 36, isn't sure if he'll be back next season. "You just don't know in this game," Cullen said. "For sure, I know that could have been my last game as a wild player. There's lot of things that can happen. Never take it for granted. It's been a lot of fun, but we'll see what happens." He had seven goals and 27 points in 48 games, so he should still be able to find another team that'll want him if the Wild don't re-sign him.
Niklas Backstrom revealed that his lower body injury is a sports hernia.
Backstrom will undergo surgery as a result. He suffered the injury during the pre-game warmups prior to Game 1 and missed the entire first round. He's scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and he isn't a lock to be re-signed. At the age of 35, he might have a tough time finding a starting gig on the open market and may have to settle for a backup role that comes with a genuine opportunity to overthrow the established starter.
Zach Parise finished Minnesota's playoff run with just one goal and a minus-seven rating in five games.
Parise signed a massive contract with the Wild over the summer and it's hard to regard his first season as a success. It wasn't a disaster either though, as he did end up with 18 goals and 38 points in 48 games. Look for him to push at the 70-point mark in 2013-14.
Mikko Koivu finished the first round with no points and a minus-six rating in five games.
Chicago's ability to silence Koivu was obviously a big part of the reason the Wild have been eliminated. "Last thing I want to do is sit up here and talk about puck luck or bounces. ' I feel bad for Mikko," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "He did a lot of the right things ' and just didn't get rewarded." Provided he can stay healthy, Koivu should reach the 60-point mark next season despite his abysmal playoff numbers.