Sign Backstrom Now: Hockey Day ’09

Over the weekend, my wife and I drove back to Minnesota for some time with my family.  As we got there on Saturday, we took in my brother’s hockey game against Dodge County (he plays predominantly JV as a freshman, but he scored a hat trick in the JV game, and got to dress and play in the varsity game as well).  After those two games, we hadn’t come anywhere close to sating our desire for hockey.  Fortunately, my parents bought us tickets to the Wild v. Ducks.  The seats were in the upper deck, and our view was fantastic.  We could see the whole ice and watch plays develop and everything.

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Plus I got to test out the zoom on our camera.

img_0010That right there is Nicklas Backstrom, who was the only reason that the Wild were still in this game after two periods.  I know a lot of debate has been heard recently about the advisability of signing him when he becomes a free agent this summer.  And I also know the argument that the Wild system benefits goalies’ stats by limiting opportunities.  After that game (and the one that followed against Chicago on Monday night), it seems obvious to me that Backstrom is an elite goaltender, and it’s not going to work for the Wild to just plug in the next prospect (in this case Josh Harding).  It sounds like I’m basing this on only a couple of games, and while it is true that I haven’t seen the Wild play as much as some people, the last couple of days only confirmed what I already believed concerning Backstrom.  I think that Harding would be a reasonably good goaltender if given the majority of the minutes, but he wouldn’t provide the same level of play Wild fans have grown accustomed to from Backstrom.

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Unfortunately, Backstrom would not be able to win this one singlehandedly.  While Derek Boogaard got seemingly every other shift in the second and third period (seriously? you’re down by a goal or two and you think Boogaard will make a difference?), the Wild failed to mount many scoring opportunities.

img_0013After a while the Ducks wore down the Wild in their defensive zone and banged home a couple of goals to make the final 3-0.  Hockey day was great because I got to take at least one game of my brother’s first high school season, but on the professional side of things there was altogether too much of this.

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Wild Resign Backstrom

The Wild signed Niklas Backstrom to a 2-year $6.2 million dollar contract yesterday, which means that they now have both Backstrom and Manny Fernandez under contract through the ’08-09 season. Niklas Backstrom lead the league in save percentage and goals against average, while he and Fernandez backstopped the Wild to a league low 191 goals against in the ’06-’07 regular season. And, lest you forget, they also have Josh Harding waiting in the wings as yet another goalie of the future.

Manny Fernandez – 33 yrs old in August ($4.3M in ’07-’08)
Niklas Backstrom – 29 yrs old (around $3M in ’07-’08)
Josh Harding – 23 yrs old in a week ($450K in ’06-’07)

Given Manny’s stated preferences, I think I know who I would go forward with, but Riesborough seems to think he can keep everybody.

Something to keep an eye on in the near future, that’s for sure.