37-Year-Old Goalie – Minnesota Wild
Niklas Backstrom Contract Information:
Signed a three-year deal with the Wild in June of 2013.
Backstrom (elbow) made 28 saves in a shutout exhibition win Tuesday over Winnipeg. He played all three periods and overtime in his first game since Jan. 13.
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Niklas Backstrom: Past News Updates ( ▲ View most recent update )
RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
Backstrom, the Wild's number-one goaltender for seven consecutive seasons, saw his role disappear last year because of a combination of poor play, lingering injury and offseason surgery. He'll be back, but he looks like he'll be playing third string behind Josh Harding and emergent young stud Darcy Kuemper.
Backstrom led the NHL in wins with 24 as he started 41 of 48 games and had a solid 2.48 GAA. However, he tired down the stretch as he played more than the team would have liked with backup Josh Harding struggling with multiple sclerosis and then missed the playoffs with a sports hernia that required offseason surgery. The free agent returned to the Wild with a three-year, $10.25 million contract this summer. At age 35, there's some risk he will continue to break down, but the Wild do have options in the minors with prospects Darcy Kuemper and Johan Gustafsson. Still, he's shown no signs of diminished skills and should continue to produce at a high level with a slightly lower workload as the Wild tries to keep him fresh.
Following three tremendous campaigns to begin his North American career, Backstrom has regressed while dealing with injuries. Last season’s 2.43 goals-against average and .919 save percentage were the best he’d posted in two seasons, but injuries limited his starts to just 45 games and he underwent minor ankle surgery after the season. He turns 35 in February, but he can make a decent secondary goaltending option on most squads. Draft him if he’s the best player still left, but be certain to have a solid contingency plan.
A drawback to owning Backstrom in fantasy leagues is that he usually has to be at his very best to show up in the win column. Case in point, the Wild have been among the 10 worst in team goals allowed per game in each of the past three seasons. Also, the Finnish netminder wrapped up the 2010-11 season with a losing record (22-23-5) for the first time in his career, but his peripheral stats (916 save percentage; 2.66 goals-against average) were decent considering he endured a pitiful 4.30 GAA in his last 12 games. The acquisitions of Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi from the Sharks should lend Backstrom more offensive support, but one can only hope a shoulder injury that he played through for most of last year is a non-issue for 2011-12.
Backstrom's stats took a hit with the move away from defensive-minded head coach Jacques Lemaire to Todd Richards' more open attack. Considering that the Wild fell to 21st in goals allowed from second in 2008-09, it's amazing Backstrom's stats didn't suffer more. He'll get the majority of starts ahead of backup Josh Harding, but his stats may suffer again as Richards focuses his energy on offense.
Backstrom almost single handedly carried the Wild into the playoffs and earned a Vezina Trophy nomination for it. He finished at or near the top of every important goaltending position, and it wasn't a fluke season for Backstrom. Under Minnesota's new, less defensive-minded system, Backstrom will have more pressure on him, but given his talent, he should have another fine year.
Backstrom saw over 28 shots on goal, per game, in 2007-08. The Finn countered this statistic by recording an impressive 2.31 goals-against average in the same year, good for eighth in the NHL. His game does not represent Minnesota's team name very well as instead of being Wild, he exhibits a calm demeanor, excellent positioning and is usually a sly body in the net. It's easy to slap the "inexperienced"¯ label onto Backstrom, after all, he has only been in professional American hockey for two seasons, but the 30-year-old dominated the Finish SM-liiga league where he secured championship titles in consecutive seasons (2004, 2005). Expect Backstrom to elevate his game even further in 2008-09.
Backstrom enters the 2007-08 season as the primary goalie for the Wild after a stellar season that saw him lead the NHL with a 1.97 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage. Backstrom entered his first NHL season after playing in the Finnish Elite League as the backup to Manny Fernandez. When Fernandez hurt his knee in January, Backstrom took over the starting role and never gave it back. The defensive-minded system of head coach Jacques Lemaire always keeps scoring down and has resulted in strong stats for any Wild goalie the past six years. However, there's some risk Backstrom may not get as many starts as a No. 1 goalie would expect. Lemaire has a history of platooning goalies and going with the hot had. With a rising star in backup Josh Harding, don't count on Backstrom getting more than 55 starts, and there could be stretches where he doesn't start consecutive games.
He will compete with Josh Harding to be Manny Fernandez's backup next season.