Wild coach Yeo: 3 goalies will have shot at starting job
The Minnesota Wild advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs this past spring after using no fewer than five goaltenders over the course of the regular season.
The three who remain on the roster - Josh Harding, Niklas Backstrom and Darcy Kuemper - will be given a shot at grabbing the starting job heading into the new season, according to head coach Mike Yeo.
"I have to say we're kind of open right now, to be honest with you," Yeo told Michael Russo of the Star Tribune on Wednesday during an appearance at the Minnesota State Fair. "We're going to have some scrimmages … but we're going to have to pretty quickly determine who we want to give a greater workload to after that. That's going to be a good challenge."
Harding stood out early last season, posting numbers that made him a potential Vezina Trophy candidate before being forced to leave the team in December for treatment of multiple sclerosis. Backstrom, the club's de facto starter, was hindered by an abdominal injury, and Kuemper filled in quite nicely in both their absences prior to the late-season signing of Ilya Bryzgalov.
It appears as though Harding and Kuemper have a leg up on Backstrom, but the Finnish netminder is under contract for two more years with a cap hit of $3.4 million. On top of that, Kuemper remains unsigned and questions surrounding Harding's health continue to persist. As such, Yeo isn't taking his goaltending depth for granted.
"One thing I learned about last year is we shouldn't anticipate anything," Yeo said. "Let's just go day by day. Obviously I'm hopeful that everybody's healthy. That's No. 1. We know that we have three quality goalies. If they're healthy, they can compete and win hockey games for us."
Expectations are heightened in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and Yeo appears set to roll with whoever gives the team its best shot to win on any given night.