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Niklas Backstrom (right) of the Minnesota Wild and Jordan Eberle of the Edmonton Oilers.
Forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard just narrowly missed making this list, as he, his $4,080,000 salary cap hit and $4,300,000 salary are clearly destined for free agency next summer, as his concussion history should make him too much of a risk for the Minnesota Wild (not to mention any other team) to consider re-signing.
However, it’s goalie Niklas Backstrom who makes an appearance instead, and who oddly enough just a few weeks ago would have been just as worthy a candidate for free agency as far as Minnesota was concerned—no longer though.
I mean, if someone had told owner Craig Leipold a few weeks ago that his team would risk losing the services of Backstrom if the lockout were to last longer than one season, he probably wouldn’t have been all that down in the dumps.
After all, his in-the-red team had just signed insane twin $98-million deals to Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter. A $6-million goalie (same salary cap hit) was a luxury the Wild could no longer afford, especially not with Josh Harding ready to take the reins behind the crease.
And then Harding tragically got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Now, Harding has two years left on his current deal after this season, and few know what the future holds in regard to his career.
Seeing as next on the depth chart is a 22-year-old Matt Hackett, Minnesota is all of a sudden looking at both a suspect defensive corps and goaltending tandem. On the plus side, Jimmy Howard will potentially be available, but something tells me another $98-million just isn’t in the cards.