At this point, the Minnesota Wild only need a goaltender.
Make no mistake: This should be an alarming statement. It is along the lines of, “Oh my god, my car doesn’t have brakes and we’re on the freeway!” or “I’m deep-sea diving and my oxygen tank has no air!”
Sound the alarm sports fans; this is bad.
Yes, the Wild do have a goaltender: His name is Niklas Backstrom, and he has been with Minnesota for a while. He is also 35 and suffered a fatigue-related injury last season, so I guess it’s more like, “Oh my god, we’re on the freeway and only one set of brakes work!” or “I’m deep-sea diving with only half a tank!”
My point is that the Wild need another goaltender.
Minnesota technically has a backup netminder in Josh Harding, but because of his multiple sclerosis symptoms that led to inconsistent goaltending last season, the Wild really need another goalie to split the season as the No. 1 starter with Backstrom.
With only $2.7 million in cap space, the team will not be getting fancy, and quite frankly, there are not many goaltenders left in free agency. Ilya Bryzgalov, Jose Theodore and Rick DiPietro are my top three choices.
No, I’m not insane. Hear me out on these guys.
Bryzgalov is either wise beyond his years or came to the rink really, really high when HBO interviewed him for his famous 24/7 segment.
In it, he rambles about space, the cosmos and how small our galaxy is in the “humongous big” galaxy. It’s pure gold.
There are a couple red flags with him.
He went from a team that plays in front of an empty building every night to Philadelphia, where the arena basically looks like a jail cell. Seriously, with all those drunken nut jobs wearing orange in the stands, there is no wonder why goaltenders melt under the pressure in Eastern Pennsylvania.
In short, he did not live up to his contract and got bought out.
Secondly, he sounded off on the media, admitting that he read what they wrote and was upset about it. This is never a good sign. Players often are ripped by writers on both the local and national stage and just need to ignore it. There is no way reading a scathing column can help a struggling athlete in any sport.
Finally, he’s Russian, and unfair as it might be, after seeing guys like Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Burmistrov leave for the KHL, there is a feeling that many of these guys will leave the NHL for the motherland—especially a goaltender who at age 33 is past his prime.
Bryzgalov has played his whole career in the United States, however, and Minnesota will probably only sign him for three years tops, meaning he’ll probably honor the contract.
It is a risk, no doubt, but Bryzgalov was once thought of as a franchise goaltender, and the Wild are only asking him to be part of a tandem. He should be just fine if he signs here.
Here is an interesting fact: Theodore once dated, or at least was “linked to,” Paris Hilton.
That may be more of a turnoff for fans than getting a goaltender that was overpaid, freaked out at the media and is Russian…combined!
Here’s why I bring this up: This guy used to be kind of a big deal.
Here’s why it is OK: The two are no longer together, and there is no “famous video” to accompany the relationship (thank God).
Before the lockout (the 2004 one...I know, it’s sad), Theodore was the primary goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens. This was pre-Carey Price, of course, and Theodore eventually was shipped out west to the Colorado Avalanche once Mr. Price came to town.
Theodore had a 28-win season in Denver and two 30-win seasons with the Washington Capitals before his stint in St. Paul, however, and while his time with the Wild was rather forgettable, he did put up 15 wins in 32 games in 2010-11.
He was the starting goaltender for the Florida Panthers last year.
At 36, he is past his prime and unlikely to be the goaltender he was in Montreal, Colorado or Washington. In fact, he and Backstrom would possibly be the oldest goaltending tandem in the league.
Minnesota doesn’t really need a long-term goaltender, as Darcy Kuemper and Johan Gustafsson appear to be the goaltenders of the future, but having the veteran experience would be nice, and both goaltenders would benefit from being platooned rather than having to play an entire season’s worth of hockey in their mid-30s.
Put down the sharp object in your hand! Stop yelling at your computer! I haven’t gone crazy!
Hear me out here.
We all know DiPietro has been absolute trash since he entered the league. He never lived up to the 15-year, $67.5 million deal the New York Islanders gave him back in 2006. Nobody is trying to spin this any other way: He was awful.
Look at it this way, though: It’s the Islanders!
This organization is more dysfunctional than the Lohan family. It traded Roberto Luongo thinking that DiPietro was the next Terry Sawchuk, and it never really put a team around him.
This is the same organization that is still buying out Alexei Yashin and gave up on Nino Niederreiter at age 20 (that will work out nicely for the Wild, trust me).
Minnesota can capitalize on another one of its mistakes right now.
DiPietro may not be worth $67.5 million, but he is definitely worth $2 million next season.
First of all, as Sean McIndoe over at Grantland pointed out, long-term contracts rarely work out, so DiPietro may have been doomed from the very beginning.
Secondly, there is no such thing as a bad one-year deal. If it doesn’t work out, he’s gone anyway.
I’d even go as far as to give him two or three years if there is another team in the running.
DiPietro may have some good years left in him. He was considered a blue-chip prospect and could very well thrive in a good environment. Right now, the Wild can give him a chance to wipe his slate clean and start things over on a much more talented team.
Minnesota isn’t looking for marriage here; this is just a date.
The Wild can’t go into next season without a starting goaltender to split time with Backstrom. Harding’s condition makes him a wild card, and Kuemper was way too young last year.
Taking a gamble on one of these guys should work out. It is not like the team is asking any of these guys to start 82 games—they will play 41 max.
The goaltender is this team’s missing puzzle piece. All three of these guys possess a lot of talent, and while they may have some imperfections, they might fit in perfectly with a solid team around them.
It’s definitely worth giving one of these guys a shot. At the very least, it’s pretty stupid to go diving with a half-tank of air on your back.
Tom Schreier covers Minnesota sports for Bleacher Report and is a contributor to Yahoo! Sports.
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