David Zalubowski/Associated Press
Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller.
Whereas trading for a young goalie should be out of the question, acquiring a veteran is actually Minnesota’s best option. Ideally, that veteran should be an unrestricted free agent, so as to limit the asking price.
By now, everyone has heard the rumors that the Wild have been looking into the availability of Miller. According to various sources, including to SI.com's Michael Straw, those rumors involved Dany Heatley, a first-round pick and one of Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund going the other way.
Those rumors have since been debunked, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which is probably for the best.
Giving up a blue-chip prospect like Coyle or Granlund for a 33-year-old goalie exiting his prime is probably not the best move, especially with the trade far from guaranteeing a Stanley Cup, let alone a playoff spot.
That still doesn’t mean the Wild can’t use help in net (at a reasonable price). It also doesn’t mean the Wild should give up on acquiring Miller, as he would in fact be the ideal acquisition.
He’s an on-the-decline goalie that wouldn’t threaten Harding’s role as team starter but is still playing well (Miller has a .925 save percentage).
Make no mistake: A goalie like Miller, or Miller himself, is the solution here, because he would give the Wild the goaltending the team so desperately needs. The hypothetical trade would also allow Kuemper to properly develop in the American Hockey League.
With Kuemper exempt from waivers, per Cap Geek, the Wild would be able to go with a duo of Miller and Backstrom until Harding is healthy again, and then Harding and Backstrom next season (after allowing Miller to pursue free agency).
One would think the Sabres would be willing to trade Miller for something more reasonable than the king’s ransom mentioned above. Even if the above offer had been tabled, that’s what negotiations are for. And, even if the Sabres won’t budge, other options do exist.
Another goalie that fits the Miller mold would be Florida Panther Tim Thomas. While he hasn’t been exactly lights out this season (save percentage of .911), part of that might be as a result of the team in front of him. Minnesota has after all allowed 29 fewer goals than Florida.
Additionally, Thomas would give Minnesota both a temporary No. 1 and the ability to not rush Kuemper’s development. His age and below-average save percentage would theoretically limit Florida’s asking price too. Consider Thomas, whom admittedly has a no-movement clause, plan B.
What’s important to realize, though, is all these options are viable only if Harding is not able to make a return to action over the next few weeks. That’s a big “if,” not just due to the unpredictable nature of his illness but also his resiliency.
Harding has proven time and again since returning to the lineup after first being diagnosed that he’s not simply going to give up. He’s fought it admirably up until now. There’s every reason to believe he’ll continue to and return sooner rather than later.
That would be, bar none of the alternatives offered up in previous slides, Minnesota’s best option.