On a day when rumors swirled that future first-ballot Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur or Jaroslav Halak could be Minnesota-bound, the Wild pulled the lever on the simplest available option for goaltending insurance. General Manager Chuck Fletcher, on the day he shut down Niklas Backstrom for the season because of an abdominal injury, sent the fourth-round draft pick the Wild received from Buffalo in last year’s Jason Pominville trade to Edmonton for former Phoenix Coyotes and Philadelphia Flyers starter Ilya Bryzgalov. The enigmatic Russian goalie, a YouTube sensation for his goofy takes on the “universe” and comedic quarrels with the Flyers media, was bought out of the final seven years of his nine-year, $51 million contract by the Flyers last summer. But Bryzgalov, 33, wanted to keep playing and even talked to the Wild after Backstrom strained a knee last October. He eventually signed a one-year deal with the Oilers. During the second intermission of Thursday’s game in Edmonton, GM Craig MacTavish was seen bending Fletcher’s ear. Fletcher said the Wild was looking for a veteran goalie with playoff experience to help rookie Darcy Kuemper and “most importantly had an expiring contract.” Since assuming the Wild’s No. 1 job Jan. 7, Kuemper is 11-2-2 with a 2.02 goals-against average and .930 save percentage. He has won five in a row, allowing six goals in that span. Coach Mike Yeo said Tuesday that “we’re going to keep giving [Kuemper] opportunity to get out there and show what he’s done. We’re in large part where we are right now because of the job that he’s done.” Bryzgalov, who will practice for the first time Thursday (the Wild has Wednesday off), accepts if he’s not the No. 1, saying, “I will do my job as best that I can. Make the decisions on who’s supposed to play, that’s not my job. My job is to go there, practice hard, play hard for the team and that’s it.” He was a cheaper option than Halak. It’ll cost the Wild roughly $476,000 and still gives Fletcher the flexibility if he wants to add roughly $3 million in players by Wednesday’s 2 p.m. trade deadline. It could be more if the Wild opts to place Backstrom or Josh Harding, whom Fletcher doesn’t expect to play again this season, on long-term injured reserve.
Wild adds goalie depth in Bryzgalov; Backstrom shut down
Minneapolis Star Tribune | Mar 5