The Minnesota Wild have struggled to find an answer between the pipes this season. Darcy Kuemper, Niklas Backstrom, and John Curry have combined for a 2.73 goals-against average and a woeful .897 save percentage.
Damien Cox and Elliotte Friedman touched on the Wild’s goaltending problems during this week’s edition of “Headlines” on Hockey Night in Canada, noting that the club may target a solution in goal via trade.
Names that have come up frequently as the Wild look to solidify their goaltending for the stretch run include Cam Ward of the Carolina Hurricanes and both Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth of the Buffalo Sabres.
Ward is an intriguing case even if it’s mostly due to his play nine years ago when he relieved a struggling Martin Gerber and backstopped the Hurricanes to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup, capturing the Conn Smythe Trophy in the process. The 30-year-old has been far below league average in save percentage the past two seasons, but he’s picked up his game this year holding steady with a .914 mark to go along with a tidy 2.36 goals-against average.
Despite a sizable chunk of cap space Ward to the Wild does not appear imminent, according to Cox.
One of Enroth or Neuvirth present a much cheaper option than Ward. Ward has one more season remaining on his current deal that sees him check in with a $6.3 million cap hit. Enroth and Neuvirth will hit unrestricted free agency in July, and are being paid $1.25 million and $2.5 million against the cap this season, respectively.
The Sabres’ tandem have outplayed him, too, on a near-historically bad team. Enroth (.919) and Neuvirth (.926) both have better even strength save percentage marks than Ward (.915).
The Wild are currently six points out of the race for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference with lots of hockey left to play. Fixing their goaltending problem is essential to salvaging the season and making a run at the post-season. The tandem of Kuemper and Backstrom has struggled to find any semblance of consistency, and both have battled injuries.
Change is almost certainly coming to the Wild crease.
In other goaltending news, Cox noted that the St. Louis Blues intend to carry three goaltenders despite Martin Brodeur being a healthy scratch since Brian Elliott returned from injury.