Wild’s Backstrom facing uncertain future in NHL

Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom (32) gloves a shot by the Pittsburgh Penguins. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

Minnesota Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom faces an uncertain future with a potential buyout looming, but the former all-star is currently far more concerned about his long-term health and the use of his right hand.

The 37-year-old suffered nerve damage in his elbow as a result of a 2015 preseason arm injury, Backstrom told Finland’s MTV 3 in a recent interview. Backstrom did not appear in a game after January 13 as he dealt with the injury, which limited use of his right hand.

Backstrom via translation courtesy of the Minnesota StarTribune:

“It was a bit scary situation,” Backstrom told MTV 3’s Timo Kunnari. “It happened pretty fast. All of a sudden two fingers are not working. Even in rest, two fingers were motionless. I couldn’t use my right hand to drive a car or to hold a phone. There’s a lot of stuff that’s happened during my career, but this really made me stop and think. You need your hand for the rest of your career. I’m right-handed.”

The former Vezina Trophy nominee played in just 19 games in 2014-15 for the Wild, finishing with a 3.04 goals-against average and a .887 save percentage. The StarTribune’s Michael Russo expects the Wild to buy out the final year of Backstrom’s contract when a second window of opportunity opens now that restricted free agent Erik Haula has filed for arbitration.

Backstrom is owed $3,416,666 against the salary cap, according to generalfanager.com.

With Devan Dubnyk returning to the Wild on a long-term deal and Darcy Kuemper expected to back him up, Backstrom appears to be the odd man out, healthy or otherwise. Backstrom’s no-movement clause limits the Wild’s options. His agent Jay Grossman indicated that it would be at least training camp before his client is ready to play.

“We are moving forward step by step,” Backstrom said in the interview with the Finnish TV station. “It affects a bit on training. I haven’t had a chance to play any sport with [a] stick or racquet, and it’s going to take time until I’m ready to play.”

Backstrom has appeared in 409 games over nine NHL seasons. He holds a 2.48 goals-against average and .915 save percentage for his career.

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