The Minnesota Wild need to make a deal to improve the current goaltending situation. It may be their only hope to get things moving in the right direction. Meanwhile, the New Jersey Devils may look to shed some players as their season continues to slip away.
The Minnesota Wild are struggling to keep their post-season dreams alive. Having won only twice in their last 10 games, the Wild find themselves six points out of the final wild card berth in the Western Conference.
Goaltending is their biggest problem. Though the Wild have given up the fewest shots-against per game, they’re among the league’s worst teams in goals-against per game.
Darcy Kuemper, 24, was struggling as the Wild’s starter before being recently placed on injured reserve, while age and injury have caught up with 36-year-old backup Niklas Backstrom. Josh Harding remains sidelined by multiple sclerosis symptoms and isn’t expected to return.
The Wild’s struggles between the pipes sparked speculation they were attempting to acquire Jhonas Enroth from the Buffalo Sabres, but Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports the respective GMs of both clubs denied the story. Still, rumors persist Wild GM Chuck Fletcher is in the market for a goalie.
Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune lists Enroth and his Sabres teammate Michal Neuvirth, Carolina’s Cam Ward, San Jose’s Antti Niemi, Edmonton’s Viktor Fasth and St. Louis’ Martin Brodeur as potential trade targets. Russo believes Fletcher must decide between acquiring a short-term fix or waiting in hopes of the right deal which can address the goaltending issue long term.
Russo considers Ward an intriguing option, noting his championship success in 2006 and improved performance this season on a bad Hurricanes team. The 30-year-old netminder has a year left on his contract at a cap hit of $6.3 million, but Russo claims there’s talk the Hurricanes could be willing to dump his contract for a limited return.
Cap space could be an issue for the Wild, who only have roughly $5.5-million available. If Fletcher pursues Ward, the Hurricanes must either retain part of his salary or take back some from the Wild in return. Even then, the final decision rests with Ward, who has a full no-movement clause. Fletcher’s most affordable options are short-term ones like Niemi, Enroth and perhaps Brodeur, who become unrestricted free agents at season’s end.
LAMORIELLO SEARCHING FOR DEALS FOR THE DEVILS?
Like the Wild, the New Jersey Devils are trying to keep their fading playoff hopes alive. Speculation persists over which players could be moved if GM Lou Lamoriello decides to clean house before the March 2 trade deadline.
NJ.com’s Rich Chere published lists of five players the Devils should retain and five who should be dealt. Goaltender Cory Schneider, center Adam Henrique and defensemen Damon Severson, Jon Merrill and Andy Greene made the “retain” list, while forwards Jaromir Jagr, Michael Ryder, Tuomo Ruutu, Jacob Josefson and blueliner Marek Zidlicky were those Chere recommended to be traded.
It’s believed the 42-year-old Jagr could still attract interest from playoff contenders as a rental player. While Jagr claims he wants to help the Devils, he’s also said he won’t object to being moved if a deal can be made which benefits the team. TSN’s Bob McKenzie believes the Montreal Canadiens could be among them, though only if the asking price is reasonable.
Long-time Devils forward Patrik Elias could also attract some interest but the 38-year-old hopes he won’t be asked to waive his no-trade clause. Elias, who recently tallied his 1,000th NHL point, told Chere he doesn’t want to be traded, preferring to finish his entire career with one team.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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