Many Wild fans don't pay much attention to the farm system that brings the players on the roster through the ranks and prepares them for the game at the NHL level. There are many reasons for this, from there not being much to follow to the rushing of prospects to the top levels. However, recent events have made it a requirement to pay attention.
Which, of course, brings us to the matter at hand. Wild "prospect" goalie Dennis Endras looks to be almost certainly headed back to Europe, more specifically, HIFK Helsinki. That is the same team that top Wild prospect Mikael Granlund plays for, and that Niklas Backstrom is a part owner in.
The Wild have been mum on the situation, but things seem to be pointing that direction. The situation explained, and thoughts... after the jump.
The first indication something was happening came when Wild prospect Darcy Kuemper tweeted this message:
Called up to Houston, doing some last minute packing.
HIFK is looking for a new no. 1 netminder after Juuso Riksman will be sidelined with hip surgery for the rest of the season.
Iltalehden (Finnish magazine) has reliable sources that say the next goalie is likely to be German national team goalie Denis Endras.
The contract is ready for signature, a source told the evening paper.
(stick tap to Jen Conway for the translation)
What it Means
We'll have to wait for comment from the Wild, but it is easy to read too much into this. Signing with the team Backstrom is a part owner in could be construed as a star goalie stealing away a prospect from his own team. The way I see it, Endras likely is not pleased with being a backup in Houston, since that is not exactly the situation he signed up for when he left his German hockey career behind. However, he has been the good soldier and backed up the heir apparent in Matt Hackett.
Remember, Endras signed with the Wild when Hackett and Kuemper were still major question marks. There were health issues with Harding, and no well seasoned backup in the system. That gave Endras an interesting situation to try to jump into, with a real possibility of finding himself in the NHL. In an interview with SPOX last September (translated on HW), Endras made it sound like he was willing to play in the minors, but thought that would lead to an NHL job:
SPOX: The move to the NHL is a completely different level and in Nik Backstrom you have strong competition. Was it made clear from the beginning that you are only the backup or do those in charge in Minnesota trust you more?
DE: I don't really care about which NHL team it is. Every team has a good goalie, and I have to play back-up first of course. That is the next step in my career. I hope I can make the most of it and break through. Maybe someday I will be a #1 goalie in the NHL. More than that I don't think about yet, I'm concentrating first on Augsburg.
SPOX: Would you be prepared to play in the minor leagues?
DE: I imagine every player must go through it. That would be ok. I hope that I can play well in the spotlight.
Then, however, Hackett and Kuemper became top prospects on elite level trajectories, and Endras was no longer in the picture the way the Wild and he had in mind. From the play of Kuemper in the ECHL, it is pretty clear he doesn't have much to learn there, save for getting playing time.
It would be difficult to believe this was something plotted out by HIFK without contact with the Wild organization, and more likely all sides want Dennis to be playing and not sitting on the bench. With a team the Wild has ties to ran into trouble, and with the Wild trying to find enough room in the organization for a glut of goalie prospects, it seems to work out well for everyone involved.
The short version is this - it works well for everyone involved, and when situations in life present themselves that are wins all around, you have to go ahead and act on them.
Hopefully there are some quotes and further details soon, but there might not be. Such is the life in minor league hockey.