The Minnesota Wild have few positions of depth in the organization. Years of poor drafting will do that. One of those areas of strength has long been goaltending. After signing Niklas Backstrom out of Finland, the Wild stock piled goalies in hopes of finding the next "goalie of the future." Right now... only one of them that is eligible to play in the NHL is healthy.
Last night, despite stopping all 24 shots the Coyotes put on him, Josh Harding was pulled with what Russo reported was a "tweak," and did not return to the game. Backup, and now starter, Matt Hackett came in and the Wild wound up winning, but only after the game went to the skills competition.
No big deal, right? Goalie was hurt, backup comes in. What's the big deal?
Well, Backstrom is on the shelf, Harding is now hurt, and Hackett has the reigns. He needs a backup. Just call Houston, right? Simple. That's what you do when a guy gets hurt. The Wild have mastered this process. What's that? Darcy Kuemper is hurt, too?
So now what? What are the options? Put Hackett out there and let Paul Deutsch be the backup? Don't laugh, it might just happen. Why? The options are limited. Looking at the 2011 free agent class of goalies, there are a few players still "out there."
Pascal Leclaire, Mike Brodeur, Jordan Pierce, Brent Krahn are a few of the names. Highly reassuring. Any number of ECHL guys could be inked to sit on the bench. Maybe the NHL finds its Kurt Warner. Likely not.
Winning isn't the big concern here, as much as safety. Is Deutsch honestly capable of playing in the NHL? Are ECHL goalies? Are they ready to take a 100+ mph slapper from the point? Ready to take the Tomas Holmstroms and Ryan Smyths of the world crashing into them? No one wants one of these guys to be signed to something just to be made into a side show.
Plan B was Harding, Plan C is Hackett, D was Kuemper. Plan E is to sign someone who may need to clear waivers. Who says that player clears? Who says the Calgary Flames don't claim that goalie just in a sense of gamesmanship? The Flames are still entertaining playoff hopes. What better way to mess with the opposition than to stand them without a backup goalie?
It may not matter. Maybe Harding's injury isn't serious, and he can be the backup on Sunday. Maybe. The Wild may not have the chance to wait to see. If the waiver process has to be implemented, the Wild need to act today in order to have a goalie cleared by Sunday's game.
It is just as likely the Wild suit up Harding, and pray Hackett makes it through the game. In fact, unless the doctors say he can't go under any circumstance, you are safe in betting that's what they do. But what fun is that?
What is your plan E, Wilderness? How about Plan F?