Report: Chances are ‘quite high’ Thomas Vanek is bought out by Wild

Jared Clinton
Thomas Vanek (Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

In 154 games with the Minnesota Wild, Thomas Vanek has scored 39 goals, 93 points and has logged second- and third-line minutes, but at a $6.5 million price tag, it simply hasn’t been enough.

And with the Wild entering the off-season with little more than $9 million in cap space and only eight forwards under contract, something is going to have to budge. With free agency approaching, it appears more and more likely the pieces that’s going to move is Vanek, and it doesn’t appear the 32-year-old is going to be moving on via trade.

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo, it has been indicated that Wild GM Chuck Fletcher has talked with Vanek’s agent about buying out the final season of Vanek’s three-year, $19.5-million deal. TSN’s Bob McKenzie more than backed up Russo’s report, too, saying the “probability…appears quite high” that Vanek will be bought out by Minnesota before next Thursday’s buyout deadline. Read more

Wild willing to part with goaltender Darcy Kuemper for ‘fair return’

Jared Clinton
(Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

There was a time when Darcy Kuemper, the Wild’s 26-year-old netminder, was the potential future in Minnesota’s crease. But a difficult season paired with a trade for Devan Dubnyk in 2014-15, who went on an incredible run post-acquisition, has seen Kuemper relegated to backup duty with no end in sight. He may have a chance at playing his way into a bigger role elsewhere, though.

Speaking about the Wild’s plans for the upcoming draft, Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher said that teams have been calling and inquiring about the availability of Kuemper, per the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Rand. With Kuemper currently a restricted free agent and with the chance to become unrestricted at the end of his next contract — which would likely be a one-year deal in Minnesota — Fletcher is listening.

“The net right now is Devan (Dubnyk’s),” Fletcher said, via Rand. “If we have an opportunity to move (Kuemper) and get a fair return, we’ll look at it. But I don’t want to be too aggressive and leave us short in that position.” Read more

Humongous big comeback: Ilya Bryzgalov wants to make return to NHL

Anaheim Ducks Ilya Bryzgalov

Ilya Bryzgalov has played 40 NHL games in the past three seasons — and didn’t play professionally at all in 2015-16 — but that isn’t about to stop the quirky, veteran netminder from setting his sights on an NHL return.

In an interview with NHLPA.com’s Chris Lomon, Bryzgalov, 35, said a season away from the game has reignited his desire to play in the league, to face the world’s best shooters and give his 10-year-old son, a goaltender himself, the opportunity to watch his father play.

“When I told my son I was looking to play in the NHL again, his eyes lit up,” Bryzgalov told Lomon. “He was so excited. Now he’s older and he understands the game more. It would be great if he could watch me play again, maybe to learn some things that can help him.” Read more

10 players who could be buyout candidates this off-season

Bryan Bickell (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

Nothing says the off-season quite like the threat of buyouts, and we’re inching ever-closer to the NHL’s buyout window opening and several players could see their time with their current teams come to a close.

For some of the candidates, massive contracts are at fault, while other will fall victim to underperforming or simply not fitting within a team’s structure any longer. Unfortunately, some are a combination of all three.

With the salary cap remaining relatively flat according to all reports, several teams are going to be in tough financial situations. Even a rise of $2 million in the salary cap, which is a rough estimate of the maximum amount the upper limit will rise, would still see several teams in tough cap positions. That’s not to say all players on this list will be bought out, but there’s at least a fair chance several from this list will be sent packing by way of a buyout. Read more

Niklas Backstrom’s NHL career comes to a close as he signs deal in Finnish league

Jared Clinton
Niklas Backstrom (Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

After a decade in the NHL, Niklas Backstrom is heading back to Finland.

Liiga’s HIFK announced Friday they have signed Backstrom, 38, to a one-year deal for the 2016-17 season, which will mark the first season the veteran goaltender has played in Finland since the 2005-06 campaign with Karpat. The signing doesn’t just signal a return to Finland for Backstrom, though, as it’s also undoubtedly the end of Backstrom’s career as an NHL netminder.

Though the final few seasons of Backstrom’s career were less than satisfactory, to say the least, he was at one time a standout netminder for the Minnesota Wild during the franchise’s early years. Upon arriving in Minnesota on a one-year deal in 2006, Backstrom, then a 28-year-old first-year NHL netminder, posted a stellar 1.97 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in 41 games. He finished sixth in Vezina Trophy voting.

His phenomenal season would land him a two-year extension, and Backstrom would become a fixture between the pipes for the Wild for the next six seasons. Read more

Scott Stevens hired as Wild assistant coach, excited for opportunity

Jared Clinton
Scott Stevens (Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

Scott Stevens hasn’t stepped behind an NHL bench since the end of the 2014-15 season and spent the past campaign as an analyst for the NHL Network, but the longtime New Jersey Devils defenseman is ready to get back into coaching with the Minnesota Wild.

The Wild announced Tuesday that Stevens, 52, has joined Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau’s staff as the first member of two assistant coaches that will need to be brought aboard. Stevens’ last coaching job was as a co-coach alongside Lou Lamoriello and Adam Oates, but this will be another foray into the assistant coaching world, something Stevens hasn’t done since the 2013-14 season.

Stevens told the Wild’s Evan Sporer that there were “some opportunities” to get back into the league, but he was intrigued most by his chance with Boudreau in Minnesota. A big part of that is a roster that Stevens feels he can really work with and teach.

“(The Wild) has a lot of potential in it,” Stevens told Sporer. “I really have admired watching Ryan Suter his whole career, and this year was one of his better years as an all-around defenseman. That’s what I like about Ryan. He can play big minutes. I’m very excited to have him.” Read more

More Patrik Laine! Finland gives us what we want with World Cup roster

Patrik Laine (Photo by Anna Sergeeva/Getty Images)

Given how important the youth have been to Finland this year, it’s probably not a shocker that the final seven roster spots for the nation’s World Cup of Hockey team skew young. But it is nice to see the kids rewarded.

Read more

Wild ink Hungarian goaltender Vay after impressive showing at World Championship

Jared Clinton
Adam Vay (Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)

Adam Vay hasn’t played a single game in a North American league since the 2014-15 season when he appeared in 41 games for the Western States Hockey League’s El Paso Rhinos. But the 22-year-old undrafted netminder has found his way to an NHL deal thanks to a three-game performance at the 2016 World Championship.

The Minnesota Wild announced they have signed Vay to a two-year, entry-level deal that could bring him over to the organization as early as next season. In three games at the World Championship for Hungary, Vay’s numbers weren’t exactly earth-shattering, but his ability to fend off constant attacks from top-flight opponents such as Finland, USA and Canada had him piquing the interest of some onlookers.

All told, he posted a .911 save percentage and 3.67 goals-against average at the tournament, but his 48-save performance against the Finns and 35 stops against the Americans were impressive feats. That’s not to mention he stopped 11 of the 12 shots he faced against the Canadians. Read more