Goalie agrees to terms on new multiyear deal

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Wild added depth and
complication to their goalie situation by re-signing Niklas Backstrom to a two-year, $6.2 million contract on Thursday.

Niklas Backstrom


Backstrom went 23-8-6 with five shutouts in 41 games, taking
over when Manny Fernandez got hurt and steering the Wild toward
their first playoff appearance in four years with an unexpected

"I have to pinch myself. It's like I'm in a dream," Backstrom
said. "I was surprised how fast and smooth everything went last

The NHL leader in goals-against average (1.97) and save
percentage (.929), Backstrom shared with Fernandez the William M.
Jennings Trophy for the team's league-low 191 goals against. But
Fernandez, who sprained his left knee in late January and suffered
a setback that prevented him from returning for the postseason,
will make about $4.5 million next season with the team close to the
salary cap.

He's signed through the 2008-09 season, will turn 33 in August,
and has said he expects to be traded.

General manager Doug Risebrough said Thursday that he will keep
both of them.

"I was just trying to do the right thing right now for the
team, which is to have good goaltending for the team," said
Risebrough, who declined to comment on the possibility of dealing
Fernandez this summer.

Backstrom has a full no-trade clause in the first year of his
contract and a limited no-trade clause in the second year. He
became one of the NHL's biggest surprises after leaving the Finnish
Elite League and signing a one-year contract with Minnesota.

The 29-year-old Backstrom had never played in the NHL and
acknowledged that -- despite confidence in his ability -- he was
unsure how he'd measure up.

Using a strong work ethic, Backstrom gave up three goals or less
in all but three of his appearances. He had such an enjoyable
experience that he encouraged his agent, Don Baizley, to secure a
deal for him to stay with the Wild. Had Backstrom waited until July
1 to enter the free-agent pool, he likely could've made more money.

"I didn't ever think about that," he said on a conference
call. "I want to be somewhere where I'm happy and having fun and
be on a team that has a chance to win and achieve something."

Even his friends and family in Finland wondered what team he'd
like to play for if a contract didn't work out with the Wild.

They're still wondering.

"The only thing I thought about was getting back to
Minnesota," Backstrom said.

Fernandez, one of three players left from the Wild's inaugural
2000-01 season, spoke in the past tense last weekend about his time
with the team and sounded resigned to moving on. Risebrough,
though, said repeatedly that he planned to enter the season with a
pair of multimillion-dollar goalies.

"It's probably not something he envisioned a year ago, but it's
in the best interests of the team and Manny's part of this team,"
Risebrough said.

Fernandez, who went 22-16-1 with a 2.47 goals-against average
and a .911 save percentage before the injury, shared the job with
Dwayne Roloson for nearly four seasons. Neither player preferred
the arrangement, though it was generally successful, and
Fernandez's status as the unquestioned starter seemed established
when his contract extension came last year.

But then came Backstrom.

"I don't know how it will work out, but it's possible,"
Risebrough said when asked if he could keep both goalies happy.
"That is ... what we're trying to do right now."