The Minnesota Wild have signed Niklas Backstrom to a three year contract extension. He was set to become a free agent on July 5th.
Backstrom had a very solid season this year and could likely be rewarded for his success by getting named to the Finnish Olympic squad next season. Niklas Bäckström won the 1998 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships as a backup goaltender for the Finnish national team, along with players like Olli Jokinen, Niklas Hagman, Mika Noronen, Niko Kapanen, Toni Dahlman and Eero Somervuori. Bäckström was the third goaltender for Team Finland in the 2006 Winter Olympics, but did not play any games, and later took over as the starting goaltender in 2010 when Miikka Kiprusoff faltered. Backstrom played exceptionally well during his rookie season in 2006-2007, finishing first in the league in both goals against average (GAA) and save percentage, while tying Dwayne Roloson’s team record with five shutouts in just 36 starts.
He recorded 33 wins in the 2007–08 NHL season, and was the starter for Minnesota’s first round playoff series against the Colorado Avalanche, which Colorado won in six games. The goaltender was starting to bloom into one of the league’s top netminders, grabbing 37 wins during the 2008-2009 season, good enough to come second in Vezina voting, but his career hasn’t been the same since. He has been troubled by injury issues the past few seasons, but after posting 24 wins during the lockout shortened 2012-2013 season, the best since 2009-10, he could likely be a candidate for the squad. Backstrom may not have enough left in the tank to be the starting goaltender, but expect him to battle Kari Lehtonen for the third and final spot.
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