By Michael Russo
Just wanted to jump on here real quick and offer up a meal because you likely won’t receive a Thursday blog from me until the evening time.
The Wild, even if it gets out of the Twin Cities before the winter storm Thursday, is not scheduled to practice in Calgary until 5 p.m. CT. So unless there’s hard news, I likely won’t blog until nighttime because it’ll be important for me to quickly get back to my hotel and write for the newspaper.
As I reported in Thursday’s editions, I talked with goalie Niklas Backstrom on Wednesday and he for the first time confirmed that negotiations between the Wild and his agent are at least taking place. Earlier this month, owner Craig Leipold said the same thing. Normally though, Backstrom’s been pretty mum or said nothing’s going on.
Backstrom didn’t offer a lot of details, and I believe him wholeheartedly when he said he honestly doesn’t know what’s going on. Backstrom is extremely cognizant of this negotiation not fouling up his game and becoming a distraction for the team during such a fragile, critical time of the season.
So he’s trying to simply focus on hockey and let his agent, Don Baizley, do all the heavy lifting. But Backstrom is very aware the trade deadline’s approaching. He planned to check in with Baizley tonight, but I wouldn’t expect a lot of play-by-play over the next week. I’d say this: the fact Baizley’s not calling me might be the most positive sign that there is consistent negotiating. Baizley is one agent who has a history of not negotiating through the media. Assistant GM Tom Lynn confirmed to me that he and Baizley are talking.
I would say this: I know there are tons of Backstrom rumors out there. I am still not convinced though that the Wild will trade him if it’s unable to extend his contract by next Wednesday’s trade deadline. As I’ve reported to you numerous times, Lynn, and the Wild, has a strong relationship with Baizley. I think the Wild would gamble that it can continue negotiations after the season with Backstrom in lieu of dealing him in the middle of a playoff race. Of course, that’s undoubtedly a risk because Backstrom is an extremely valuable asset.
But like I’ve also reported, there are really only three teams right now that are playoff contenders in need of goaltending — Philly, Detroit and Washington. All three are pretty cap strapped, so that also ties the Wild’s hands.
Also, I wrote a feature for Thursday’s paper on defenseman Kurtis Foster, who’s trying to put his comeback to good use. In the past week, he’s talked to a Michigan high school player named Thomas Royea who broke his femur last Tuesday and North Dakota defenseman Derrick LaPoint, who underwent season-ending surgery last week with a broken leg.
There are few better people I’ve covered in this sport than Foster, and this is just another example. I talked to Royea and his mother on the phone, and I know they both could not be more appreciative that Foster would take the time. Foster not only called Royea, he gave the teen his phone number and told him to not be afraid to ever call him during his recovery.
OK, talk to you from Calgary — barring weather.