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Wild Signs Free Agent G Niklas Backstrom

Thursday, 06.01.2006 / 1:36 PM / News
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Wild Signs Free Agent G Niklas Backstrom

 
 Finnish goaltender Niklas Backstrom led Karpat Oulu to back-to-back Finnish Elite League Championships in 2003-04 and 2004-05.
No, the Minnesota Wild didn’t find a loophole in the NHL Entry Draft Rules and Regulations that allowed the club to sign the highest-regarded European player in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. Nicklas "with a ’C’" Backstrom of Sweden, is still going to be picked somewhere in the top ten of the Draft on June 24. But goaltender Niklas "sans ’C’" of Finland is now a property of the Wild after signing a free agent multi-year contract on Thursday.

Though the free agent signing period does not start until July 1, undrafted European free agents needed to be signed by 4:00 PM on June 1. So the Wild scooped up Backstrom to bolster the organization’s goaltender position.

While not as highly-touted as the Swedish Backstrom, the 28-year-old Finnish Backstrom brings some gaudy statistics with him to North America. Last year, he posted a 32-9-10 record in 51 games with Karpat Oulu of the Finnish Elite League. He registered a 1.68 goals against average, which led the League, and a .939 save percentage, which was good enough for second.

Those numbers were improvements over three previous seasons with Karpat Oulu, which were nearly as impressive. Since 2002-03, his highest goals against average has been 2.17, and his record over that span is 99-36-37 with 28 shutouts.

Backstrom backstopped his club to back-to-back Finnish League championships in 2003-04, and 2004-05, which was the same year that Dwayne Roloson played for Lukko Rauma in the same League. In 03-04, he was named the Goalie of the Year and Playoff MVP after returning from a knee injury to post a 9-5 record with a 2.33 goals against average.

Since Roloson was traded to Edmonton in March of last season, the Wild went with 21-year-old Josh Harding as the backup to Manny Fernandez. It would stand to reason that Backstrom will provide stability should Harding need more seasoning, or to provide the Houston Aeros with a number one goaltender.

The 6-foot-2, 196-pound Helsinki native was a member of Finland’s 2006 silver medal winning Olympic team, and 2006 World Championship bronze medal team, although he didn’t play in either tournament. He did appear in five games at the 2005 World Championships where he posted a 1-1-3 record and a 2.32 goals against average, a .902 save percentage and one shutout.

Niklas Backstrom’s Career Statistics

 

Regular Season 

 

 

 

 

 

Playoffs 

     
 Season  Club League   GP  W-L-T  SO  GAA GP   W-L  SO  GAA

2002-03 

Karpat Oulu 

 Finland

 36

 16-9-8

 4

 2.16

 15

 7-8

 1

 2.00

 2003-04

Karpat Oulu  

Finland 

 43

 24-8-9

 7

2.03 

15 

 9-5

 1

 2.33

 2004-05

 Karpat Oulu

 Finland

 47

27-10-10 

 7

 2.17

12 

10-2 

 3

 1.25

2005-06 

Karpat Oulu 

Finland 

 51

 32-9-10

 10

1.68 

 4

 3-1

 0

 1.85


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