Locked out by NHL, Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom headed for Belarus
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ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. -- After a morning skate with a few dozen other locked-out teammates and colleagues, Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom on Tuesday confirmed rumors that he is working on a contract with Dinamo Minsk of the Kontinental Hockey League.
"I haven't signed any papers, but we're pretty far (along)," said Backstrom, the Finnish goalie who has spent six seasons with the Wild and had a 19-18-7 record in his most recent NHL campaign.
"That's probably the plan now, to go there."
Based in Minsk, the largest city in the Republic of Belarus, Dinamo Minsk is coached by Kari Heikkila, who was Backstrom's goalie coach and head coach for a team in Finland previously.
The lone American on the Minsk roster is a familiar name to many Minnesotans. Tim Stapleton, a four-year regular at Minnesota Duluth as a collegian, signed with Dinamo Minsk over the summer after spending last season with the Winnipeg Jets.
The 26-team KHL is dominated by Russian clubs, and is quickly becoming popular with European NHLers looking for places to play while the lockout is on.
"Everything sounds good with this team, and I know the coaches from before, and lot of players too," Backstrom said, confirming that the contract he expects to sign will allow him to return to the NHL as soon as the labor strife is settled.