Filip Gustavsson on future with Minnesota Wild: ‘We’ll see’

Filip Gustavsson hasn’t lost the plot. He knows that when Bill Guerin re-signed Marc-Andre Fleury one final NHL season, the Wild’s goaltending plans became complicated.

Certainly, playing the Gustavsson/Fleury tandem for another season makes sense. Fleury is a future hall of famer who, at 39, showed he remains one of the NHL’s most athletic goalies. And while Gustavsson, 26, wasn’t as consistent as he was last season, he finished with three shutouts and his share of terrific starts, including a 24-save effort in a 3-1 victory Monday against the playoff-bound Kings in Los Angeles.

On the other hand, Minnesota needs to bolster its forward corps. Kirill Kaprizov, Joel Eriksson Ek and Matt Boldy, the team’s top line for most of the season’s second half, accounted for 42 percent of the team’s goals in a season that finished short of the postseason.

With goalie prospect Jesper Wallstedt getting a pair of quality victories late this season, the Wild suddenly have a trade asset — and it’s likely Gustavsson, who finished this season 20-18-4 with a 3.06 goals-against average and .899 save percentage but was one of the NHL’s best two goaltenders in 2022-23, 22-9-7 with a 2.10 GAA and .931 save percentage.

On locker cleanout/exit interview day at Xcel Energy Center, Gustavsson met reporters and was asked pretty quickly if he expects to be back in 2024-25.

“We’ll see,” he said. “There is always a business side to hockey, too. I like it here and would love to be back next year and try to redeem what happened this year. We’ll see.”

Wallstedt and the Wild were overmatched in his NHL debut, a 7-0 loss at Dallas on Jan. 10, but in two starts on the Wild’s last road trip he went 2-0 with a shutout, 1.01 GAA and .962 save percentage in starts against non-playoff teams in Chicago and San Jose.

Fleury this week signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract extension with a no-move clause to finish his career in Minnesota.

“I was very happy when Flower re-signed to play another year,” Gustavsson said. “It’s been awesome having him as a teammate. I look forward to playing with him more.”

As Gustavsson said, we’ll see.

Brock’s ribs

Gustavsson is one of a handful of Wild players who, out of the playoffs, have a chance to play in the IIHF World Championships May 10-26 in Czechia. Mats Zuccarello, Marco Rossi are others, and possibly Boldy.

Brock Faber discussed the possibility with general manager Bill Guerin, as well, and it was decided the rookie defenseman and former Gophers star will not be one of them.

“There’s a few injuries that I need to heal,” Faber said. “I think that was kind of the biggest reason why I’m not going.”

Faber did not disclose the injury, only that it would not require surgery. But Guerin said the likely Calder Trophy finalist has been playing with fractured ribs for two months.

“That’s the type of kid he is,” Guerin said. “He never complained, never said ‘boo.’ He could have been out of the lineup a number of times, and he just wasn’t.”

Faber and Rossi became the first Wild rookies to play a full 82-game season when they skated in Thursday’s season finale, a 4-3 loss to Seattle at Xcel Energy Center. Faber finished the season with eight goals and 47 points.

“I’ll take him with one rib,” joked Wild head coach John Hynes, who was announced Friday as the U.S. national team’s coach.

Said Guerin, “Honestly, under advice from our medical staff, it’s best he gets healthy.”

Real love

There were a lot of reasons the Wild missed the postseason for the second time in 12 seasons, and it wasn’t all injuries. A large handful of players had down seasons.

But Hynes said Friday’s exit meetings were not in any way punitive.

“I think in these times it’s not tough love, it’s building a relationship through honesty, and knowing that you’re all in it together,” the coach said.

That was especially true for forwards Marcus Johansson and Freddy Gaudreau, who struggled to produce this season. Johansson, a highly skilled, fast-skating wing, finished with 11 goals, 30 points and minus-15 in 78 games. Gaudreau had five goals, 15 points and was a franchise-worst minus-23.

“They’re under contract, so their futures are with us,” Guerin said.

Johansson is signed for $2 million next season, and Geadreau for $2.1 million a year through 2027-28. Both have no trade clauses in their contracts.

“Nobody likes to have sub-par seasons,” Guerin said. “As much as you guys want to write about it — or I want to say things about it, or John does, or whatever — nobody wears it more than the player.”

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