Josh Harding could have become an unrestricted free agency July 1, but The Minneapolis Star-Tribune notes he signed a three-year, $5.7 million extension with the franchise that drafted him in the second round 10 years ago this week.
As for the Harding deal and how it affects Niklas Backstrom, “We have no interest in trading Backstrom. None,” Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said. “When we were on top of the league [in the first 30 games] last year, a big part of the reason was our goaltending tandem. There’s no reason for us to want to change that up. Why not bring them back? The future will be the future. Everything work itself out. When Josh indicated he was willing to stay, we worked quickly to get it done.”
Harding added, “We like being a tandem. I love playing with Backy. I’ve learned the most from having Backy and [goalie coach Bob Mason] on my side than anybody else.”
“Josh took a strong step last year and I still think his best days are ahead of him.”
On the goaltending depth on the team: “We’ve had a lot of injuries the last few years and I’m not sure you can ever have enough depth. I think somebody on the other end of this phone line accused us of not having enough depth last year. We like having depth, there’s no question. That’s not why we re-signed him. We wanted to lock up Josh because we believe in him. The young prospects are all good prospects, but it takes time for goaltenders to develop.
“If we have too many good goalies at one time, that’ll be a nice problem to have. And last [March] was pretty scary when we were one groin pull away from having one goalie under contract in the entire system.”
Re-signing Harding means the Wild doesn’t have to rush the development of young goalies Matt Hackett and Darcy Kuemper in Houston of the American Hockey League and Johan Gustafsson in Sweden.
Fletcher said there was nobody in free agency whom the Wild felt would have been an upgrade over Harding, “so why make a change if you don’t have to? … I remember [Hall of Fame goalie] Billy Smith once telling me that goalies don’t hit their prime until they’re 29 or 30.”