In a signing that should not be underestimated, the Minnesota Wild inked back-up goaltender Josh Harding to a three-year deal Tuesday. Harding, who was the Wild’s second round pick in the 2002 NHL Draft, reportedly received a contract worth $5.7 million. He is the second Minnesota goaltender to re-sign with the team this month, after the Wild was able to bring young Swede Johan Gustafsson back onboard.
Harding was a big reason for Minnesota’s strong start last season, keeping the team in games and even stealing some himself. He posted a 2.62 goals against average and a .917 save percentage last year, and even earned the NHL’s First Star of the Week in November.
Along with regular starter Niklas Backstrom, the team’s two primary goaltenders combined to be one of the league’s best tandems before Minnesota’s mid-season collapse, and some are wondering what Harding’s signing means for the Wild’s number one.
Backstrom, 34, is entering the last year of his current deal, which will allow him to make roughly $6 million during the 2012-2013 season. With his three-year contract, Harding is now set up to possibly take over the starting job in a couple years, should Minnesota choose to part ways with Backstrom in the future. However, Backstrom’s current contract has a no-trade clause in it so long as he’s the team’s starter. Harding showed how well he can play last season, so hopefully the threat of a potential position on the trading block if things go south will motivate Backstrom to take his game to the next level.
As the Los Angeles Kings proved with their Stanley Cup run this year, quality goaltending is a big key to any successful team. Backstrom played well last year, but Harding was also a big help to the team, so this is a potentially big re-signing. Hopefully, this will push both goaltenders to be even better than they were for much of last season.
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