Happy to See Harding Back on Track
It’s been a while since I posted a blog on here – most of my ramblings have been over on the Pucks Across the Pond blog (http://www.pucksatp.com) – but just wanted to post a few quick thoughts on Josh Harding.
Harding had begun to play himself beyond a simple backup role in the NHL, after a string of impressive performances backing up Niklas Backstrom in Minnesota. He was arguable one of the hottest goaltending properties around, especially with the durable Finn performing consistently thus making Harding potentially expendable to the franchise.
Then a knee injury sidelined the Regina native for the entirety of last season.
But now he’s back! And in a big way! You might think a year out would cause some shaky moments for a player trying to make a return to the NHL; but Harding doesn’t seem to have missed a beat as the Wild have set the early pace, currently sitting 1st overall.
As an added twist, Harding is an unrestricted free agent in the summer while Backstrom has another year on his $6m deal, and youngster Matt Hackett (also one more year remaining on his contract) has made a bright start to his NHL career – so what next for Harding?
He could stay with the Wild; as Backstrom is 33 he could spend an extra year as the Finn’s understudy and then have the opportunity to be #1 in Minny. But then you have to wonder where that leaves Hackett and which horse the Wild brass might prefer to back as Backstroms successor. Or even how Hackett and Harding might co-exist.
It could be that Harding stays, takes the #1 job when Backstrom leaves/retires and Hackett becomes backup with a view to being number 1 himself one day.
The second option is Harding leaves Minnesota. With goaltending moves made virtually every summer it’s likely Harding could find a job elsewhere in the league, possible even with a view to taking a starting role.
The final scenario is that Minnesota choose to cash in before the deadline and trade Harding. It’s not like some teams are not having goaltending issues (*cough* Tampa Bay *cough*) and with Harding showing good form so far this season interest from other teams probably would not be hard to find for Wild GM Chuck Fletcher.
Whatever happens for Harding in the future, it’s great to see him recover from such a serious injury and be back to his best so quickly.