Should Minnesota Cash In On Harding?
I wrote a brief blog in December about how happy I was to see Josh Harding back in action for Minnesota following a serious injury.
27-year old Harding had a growing reputation around the league before a knee injury kept him out of the entire 2010/11 season. But the Regina native has bounced back, going 8-5-3 with .929 save percentage and 2.29 goals against average whilst serving as Nicklas Backstroms understudy.
Harding’s bright start, alongside Backstrom and emerging prospect Matt Hackett, played a big part of the Wilds early season success which saw them rocket towards the top of the Western Conference.
Lately however Mike Yeo’s troops have stumbled and find themselves under pressure in 8th place in the West. The loss of top scorer Mikko Koivu only compounds problems as the team struggles to resurrect their season in the face of long term injuries to their captain and top forwards Pierre Marc Bouchard and Guillaume Latendresse.
The Wild aren’t the only team having problems right now – and Harding’s impending unrestricted free agency, as well as Hackett’s encouraging first steps in to the NHL, could make him expendable should someone come in with a trade offer.
Backstrom has another year on his $6m deal, and is only 33 so *could* have several more years at the top whilst Hackett matures further. Harding on the other hand would be a bargain pick up at the deadline, earning just $750,000. As previously mentioned, being an impending UFA means he can either be used as a short term fix or even a longer term investment depending on which way a franchise might like to go.
Looking around the league it is not hard to pick out potential suitors for a deal. Right off the bat, Tampa Bay have had some well publicised goaltending issues whilst Philadelphia have also been considering their goaltending situation; albeit for slightly different reasons.
With the Wild down three top 6 forwards, including arguable their best forward, it seems inconceivable Wild GM Chuck Fletcher will not be fielding some calls as the trade deadline approaches – and with their offence seriously compromised he’d be hard pressed to turn down the right offer at this stage.