It’s that time of the year when GM’s like Chuck Fletcher and other front office personnel decide which current players to keep or let go on the free agent market come July 1. For the Minnesota Wild and their goaltending situation, two things are certain: Josh Harding will compete for the starting goalie role for at least three more years and incumbent starter Niklas Backstrom won’t be traded before his current contract expires one year from now. It’s also noted that Backstrom, 34, has a no-trade clause in his contract. His cap number for 2012-13 is $6 million.
The news of Fletcher keeping Harding being kept isn’t much of a surprise. One of those goalies who has the potential to become a full time starter in the next year or so, Harding was rumored to being courted by the likes of Toronto and Columbus. And for Harding, Minnesota is the place he wanted to be and the best team for his ability. The 28-year-old went 13-12-4 in 2011-12 with a .917 save percentage last season. Harding’s numbers are respectable considering he missed the entire 2010-11 season with a knee injury. He signed a one-year deal and effectively parlayed that into a new deal for three years with a reported salary cap hit of $1.9 million.
With Backstrom, Fletcher told Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune “We have no interest in trading Backstrom. None,” Fletcher then went on to add “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.”
They finished the season allowing 266 goals, the fifth-most in the Western conference. The only team to allow more goals and make the playoffs in the West was Chicago. Compared to teams in the East, they would have fared much better as they allowed fewer goals than playoff teams Florida, Philadelphia, Washington and Ottawa.