Wild lift suspension, place goalie Josh Harding on waivers

The Minnesota Wild have lifted the suspension of goaltender Josh Harding and immediately placed the 30-year-old on waivers with the intent of sending him to the team’s AHL affiliate in Iowa.

The last 10-12 months have been difficult and a bit of a whirlwind for Harding to say the least. He was in the midst of a career year last season, rattling off 18 wins before Dec. 17 and sporting a 1.65 goals against average and .933 save percentage. Things quickly derailed following a minor adjustment in his treatment for multiple sclerosis that kept him sidelined the rest of the season. He hasn’t played a game since Dec. 31.

imagesA strong spring and summer had Harding looking forward to the new season.

“It’s one of those summers where everything clicked and I feel even better than I did last summer and feel like I’m in better shape,” said Harding. “With the year of knowledge of what I’m dealing with, with a different mind-set and different mentality about what I did this offseason, I think it’s definitely going to help out tremendously.

“I just feel … great. Physically, mentally, knowing everything that’s been working for me, I believe I’m going to show I’m capable of playing a full season. I just feel … great.”

Days later, Harding reportedly broke his foot after kicking a wall following an off-ice altercation with a teammate. While details of the event were not fully disclosed, Harding missed training camp prior to this season and has just recently been cleared to play.

With the exceptional play this season of Darcy Kuemper and the back-up position held by longtime Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom, the team simply doesn’t have space for Harding upon his return. And, after not playing since December of last season, the team felt he needed more time to get up to speed than a simple conditioning stint would allow.

“A two-week conditioning stint, that to me made no sense,” said Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher. “He needs to play games. Let’s just get him to Iowa and get him going and not have any artificial timetable attached to it. Things change so quickly as we’ve seen the past several seasons with any situation, never mind our goaltending situation. So our thought right now is let’s just get him down, get him a part of the group and let him get a chance to get his game going, so when we do need him, he’s ready to go. We’ll see how things play out.”

Several teams across the league could certainly use goaltending help, and while Harding has previously shown a great deal of promise when he’s healthy, a history of injuries and his current fight with multiple sclerosis create a lot of uncertainties about his play and ability to contribute on a long-term basis. Teams may not be willing to take the chance on Harding, instead looking at other options like unsigned veterans Ilya Bryzgalov, Tomas Vokoun and Martin Brodeur, to help improve their goaltending situations.


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