ST. PAUL, Minn. - The Minnesota Wild's goaltending situation got a bit more complicated Tuesday with the announcement that the club has signed veteran backup Josh Harding to a 3-year contract extension.
"I love being here, I love the city, I love the fans," Harding said. "It was really important for me to stay here and work towards my goal (of being a starting goaltender in the NHL)."
The 28-year-old Harding was set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 if he had chosen to test the free agent market. Many thought he would leave the Wild to chase bigger money and a possible starting role, something that has been evasive since he joined the club in 2002.
"I like the way the organization is heading and I want to be a part of it," Harding said. "We're maturing, we're still young and have a lot of talent. I'm ready to get back at it."
Harding missed the entire 2010-11 season with a serious knee injury but came back strong in 2011-2012 while playing on a one-year contract. He posted 13 wins and a .917 goals against average.
He ranks fourth on the team's all-time ledger in games played, wins and shutouts. Harding has long been considered a physically gifted goalie but has struggled to stay healthy.
The resigning of Harding muddies the situation between the pipes as many felt that he or Niklas Backstrom would be jettisoned to make room for one of the promising young goaltenders in the Wild's minor league system. Matt Hackett played well after being called up in injury situations last year, and Darcy Kuemper is considered close to being ready to fill a backup slot in the NHL.
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